I always knew having children for me wouldn’t have been a straight forward thing. Even though there is no apparent connection, in my family quite a few female members are childless. So I was not new to infertility. When I met my husband and we eventually decided to get married to start a family I was 32. No big deal, plenty of women have children in their thirties, right? We started trying even before the wedding in November 2006. By the time it was summer 07 we had done some tests which showed low sperm count and motility, but nothing too upsetting just yet. I appeared to be fine. We gave it another few months and in December 07 I went for a laparoscopy and D&C to see if my tubes were open and if I had anything else potentially impeding a pregnancy. Everything checked out just fine a part some mild endometriosis which did not concern my gyno particularly. They tell you the two-three months after a D&C are the most fertile as your uterus is very receptive. Not such a thing for us.
In May 2008 we decided it was time to get serious help and became officially an infertile couple at a fertility clinic.
A new spermiogramme showed much worse numbers and we were fast tracked to IVF with ICSI. It was a major blow for me. I thought we would have been ok with an IUI and I actually insisted to try that first. The clinic told us it would have been a waste of time and money but sure, we were willing to try and we did. As predicted it did not work. By then I kind of got used to the idea that to have a family we needed the heavy weapons and I was ready to take the plunge with the IVF business. In August 2008 I started my first IVF with ICSI cycle, everything went brilliantly, I responded great to the stimulation, they got 16 eggs, 14 of which were mature and all fertilized. I had a day-3 transfer and 9 frozen embryos. We were flying high. 13 days after the transfer I tested positive. It was the faintest positive you can think of but it was there. I went in for a blood test to check my HCG and my joy was shattered by a very low number. The doctors at the clinic were brilliant though, they said it could be normal and to repeat the blood-test a few days later. The number incredibly rose as expected still a bit on the low side of normal but I was definitely pregnant. At 5 weeks I started spotting. I did not feel well and I had the strong feeling that something was wrong. The spotting was very light and it stopped by increasing the progesterone I was on as part of the protocol, although I was concerned there was little I could do. At 6 weeks I spotted again, I went in for another blood-test, my HCG had increased as expected, still low though but definitely doubling as it should have. The doctor at the clinic was concerned it could have been a non viable pregnancy and wanted me to go in for a scan just a couple of days later. The night before the scan I was very unwell. I had pain in my left side, I slept very little and could not find a comfortable position. In the morning, while having a shower, I felt so dizzy I almost passed out. As I arrived at the clinic with my husband, the doctor knew immediately there I was unwell, she scanned me and could not find anything in the uterus. For me it was a relief. I knew there was something wrong with the pregnancy, I just needed someone to believe me. The doctor thought I may have miscarried and took another blood-test which should have shown falling HCG levels. They did not fall at all. As soon as she got the results she phoned me to tell me she had a strong suspect it was an ectopic pregnancy and to go straight to the hospital. My World just fell apart. I could have dealt with a miscarriage, so many pregnancies end early, it was normal…but an ectopic?? With IVF?? How did it happen? Despite all the research I had done, this possibility never crossed my mind. I had surgery just one day short of 7 weeks, the ectopic had not ruptured but they removed my left tube. Most of the talks I was given at the hospital were about the fact that I could still get pregnant “naturally” and that worst case scenario there was IVF…yes how about that…THIS one was an IVF pregnancy. As soon as I mentioned it was and IVF pregnancy everyone was speechless. Infertility was not was scared me, I was already in that category. I could not believe this happened to us.
Of course I researched much more after the experience and actually found out that ectopics with IVF have a higher incidence than in natural pregnancies. Go figure.
Fast forward to 2009, August. By then, we had had two frozen transfer which did not take, and I went for my second fresh cycle. Again, I responded well, we agreed on a milder stimulation and we had 2 blastocysts transferred on day 5. Nothing to freeze this time around. I had some spotting in the two weeks after the transfer, I thought it had failed. I tested 10 days after transfer and a strong second line came up in the test. Unbelievable, I was pregnant again. This time had to go well. I went to the clinic immediately, sobbing uncontrollably, they did my HCG and the number was good, much better than the last time, and 4 days later it was 10 times higher. I was over the moon. I booked a scan at the hospital in the EAPU, they would only take me in at 7 weeks, it did not matter I had an ectopic before. But at 5 weeks… I started bleeding. Again. It was a Friday evening. I called the hospital where I had been before in tears, they were very dismissive and kept saying it was too early and they could not see anything at that point. I knew it was not true. I called a different hospital and they said to go in, that they would scan me. The doctor that did the scan could not find anything in the uterus. The same nightmare again. She was adamant I had miscarried, I asked her to scan me thoroughly to exclude another ectopic. She did and was positive I had nothing outside the uterus. They did a blood test to confirm my HCG had fallen and I had to go back in after 2 days for another blood test. On Monday I got scanned at my clinic, by my same doctor, she could see a small sac in the uterus and repeated the blood tests. I had conflicting results from the hospital blood work, I had not miscarried at all, or my values would have fallen, they had not. The blood test done at the clinic confirmed my HCG was perfect for the gestational age. There was hope. As a few more days went by, the bleeding had stopped. I still felt there was something wrong, I had no pain this time, but I had this strong sensation it was ectopic again. At 6 weeks I had another gush of blood… I called the clinic, they took me in on their lunch break and scanned me again. The same lovely doctor. The small sac in the uterus was of the same size. She started searching outside the uterus. There it was, a perfect sac, in my right tube. The second time around was much much worse. How can this happen twice? What did we do wrong? At the hospital the same midwife of the previous year scanned me, somehow she remembered me. We saw the heartbeat this time. I fell apart. Second surgery, I wanted the tube removed, my tubes were a curse. I got again the talk about infertility and how IVF was now my only option. No kidding. It took much longer to recover emotionally. I went from not wanting to try again to the realization that if I had gone for another IVF I would have hoped for a negative results. Despite having no tubes, I still have a chance of an ectopic. It is much reduced of course but not zero. Our fertility clinic team have been brilliant and thoroughly supportive. They never underestimate my fears and both time manage to catch the ectopic on time before it ruptured.
Then In January 2010 we tried again, a fresh cycle. We had two perfect blasts transferred and a slow day six blast which made it to the freezer. It was unsuccessful. Big Fat Negative. I admit that at this point my confidence of a pregnancy was fading fast…I started thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me and my uterus, I suggested to have a hysteroscopy done and maybe going for a fresh cycle again (frozen cycles never worked for me, what chance did a six-day blast have?). The doctors suggested to certainly have the hysteroscopy but to try with the frozen embryo. To everyone amazement, the hysteroscopy showed a thick layer of scar tissue in my uterus which likely would have affected implantation. It was removed and 6 week later I had my little frozen embryo transferred back.
Ten days later I had a positive pregnancy test. As you can imagine the joy and excitement was not there. Too many doubts, too many fears. With extreme caution we had blood tests done, they were good. At 5w I did NOT bleed, but I was a nervous wreck. At 5w1d I had a very early scan that showed a beautiful sack in my uterus . I had the chance of a normal pregnancy!! Although I cannot say I ever relaxed during the pregnancy, it was very uneventful. Perhaps emotionally I found it very difficult to ever believe things were going to be ok this time. Every week, every scan ( I had plenty!) every milestone settled an anxiety but brought up other ones. I regret now not having enjoyed it. I hope I will the next time!
My beautiful son was born on New Year’s Day 2011 and we are finally a family. All we have been through now looks so so worth it.
I know I am not alone in this experience, but I did feel very lonely at the time. I did not know of anyone having had ectopics through IVF. Until I discovered the world of bloggers. I started my own blog and found amazing support. If you are reading this, you know you are not alone, just reach out, we are here to help you through your journey and it will be a successful one.