One of the UK’s leading fertility experts has said IVF clinics should be financially responsible for patients’ who experience complications following treatment instead of the NHS
Professor Geeta Nargund was speaking to The Guardian about the public sector footing the bill when women experience complications in their IVF treatment, such as Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) due to clinics’ excessive use of IVF drugs protocol.
Professor Nargund wants all IVF clinics to submit details of hospital admissions to the fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Association (HFEA), so that they can be monitored.
She said: “Clinics’ success rates are usually measured in terms of live births per embryo transferred, but the health outcomes for women are of equal importance and there needs to be more transparency around that.”
At present clinics are obliged to report severe cases to the fertility watchdog, but there is some question about the definition of severe and many go unreported, despite hospital admissions.
According to official figures, 865 cases of OHSS were recorded by the NHS in 2016, but only 60 cases were reported by clinics to the HFEA.
Symptoms of OHSS include bloating, as the ovaries swell, nausea and severe pain. A woman with Polycystic Ovaries (PCOS) is more susceptible to the condition and must be monitored carefully when receiving IVF treatment.
Professor Nargund believes that if clinics footed the bill for this condition, more NHS funds would be available to pay for IVF treatment.
Sara Marshall-Page, co-founder of IVFbabble suffered severe OHSS after she had her embryo transfer,
You can read her diary here, but we have taken an extract from it to illustrate what she went through.
“I never thought I would find myself in the situation. I write my diary from my hospital bed starving hungry and unbelievably uncomfortable. I have a severe case of hyperstimulation, which basically means that my body is filling up with fluid. I look six months pregnant and feel awful. My stomach is so stretched I barely recognise it. I can’t sleep lying down or on my side as a result I have had 3.5 hours sleep in two nights and I have chronic backache. This is the worst side-effect of the IVF treatment you can possibly get.
I started to feel really unwell on Saturday night. At 1am Wag took me to casualty as the pain was and still is so excruciating. I can’t walk, I can’t sit up on my own and I can barely get to the toilet on my own. The nights are the worst, because I know I have eight long and lonely hours of pain and insomnia. I think they are going to give me a sleeping pill tonight. If only I could curl up on my side in my favourite sleeping position it would be so much easier. I also have blocked ears, cystitis and a woman with mental health issues in the bed next to me who screams all the time.
Edy, one of my favourite nurses popped down to see me today. She said she thinks I am pregnant, as this usually happens when the embryo settles. This is what I need to focus on, the fact that my babies are settled and home. (PLEASE!!) I have to remember that at the end of the day, this nasty pain and discomfort will hopefully bring joy, not only for me and Wag, but for all our family.
The doctor says my protein levels are very low so I must eat as much meat and eggs as possible. I ordered an egg Mayo sandwich earlier.
I am so tired…
Pain like I have never experienced before
It is 7:50am. I have been sat up since 5am on the chair at the end of my bed because it it is the only place I feel comfortable. I had the most uncomfortable night sleep. I had chronic cystitis so felt like I needed to pee all night .The sleeping pills kicked in but the pain in my back and sides was so acute that it kept me awake. I must’ve been groaning in my sleep because every time I woke the nurse was next to me trying to comfort me.
I am now waiting anxiously for tea and toast at 8:30. The tea is grey and the toast is hard and cold but I’m looking forward to it. I guess it is a goalpost. I just hope they unplug me from this machine so I can get to the breakfast trolley quickly.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so awful of my entire life. My body is swelling to a point that I barely recognize. I have no dignity left. I look so rough but I just don’t care.
Doctor Jude, my amazing doctor who has been treating me for fertility came and spoke to me earlier and said tomorrow they will tap the fluid from my body. Tonight should be the peak of pain and insomnia and tomorrow I will start feeling better
Thank God tomorrow is here. No surprise that I did not sleep last night despite being given a sleeping pill. I did doze off for a short while but was woken up by myself shouting out in pain.
They will do the tap today which I know will help me. The thought of it terrifies me, but they will drain the pain away. It is not a pleasant experience apparently.
I’m still at bursting point. I feel quite settled at the moment because I had a massage earlier. The doctors have said that my blood results suggest I am improving. I have to say it does not feel like it. I just need to know that my monkeys are safe in there.
A living nightmare
As I write to you this morning I am sat leaning on my freshly made hospital bed. I managed to sleep last night but woke up every hour due to back pain so I’m still very tired. I am drinking one of the sickly protein drinks that they make me drink three times a day. I feel so large, the fluid seems to be heading south to my legs. My stomach is even more swollen today.
How did this get so bad?”
The next day Sara had a positive pregnancy test and went on to have twins girls successfully.
Did you suffer OHSS when going through IVF treatment? We would love to hear your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org