Big Fat…

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Negative. Sadly it wasn’t to be this time. We went back to the clinic after our two week wait and were given the bad news in the little room which has previously been the setting to our happy pregnancy news. I am really disappointed it hasn’t worked as after the whole ordeal of the pills, injections, scans, appointments, egg collection, embryo transfer and painful wait we are left with nothing. No frozen embryos and worst of all no pregnancy. It is very deflating. It feels like a waste of time, money and emotions. The real frustration is that it all came to an end before it ever really begun.

That being said if there ever was a time for it not to work then this was it. Before our son arrived we were so desperate for a baby that we would have been crushed by a negative result. This time we are disappointed but by no means heartbroken. We have a beautiful son to enjoy and we will try again in a few months. We knew it was going to be a long bumpy road ahead and we are pleased we have begun the process now rather look back with regret that we left it too long to start the journey.

It’ll take more than that to knock us down. Project Baby Number 2 continues…

Brain Overload

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So much has been going on. Gahhhhh. Our embryo was transferred on Saturday. It was an uncomfortable but bearable procedure. But now my mind is swirling with possibilities, daydreams, hopes, fears… the works!

The good news was that the embryo was really good quality and received a high grading. It was already starting to hatch and the embryologist was very pleased with it. However that doesn’t mean it will work so isn’t particularly reassuring. The bad news is that none of the other embryos were worth freezing which means this is our only shot from this cycle. I’m really disappointed about this as I had hoped we would have a few to freeze so that we had a few chances. Now the pressure is really on. It had all been so promising when we collected 18 eggs but turns out this cycle wasn’t wasn’t very successful.

I keep having to stop myself from thinking about the outcome. Could I be pregnant? After the previous two embryo transfers I remember being certain that I wasn’t pregnant. I felt totally normal. I don’t know what will happen and I will have to wait another week until we return to the clinic to find out the outcome. All I know is that if this doesn’t work I will be gutted. I would absolutely love to have another little one. But at least I am fortunate to have a beautiful baby already. His lovely face will cheer me up and make me feel incredibly blessed if things don’t go how I hope.

Egg Collection

a follicle.jpgToday was my egg collection and suddenly the whole thing felt very real. To my surprise the nurse, anesthetist and embryologist remembered us and greeted us warmly. The procedure was a fairly unremarkable experience since I was under general anesthetic. One minute I was having a chat with the doctor, the next I woke up in the recovery room and it was all done!

The egg collection was a success and they retrieved 18 eggs. Now we must wait to hear how many fertilised. It is hard not to compare everything to last time. But since our eggs and sperm are 2 years older I don’t suppose the outcome is comparable. However last time I had 16 eggs so already we are in a better position. However it’s all to play for now as there are a multitude of variables which will dictate the outcome.

Tomorrow, and for the next 5 days, I will receive a phone call with updates on the progress of the embryos. All being well we will have a few that make it to blastocyst stage, one of which we can transfer in 5 days time. The waiting begins.

Here We Go Again!

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Never would we have imagined that the journey to motherhood was going to be so long and painful. However once we knew the challenges we faced and that we would only be able to have a child using IVF we decided that after baby number 1 was born we wouldn’t wait too long to have baby number 2.

When we decided to try for a baby the first time we were full of naive excitement and total ignorance. We never thought we would be the ones who needed fertility treatment or lost a baby. The benefit of hindsight means that we are fully aware of the potential set backs that lay ahead. We know it may take a long time and it may be a bumpy ride so why wait when we know we want another child?

While I was pregnant with our little boy we decided that as soon as there was the chance to try again we would. We would save our frozen embryo for the future and, while I was relatively young, make some more embryos. That was the plan. That seemed like the most sensible idea. Once my body had returned to normal we thought we’d get going on IVF number 2. All of that was until our little bundle of joy arrived and turned our lives spectacularly upside down! So when the opportunity to try again came while our baby was still such hard work we took one look at each other and agreed that in no way were we ready to cope with two little monsters! We were exhausted and our little baby was a complete handful. In many ways he still is!

So when asked by friends and family when we would try again we quite honestly said next year. However we now have got to the point where we feel like (relatively) confident parents who have, to some degree, begun to resume normal life. We sleep pretty well and are enjoying our son so much that we now feel that its time to do it all over again! Are we mad?

Despite the craziness of our lives now, the stress of pregnancy and the ordeal of trying to conceive, absolutely nothing is better than the love I have for my son. I would feel so blessed to have another little one to join our family. Last time we shared it all with our close family and friends. We needed the support as we blindly went through IVF. This time we know what lies ahead, so unbeknownst to all our friends and family we have began the process! Today is day 4 of my shots and next week may be the egg collection. It’s mad. Totally mad and completely exciting!

Right Place, Right Time

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For the first time a new test has been developed that tailors the timing of IVF treatment to a woman’s individual cycle. The scientists behind the technique believe that IVF frequently fails because the embryo is transferred at the wrong time, missing a crucial fertility window. The new test pinpoints a woman’s optimum time for treatment and in pilot studies the approach significantly boosted success rates.

There are more than 60,000 IVF cycles in Britain each year, but just 24% of these treatments lead to live births. Clinics currently check the visual appearance of the womb lining using ultrasound, giving a general indication of health. In the pilot study, the test was given to 85 women who had each experienced on average five rounds of IVF that had failed at the implantation stage. When the gene analysis was used as a guide, 33% of those treated had a successful implantation simply by just changing the day.

Nick Macklon, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton, believes that issues linked to the womb lining explain around two-thirds of cases of recurrent implantation failure, with around one-third of cases being due to embryo abnormalities. He asserts that these tests could significantly improve success rates.

Ask The Expert

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Professor Robert Winston is Britain’s best-known reproductive health expert and, on a personal note, the doctor who made it possible for my mother to have my little sister. Now 73, he runs a pioneering research programme and an online Q&A for fertility patients confused by the conflicting information available. Winston has been a thorn in the side of the fertility industry in recent years, critical of the high costs and unproven treatments.

“Each week, I get dozens of emails from people who feel that they are not getting proper advice from the clinics they are attending and don’t have a clear understanding of what has been happening to them, why their treatment has failed or why they need to have a specific treatment,” he says.

Consequently he has set up an online advice service run through the Genesis Research Trust, where he offers a reliable source of information to fertility patients, who often find themselves bewildered by the mass of conflicting advice they face, particularly on the internet. Anyone can email Winston their fertility question. He wants to counter what he describes as a paucity of information about infertility and treatment. He says that with clinics keen to claim high success rates, women don’t always understand that the chance of getting pregnant from an individual IVF cycle still only stands at about 25% and that “you aren’t beating the odds until you’ve had three cycles”.

He understands the distress that infertility causes, the way it can affect every area of life, and he is concerned about some new developments where patients pay for treatments that are unproven. He gives the example of egg freezing, used by some women who are worried about their future fertility in an attempt to beat the biological clock.

“We still don’t know how many pregnancies we are likely to get from freezing eggs, and women who are storing their eggs with total confidence, believing that they are going to get pregnant in 10 years’ time, may be getting very unrealistic advice.”

Other techniques he questions include the immune treatments used in some British fertility clinics, which he says are based on poor science. He’s also concerned about pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS), in which one or two embryo cells are taken to test for abnormalities.

The idea of a source of free, trustworthy information from a leading expert in the field is bound to be attractive to patients. Winston keeps in touch with current medical practice, from research and writing papers to giving lectures and attending meetings so it is apparent that, though he may not be seeing patients in a clinic, his interest in the subject of fertility has not diminished. For patients, he remains in high regard as the best known specialist in the field so his inbox must be overflowing!

Email your queries to at: www.genesisresearchtrust.com/page/askrobertwinston

Fresh or Frozen?

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Having had a fresh embryo transfer in my first pregnancy and a frozen embryo transfer in my second I am interested in whether one is preferential to the other. Traditionally, women undergoing IVF have a fresh embryo transfer for their first attempt and then, if there are a surplus of embryos left, then those can be frozen. This allows the woman a chance to use the frozen embryos for a second pregnancy, like in my case, and also a second attempt at the first pregnancy if unsuccessful with the fresh ET. Additionally, women who are at high risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) during the fresh IVF cycle can freeze all their embryos and do a frozen embryo transfer at a later date.

Previously, many centres had FET success rates that were about 10% less successful than their fresh ET. That has changed due to:

  • The frozen embryo transfer pregnancy success rates being influenced by the method of freezing embryos which is far quicker than it used to be.
  • Fast freezing that leads to approximately 90% of embryos surviving the thaw process.  The survival is because there are minimal ice crystals forming with vitrification and minimal cellular degeneration to the embryo.
  • The frozen embryo transfer success rate being influenced by the quality of the embryos frozen. Some IVF centers freeze all the remaining embryos while others will only freeze those of good quality.  The better the quality of the embryos at the time of freezing, the better the freeze-thaw success.
  • Some IVF centers are doing embryo banking cycles with Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS).  They biopsy the embryos and test them for genetic abnormalities, and freeze them.  Once they have enough genetically normal embryos then they transfer these.  This is good for woman with recurrent pregnancy loss or advanced maternal age.

So the evidence suggests that like peas fresh is as good as frozen!