A Scottish success story
Fertility treatment is painful, exhausting and upsetting, adding financial pressure to this stressful time is grossly unfair, says Sarah, 34, who was able to access three full IVF cycles because she lives in Scotland.
Fertility, or the lack of it is not something you learn about or discuss much in your twenties. You believe life will work out the way it does in books and films, get a job, meet somebody, fall in love, get married, have a baby. A fairytale. What happens when the last thing on the list doesn’t happen?
My husband and I got married in 2016 and after plenty of holidays and nights out together we decided to start trying for a baby in October 2018. By summer 2019, still no baby. A trip to the GP and follow-up hospital appointments confirmed that it was highly unlikely we would conceive naturally. This was not part of the fairytale.
Fertility treatment free in Scotland
Luckily, we live in Scotland and fertility treatment is free, unlike other parts of the UK. There was therefore no need for us to save money, we could ask to be referred straight away to start IVF. Unfortunately, though, Covid caused our fertility journey to be postponed from starting in March 2019 until May 2020. (We did consider paying for private treatment but waiting times during Covid were long for private treatment too.)
We started our first round of treatment (which was ICSI) in May 2020: a week of injections, bloods and regular internal examinations before the big moment of egg collection. We got three eggs, but none were mature, and none fertilised. Round one was over within 10 days. If we had gone private, we could have spent thousands of pounds on those 10 days. If we lived elsewhere in the UK, we would also have spent thousands of pounds on those 10 days.
Another chance at success made the difference
But being in Scotland allowed us to have another IVF cycle. Our second round resulted in five eggs, this time all mature, and this time all five fertilised. By July 2022 our little boy was born; 3.5 years after deciding to try for a baby.
We wouldn’t change anything about our journey now as we are so fortunate to have had a successful pregnancy and now have a perfect little baby. However, it was an extremely difficult time in our lives, it felt as though everyone around us was moving on with their fairytale and we were stuck. Happy for people but sad for us at the same time.
Painful, exhausting and upsetting
When our first round failed, we went on a holiday. If we had been saving for a second round this much-needed break would not have been possible. Not being able to access NHS-funded help can have so many consequences.
Anyone going through fertility treatment will know how painful, exhausting and upsetting it can be. Adding financial pressure to this stressful time is grossly unfair. I cannot imagine how much harder it must be for people who have to pay. Fertility treatment should be fair and free across the UK for all. Infertility is a medical issue therefore care, treatment and support should be accessible and equal for all.
Take time to recognise how brave and strong you are
Fertility awareness is vitally important so that men and women know they are not alone. You are not alone. If you are going through fertility treatment, take time to recognise how brave and strong you are, you are going through something you wouldn’t wish on anyone else but you are doing it, you are amazing.
Funding for access to NHS fertility treatment varies across the UK; full details of what is available is at https://fertilitynetworkuk.org/access-support/nhs-funding/