Fertility equality is coming
In July 2022, it was announced that discriminatory NHS rules will be scrapped. Fertility equality is coming. This feature with Laura from @fromwifetolife has been planned for a little while, but how could we hit publish without acknowledging the monumental milestone that has changed the future of so many?
With huge thanks to Megan & Whitney Bacon-Evans and everyone around them, female same sex couples now have EQUAL access to NHS Fertility treatment because the government have published a new Women’s Health Strategy to tackle closing the gender health gap!
They have included the aim to remove barriers for same sex female couples in accessing fertility treatments and IVF as well as improving the transparency around the post code lottery.
In basic terms…Same sex female couples will receive fertility treatments on the NHS regardless of their fertility status.
This is incredible news and I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried when reading it! Now to some of you reading this you might be thinking well hasn’t that always been the case? Why’s that such big news?
It hasn’t been the case at all. Fertility treatment via the NHS has frankly been a sh*t show for the LGBTQ+ community. There really isn’t a polite way to describe it. If you are a heterosexual couple trying for a baby and not having any success, you can be referred through the NHS for FREE fertility treatment. Depending on where you live (the dreaded postcode lottery) you will be entitled to multiple FREE rounds of fertility treatment. Just simply for saying you’ve been trying for two years and it hasn’t worked.
Here is why the announcement this month is so important. If you’re a same sex female couple the same rules don’t apply. Again, depending on your postcode some trusts ask you to have 4, some 6, some even 8 rounds of PAID FOR fertility treatment before you MAY be allowed O N E free cycle courtesy of our NHS.
I have two friends who have four amazing children, their beautiful, incredible children who cost them nearly £100,000 in fertility treatment. Imagine what you could do with that money, the lives you could give to your children, the stability you could give them. Instead it’s piled onto loans and paid off monthly because having children meant everything to them.
Do they regret spending it, of course not, but would they have liked the opportunity to have access to the same free rounds of IUI or IVF that their heterosexual friends were getting? Yes they bloody would.
The news gives us as a community hope. Hope of starting a family, hope of extending OUR family. Reassurance that it really could happen. Personally we’d love another baby, just one more to complete our family, but finding the money we would need to just start having treatment is something that’s kept us up at night. So I let out the biggest breath because I, like many others, have hope again.
OUR FERTILITY JOURNEY
When we found out we were pregnant, I swore I was going to talk more about fertility and fertility treatment. To do my bit to make it that little bit more okay to talk about.
What I didn’t think about was how hard that is to do. Everyone’s journey is different but mine despite the positive outcome, it’s painful to think back over.
One of the challenges when it comes to trying for a baby as a same sex couple, is what to actually do! There is SO much information online but it’s a huge amount of lingo and it’s not very clear and concise – there are no steps to follow (a bit like parenting in general).
We opted for a trip to see our GP in the hope he could guide us too. The reality was that he’d never had a same sex couple want a baby so didn’t have a clue what to do, but he did a full blood check and referred us to the local fertility clinic and told us to come back if that wasn’t right.
Luckily once you’re in the safe hands of the fertility team they guide you through the process, though there’s still all the NHS forms and paperwork that states male/female or mum/dad…one day we won’t have to cross out dad and swap it for mum but for now it’s just another eye roll!
I was diagnosed with PCOS when I was around 14 by an awful doctor who flippantly just said “yeah you’ve got PCOS so you probably won’t be able to have kids“. Well I bloody well showed him didn’t I? Anyway if I’m honest it didn’t really bother me at the time but as I got older it was something that played on my mind a lot. Having a family was something I was really passionate about. Kelly was initially always going to carry first, mainly just because she’s older! However after seeing the GP and doing the initial tests, it was suggested that I went first as actually because of my PCOS and the severity of it that the sooner I started trying the better.
One part we were nervous of was choosing a sperm donor. How do you pick the sperm that’s going to hopefully create your child? Honestly I spent a LONG time googling sperm. What actually happens is that you fill in a form where you can specify things you’d be looking for – hair colour, eye colour, ethnicity etc. You can also put some a few character traits you’d be looking for, levels of education…things like that.
We received an email about a week later giving us two options for a donor with a few details about them both. What swung it for us was the donor we went for had enough sperm for siblings too. The donors can only make so many donations and once they’re gone, that’s it. So finding someone who had enough left to hopefully have future siblings was important for us.
With the guidance from the fertility clinic, sperm in check and the financials out of the way, our fertility journey was beginning and it was no plain sailing.
Starting treatment was so exciting, I hardly slept the night before because although I knew the journey could be a long one, we were starting it! We decided to go NHS for our treatment as we knew a few couples who had taken that route and who’d gotten pregnant, so they highly recommend them. We did go and look at some private clinics but both decided to go down this route if nothing else was working. I’d generally always have my appointments early doors and go from there to work. It’s the Ideal way to do it when you don’t want people to know as it doesn’t alert much suspicion. The downside of that is, that I’d quite often leave the hospital following more bad news, drive to work, park my car and spend the 15 min walk sobbing in a desperate attempt to pull myself together by the time I reached the front door of work and then smile & pretend everything was great.
Drugs wise I started off with Provera before every cycle to force my body to have a period as it wouldn’t have one of its own accord. Then went on Clomid with a 50mg dose which had no response, I then went onto a 100mg dose which also had no response. Then tried Gonal F which is an injection pen – a little like what diabetic people use except it’s a flipping long needle to stab in yourself! The dosage started low for 10 days and then increased over days 11 to 21 followed by ovatrelle – this is the drug that forces your body to ovulate and release an egg. It stings like an absolute b*tch to inject and because of how high the dose is it takes an age to get it all in. This didn’t work either. This time I overstimulated which basically means my eggs were too big for treatment (keep in mind that there is a 2mm window). You can have no more than 2 eggs measuring 1.5cm and no more than 1 egg measuring 1.7cm.
My dosage was adjusted and I then did 150iu for 4 days, 75iu for 1 day, 100 iu for 1 day and Ovatrelle at 3,250iu. This cycle ended up being the winning ticket and despite everything (it really shouldn’t have worked) I was pregnant. Throw in probably 4 or 5 blood tests, a counselling session and easily over 40 scans. Whilst all the while, paying for the privilege of emotionally and physically battering yourself month after month after month. I can’t stress enough, if you know anyone going through IVF, IUI or any type of treatment, PLEASE please be kind. It’s hands down the hardest, loneliest and most emotional thing I have ever ever had to deal with.
I was lucky that I was going through it all with my wife Kelly, she came to every scan, appointment, blood test with me and she was a huge support, but I also felt extremely alone. Although we were in it together and this is 100% our baby, it was me injecting and taking different drugs, it was me trying to deal with absolutely raging hormones, it was my body that wasn’t doing what it should be, it was my body not responding. I felt like I was failing as a woman and my body was failing me.
Everyone deals with things differently and Kelly’s way is to be super positive and not let any emotion show in an attempt to help me cope. My way is to grieve, be angry, read books, forums, medical journals on treatments, side effects, doses, anything. Anything to give me some hope that this hellish journey would end. She would be the one messaging family to say it hadn’t worked. It was the one thing I couldn’t do. In that first 24 hours I couldn’t acknowledge it, I didn’t want people telling me to keep my chin up or that the next cycle would be the one. I couldn’t cope with it. I will be FOREVER grateful of her doing that, she took the weight from me and let me just process in my own time.
For anyone unsure we had IUI treatment, the difference between IUI and IVF is basically that with IUI you don’t take your eggs out, you just get them to the right size and inject the sperm into you, in the hope it catches on to an egg, latches on and stays! With IVF your eggs are taken out, the sperm is put in and if they connect then they’re put back inside you for your body to essentially either to accept or deny. There is a WAY more medically accurate explanation to this, but it sums it up.
Once you have the sperm put in, you have a two week wait. It feels like 6 years and your brain goes into overdrive! Basically you’re waiting to see if you’re pregnant or not. You’re advised to wait the full two weeks before doing a pregnancy test as the drugs you’re given could produce a false positive if you test too early. For the first week after implantation I just took it really easy. Ate super healthy and added in lots of extra vitamins and nutrients into my diet including a very green smoothie every morning! I also lay on my back with my legs in the air against the wall for about 40 mins each morning and evening. Now there’s absolutely no science to say any of this stuff works but if it settles your mind…there’s no harm either!
Day 10, I started feeling really sick, a little clammy and just not myself. We both started getting excited that it could have worked but you also settle yourself very quickly because what if you’re not? Day 11 I was feeling worse, really queasy and a shocking headache that just wouldn’t shift. By Day 12 I was just tired. We had been food shopping and was at home putting the food away. I popped upstairs for a wee and figured I’d do a test so we could rule it out. I came down stairs and just left it on the kitchen side while we carried on, I told Kelly I’d done one because I wanted to start coming to terms with the fact it hadn’t worked, so we just left it there until we’d made some dinner and were heading into the other room.
Then this happened…
We were pregnant.
Obviously I then tested every day for the next few days…you need to be sure of these things! Just like that our entire world changed. It was the one thing we were so desperate to see but so sure we wouldn’t.
Pregnancy is a whole other journey and something I’m happy to talk about another day. Hit fast forward, Jack turns 3 this summer and it’s hard to believe all the injections, pills, bruising and heartache created this incredible tiny baby and a now fiercely independent little boy!
Fertility treatment will forever be the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through in my life but nothing ever compares to finally meeting your baby…would I do it again? Absolutely ❤️
I hope you found this useful and if it helps just one person…that’s good enough for me.
You can follow more of Laura and Kelly’s journey on Instagram.