Emma (UK): Go with your gut!
We were incredibly lucky to get four embryo transfers on the NHS: two frozen and two fresh. This was especially lucky after I had two high FSH readings of 14 and 12, and it wasn’t until I had one under 10 that I would be accepted on the NHS.
Our first cycle was long and hard. I didn’t respond well initially and came away from every scan crying and feeling like I was a freak. However, despite the initial poor response, we got 13 eggs of which four developed into day-five blastocysts. Unfortunately, our first fresh transfer didn't work (I bled early). The first frozen transfer didn't work and we lost an embryo in the thawing process. It was the hardest thing trying to be happy at having a transfer but sad at losing an embryo. The second frozen transfer worked (our last frozen embryo) and we saw the heartbeat at seven weeks. However, it wasn't meant to be. I had a missed miscarriage found at 10 weeks. I could write so much on this but for now I am focusing on the IVF part of our journey.
Once we had recovered from this (I needed an ERPC and it took five weeks for my HCG to come down) we moved onto our last fresh cycle. We didn't feel that ready but the clinic pushed us because of funding. So we started. This time we did a short protocol but again I didn't respond well. We got three eggs, of which two developed into embryos; one was nine cells and on track and one was two cells, so really we only had one embryo. This transfer didn't work and we were left heartbroken. We took a long break over the summer and found fun again. We ate what we wanted, drank all the booze, planned fun trips, went to Budapest and generally just put IVF on the back burner.
In the September we started looking at private clinics. We didn't have any issues per say with our last clinic but we wanted a fresh start. They didn't also seem to manage my low ovarian reserve well. At scans I often felt I was doing so badly. Also my husband's job moved closer to London, so suddenly it was an option.
We looked at a couple: one in Surrey and The Lister in London. The Lister had always appealed to me, as they specialise in women with low ovarian reserve and we had seen them for a private consultation before we got NHS funding.
We had a consultation at the Surrey clinic and the Doctor straight away suggested numerous expensive tests. One was my cytokines. If they were high, I would need humeria. I wasn’t happy with this, for me it's one step too far. He then suggested a short protocol. I said we had done the long before; he said we could do a long protocol if we wanted as it had worked before. This did bother me, as I wanted his expertise. However, I liked the clinic, the holistic side of it and the nurses.
I had an appointment at The Lister and the clinic seemed busier and more impersonal. The consultant however, put me at ease. He was very straight talking. He would do a long protocol because that had worked before. No, he didn't believe in humeria. He suggested steroids and clexane. He took it back to basics. I felt happier with him but overall we felt a change in approach would help, so we chose the Surrey clinic.
Day Two came and I went in for my baseline scan and bloods. They test your FSH and if it is over 15 you can't cycle. Last month's was nine so I wasn't concerned. The Doctor did the baseline scan very quickly. All he said was that my lining was thin and my ovaries quite. He told me that I would start meds if my bloods were ok and then to come in for an endoscratch and scan in two days’ time.
I took the prescription to source my own meds, as the stims they use are really expensive. A couple of hours later, the nurse called and asked how I had got on with meds. Straight away, I knew that my FSH was too high and she confirmed that it was 18.8. I genuinely couldn't believe it. Just like that my dreams were shattered and my worst fears confirmed. She said we could test again next month and since my last one was ok, hopefully it would be ok. I cried so much but amidst that there was some relief. I had a long chat with my mum and it made me realise I had doubts about the protocol and the consultant.
When my husband came home, we had a long chat and we decided that we should rethink the clinic. I emailed the consultant at The Lister that I had seen twice previously with my most recent FSH results and asked for his advice. He replied quickly. He said that, with my diminished ovarian reserve, there was no point in hanging around each month to see if my FSH dropped. He also indicated that there was limited research to show whether waiting for FSH to decrease helped. I felt so reassured by his email that we decided to switch clinics there and then!
I think on this tough journey, we have to sometimes go with our gut. Something was nagging at me that the clinic in Surrey wasn’t right for me. So far, our journey at The Lister has been great, the nurses and sonographers have all been great and most importantly we got 15 eggs: 10 that could be used for ICSI, of which seven fertilised normally, with four developing into day five blastocysts and one into a day six blastocyst. I think that speaks for itself that my gut was right and The Lister consultant was right – FSH isn’t everything.