IVF During a Pandemic

The Covid pandemic brought nearly all other medicine to a standstill, including fertility treatments. Gef has talked to an expecting mother about her and her partner’s experience of IVF in 2020 including masking up and why pineapples were so important.

What restrictions were in place when you were undergoing treatment? (for example did you have to go through it alone or could your partner be there?)

Before we left we had to get a Covid test to get a certificate for the hospital that we were negative. Anyone who has been through the process will agree that the nurses are great but the actual swab up the nose isn’t the nicest.

IVF involves two procedures and appointments, egg retrieval and implantation around five days later. In between that the embryologists at the hospital work their magic to monitor that everything is growing as it should be.
We arrived together face masked up at the hospital for our first appointment. We had a temperature check and some paperwork to fill in, then I got taken to my bed to wait. My partner then had to leave to another room to do his bit. He said the process was helped by a selection of “adult material” but the less said about that the better. I then had to undergo the egg retrieval alone which I think is common practice anyway as I was sedated but usually partners can wait nearby in the waiting area. It wasn’t nice waking up later on confused after my procedure and being told fluid was found so they were unsure they could do my second procedure in five days’ time. I was alone and upset by this news, it would have been nice to have my partner there for support when I was told this.

I had to go to the hospital alone for a scan and then leave immediately and wait a couple of hours back at the apartment for the phone call to be told that thankfully my transfer could happen later that afternoon. Usually for the transfer your partner can be with you in the room but I had to do this alone whilst my partner was able to wait in the waiting room. I wish he could have witnessed that moment as it was amazing and the moment we have been waiting so long to happen. 

Can you have IVF on the Isle of Man or is it always away?

You have to travel off island to undergo IVF. Before you start IVF you need to go to many appointments, start hormones and have scans at least a couple of months before the procedures which are all done on the island under the supervision of the consultant.

Was it through the NHS or private?

We fortunately got this funded by the NHS as we passed the criteria, you only get one round through the NHS which is for the egg retrieval and transfer and then any eggs left over, get frozen for one year, after that you have to go private.

How common is IVF?

In the Isle of Man, I’m not sure but I think it’s more common than people imagine, given the number of couples who want to conceive but have fertility issues. Before I went away, I only knew one person who had it many years ago and after speaking to a few friends, they all seemed to know at least one friend or family member who had to have it.

How long does IVF take?

It’s different for each patient, but after suffering from Endometriosis for the last seven years, I underwent a laparoscopy last summer where they had to remove Endometriosis cells, cysts and I was told my tubes were blocked so having a baby would be difficult. Early in 2020 I had to have blood tests, my partner had to do a sperm sample, then I had an MRI. I was then told my Endometriosis was stage four and if we wanted a family, IVF was the only way. The March lockdown delayed our appointment to late July where I had my first injection, then a few weeks later I was given all my hormones – there’s a lot of medication along with even more paperwork which had to be filled out. I started injecting myself every night for a few weeks and had to go for scans to check eggs and ovaries. It’s not guaranteed it’ll work, but thankfully for me the hormones were working and at the end of August we got the go ahead that we would be able to go away for the August late bank holiday so the procedures could happen at the start of September. 

What is involved in the process?

A lot of appointments, paperwork and injections! We had incredible service over here, but nothing is sugar coated. I just kept positive the entire time, also being the first time I was quite naive to it all but learnt a lot as we went along. It was a worry that clinics could close again and the procedure may be cancelled due to the pandemic, but we were so lucky to be able to do it. 

I also came across some old wives tales online, which being superstitious, I felt there was no harm in trying. Eating the pineapple core before, during and after the procedures, drinking pomegranate juice, eating McDonald’s fries straight after the transfer and keeping your feet warm = warm uterus, so I made sure I wore cosy socks. My mum put together a ‘pineapple’ themed gift bag to take away with us as pineapple is a sign for fertility. 

Did everything go according to plan?

Yes! Even though our chances of success were under one in third, we are now expecting our baby in May 2021. I was quite grateful for the two week isolation period when coming home as we got to stay in our own bubble to take in what had happened and we had to wait eight days until we could take a pregnancy test. I actually woke up early and had the urge to take the test a day earlier than suggested and could not believe our luck when it said I was pregnant! I ended up taking another 10 tests that week as I was so shocked.

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