Ready for treatment, delayed by COVID

Delayed medical treatments and procedures have been a major cause for concern during the COVID-19 pandemic. This uncertainty adds more stress to already emotional experiences like IVF treatments. Fertility Network has been supporting patients with infertility issues during this time, many of whom worry that their chances of conceiving worsen with each month of delayed treatment.

In June 2020, we invited women to share their experiences and frustrations with the current situation.

we are continuing to perservere 

Louise

It has been such an uncertain time for everyone but having fertility treatment delayed due to COVID-19 has carried an extra burden for us, especially when there are already so many external pressures due to the current situation. We have struggled with the unknown and continue to do so as it is unclear when our first round of IVF treatment will begin. We were advised of an initial timescale of six to eight weeks when we had our consultation in early March, however it is unclear how the current adaptations to clinic operations and back logs will affect us.

It has already been such a long and painful journey to get to this stage, but we are continuing to persevere, remaining positive that our journey will start soon.

 

I feel guilty and selfish 

Jess

After almost four years of TTC and three miscarriages, we were so relieved to have our first appointment at Ninewells ACU in February. The doctors agreed that we should go straight to IVF. No time to waste. We decided to self-fund a round and go on the NHS waitlist. Our self-funded cycle of IVF would start in a matter of weeks.

I have been through many emotions since the closure of the ACU. I feel guilty and selfish for being upset about it. I’ve cried so many times over my infertility but never more than in the last few months. I am a key worker myself and have family working for the NHS. My husband tries to be supportive. He is grieving too. I hope I will be mother to his child.

The clock is ticking loud and clear. Perhaps a little more for me than others in this position. During the lockdown I turned 40. Now every TTCer worth their salt knows the chart – the one that shows your chances of a successful pregnancy fall off a cliff around this age. It has made the whole situation particularly cruel. So close yet so far. I am angry at all the wasted time. All the months in between appointments at infertility clinics, recurrent miscarriage clinics, gynaecology clinics and the countless GP appointments it took to get to those clinics in the first place.

I have found solace and humour in podcasts such as Big Fat Negative and Infertile AF. I’ve been taking supplements and getting exercise. I have reread some fertility books. The Fertility Network have been running yoga classes. It helps to feel part of a community. All of that can’t stop time though, so hopefully I’ll get a call soon and be back at the ACU.

 

the choice has been taken away from us 

Cathy

The day that we discovered that our 2nd round of IVF had failed was also the day we found out that our third round would be postponed.

We went in to our clinic to get my bloods taken, but we had already done a pregnancy test that morning which was negative. When we were at the clinic the nurses were extremely kind but explained that they were being redeployed and that our third round of IVF would not be in July but probably delayed for an unknown period of time.

We were lucky enough not to have been in the middle of a treatment when clinics were told to close their doors, but it was still a blow, as the idea of starting my third round in July was my safety net for coping with a negative pregnancy test.

The unknown of how long the wait would be was debilitating because we had already waited for over three years to get this far. I have a low egg reserve, so time is most definitely not on our side and this was weighing on my mind. It also increased my feelings of hopelessness as all we can do right now is wait.

I have found it difficult to deal with how little control we have and that the choice has been taken away from us. There are people who have become pregnant naturally during the current situation. People have joked about the baby boom which will be occurring after lockdown, however this right has been taken away from patients with infertility issues.

Counselling services have still been available during this time which has been very helpful and essential. I am extremely grateful to the NHS for providing counselling for those going through IVF and for continuing this service as it is needed now more than ever.

 

we are back in a place of ‘limbo’ 

Hillary

We were excited to finally commence our first round of IVF in February, but a few days after my baseline scan, our treatment was paused with immediate effect in March. Considering the circumstances, we were, and remain to be, very understanding of this.

However, as the weeks pass, it has become increasingly difficult to remain positive. As good news comes in of Scottish clinics re-opening, I find myself falling back into the cycle of hope and disappointment. Finally being so very close to our first egg collection, I was hoping that things would restart in the same order, however, it now feels very far away as we learn the process for reopening, with reduced capacity and those with frozen embryos commencing treatment initially.

Again, this is completely understandable, but we are back in a place of ‘limbo’ as we do our best to patiently wait for a call or letter to arrive, although we have no idea of when this may be. The clinics only closed for two months and seem to be restarting with a Government top priority, which is all very positive considering, but for us to get to the same point again would take a minimum of six or seven weeks – most likely more with the run up to my cycle – so in reality we we have gone from being almost there on our first round, to significantly delayed.

In my experience, trying to conceive is a cycle of hope and disappointment with every month. With my husband and I having hoped for nearly four years, and our IVF ‘journey’ being part of this for two years, it has given us extra hope. However, with COVID-19, unfortunately the emotionally exhausting process is only longer and returns us to a place of great uncertainty with regards to our treatment.

 

I felt like taxpayers’ money had gone to waste 

Sam

When my treatment was postponed, I felt emotionally wrecked: frustrated, lost, helpless.

I had already began preparation three months ahead of the surgery, firstly collecting the medicine and then getting two very painful hormonal jabs. The jabs stopped my menstrual cycle and caused hot flushes (premenopausal syndromes basically). I had also already had my pre-surgery screening.

After all those hurdles, I was mentally ready and finally due for surgery. About a week before my surgery date was due, I received the call that it would be postponed indefinitely.

The thought of having to go through the whole process again is tiring, not to mention painful, both emotionally and physically. I travel a lot for work which had added extra stress to ensure I adhered to the timeline for the jabs. I felt like all of my efforts, as well as taxpayers’ money, have gone to waste. I will now have to restart that process again, which means I face another good six months of waiting. Between now and then, there is nothing I can do – whereas if I had already gone for the surgery, the lockdown would have been a good time for me to recuperate and have a go at conceiving. It felt like the goal post was moved when I could just see it in reach.

As important as it is to stop the spread of the virus, I felt that the way the government approached this was very rushed and badly planned. I would have expected the government to streamline and reduce services but not to totally stop. It’s like quitting nicotine cold turkey, when it could have been a gradual process, especially for patients who had dates penned in for various operations and had done all the necessary prep. These patients will now need to restart processes, taking up further time and money. So much for the government saying the NHS budget is stretched all the time – of course it will be, if they do this.

I can only imagine how much more upsetting and helpless an IVF couple would feel if their appointment to harvest the eggs had been postponed just a few days beforehand. All the waiting is frustrating when you know you are fighting against time and age to get the best outcome.

 

talk of a lockdown ‘baby boom’ stings more 

Becky

My husband and I have been trying to conceive for over four years now. Three years ago, we learnt that natural conception was highly unlikely for us due to male infertility. Fertility treatment, specifically ICSI, was advised. After waiting almost a year, we started our treatment. We had an unsuccessful fresh transfer and, just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a frozen egg transfer. Unfortunately this transfer did not result in pregnancy.

Naturally we were keen to continue our fertility journey and start our next fresh stimulation cycle as soon as possible. As time passes, I become more aware and anxious about my age and the irreversible effect this has on my fertility. Our fertility issues are now twofold: male factor infertility and my age. I will be 38 later this year and we feel time is not on our side.

The pause in treatment due to the COVID-19 pandemic stirs many emotions. As a doctor working on the front line of the pandemic, I appreciate the necessity and importance of staff redeployment for the provision of potentially lifesaving care. However, as a 37-year-old woman who desperately wants to become a mother and to have a family with her husband, I feel heart broken by the pause in treatment. Time is of the essence.

I believe, at present, preserving life is more important than creating life, but now more than ever I mourn the fact that my husband and I can not conceive naturally. Talk and laughter of a lockdown ‘baby boom’ stings more than the usual baby talk people with infertility manage on an almost daily basis. The general public have not been advised to avoid natural conception due to the pandemic. This makes the pause in our treatment that bit more difficult to tolerate.

I am delighted clinics have been approved to re-open and I can only hope we start our fresh cycle as soon as possible. Time is fertility.

 

I try to stay positive and remain patient 

Maggie

The hardest part to deal with is uncertainty. Not knowing when our treatments will start again causes a lot of stress and anxiety. Infertility is something we have no control of, so knowing when we will undergo fertility treatments and having a plan in place usually helps to gain a little bit of control, and feel that we are proactive in finding a way to finally become pregnant. I feel that my life is always put on hold as I usually try to plan things (work, holidays, visits etc) around my treatments.

IVF is also a constant wait – we need to wait to start treatment, need to wait during treatment. I am deeply thankful to the NHS for giving me three free attempts, but we need to be mentally and physically prepared to wait years before being able to undergo treatment. And now with all cycles being cancelled and postponed, it is again a massive uncertainty about when we will have a chance to have children.

In my case it is also very stressful as I have very low ovarian reserve due to severe endometriosis, so the more I wait the less chances I have to become pregnant. My AMH levels already dropped significantly within a year.

I understand that clinics are doing their best to ensure patients are treated safely so I try to stay positive and remain patient. It was great news to hear that my clinic got the go ahead to reopen, but I am desperately waiting to know when my follow-up appointment will be, which was cancelled in March after my failed cycle, and my FET, which was scheduled for June. I just have no idea how much delay to expect. I would love to have a rough idea, so that I can look forward to that and have some hope again.

 


 

If you’re struggling with similar experiences and need to talk, please reach out for support.

INFO LINE: 01424 732361
SUPPORT LINE: 0121 323 5025