A story of infertility, IVF, miscarriage and mental health

If you’re struggling through the despair of experiencing fertility issues, then it can help to know that there are other women out there who have also experienced what you’re going through

Here’s Ellie’s story, as told to the UK’s Miscarriage Association

Ellie and her husband began trying for a baby in December 2016

It wasn’t until February 2018 that they finally discovered that Ellie was pregnant, soon after they’d been referred for fertility testing. The couple were over the moon that they were finally going to have the baby they longed for.

But tragically, at eight weeks, Ellie experienced some spotting

At the scan appointment they had booked the following day at a private clinic, they were told that “they had their days wrong” and that Ellie was five weeks, five days pregnant and that the pregnancy was still viable.

Ellie says the experience was truly awful, and that they wouldn’t listen to her that her dates were right. Feeling upset and scared, they booked a further scan at a different clinic and their fears were confirmed, Ellie was experiencing a miscarriage.

“What followed was the worst two weeks of my life. In a daze I returned to work. As the foetus had a very slow heartbeat still, there was nothing that could be done to speed it along. So I worked and hoped I wouldn’t miscarry until I was home. We had booked a UK week away and that was where I miscarried, in the bathroom of a holiday cottage whilst my husband sat downstairs worried and feeling helpless.”

She had been warned to expect a heavy period, but what Ellie actually experienced was “like something from a horror movie”.

“I had multiple huge clots as well as bleeding and I couldn’t leave the bathroom due to how heavy it was. One of the clots contained the remains of my baby and that image often still comes to me unexpectedly, it was awful to see.”

“Looking back, I should have gone to A&E but at the time I just wanted to be left alone. The hospital had not offered any support after the miscarriage, I was given a leaflet on miscarriage and sent away – to walk past the antenatal clinic and the delivery suite on my way out.”

The trauma led Ellie to suffer PTSD with nightmares and flashbacks

She cried an awful lot, yet they braved on, trying for another baby for the next ten months. Ellie was still working, but she avoided seeing friends with babies and going to places where she might see pregnant women.

With each bathroom visit, Ellie thought she was bleeding, but this was all part or the PTSD. Trauma therapy helped and, in the Summer of 2019, Ellie had begun to get some of her life back.

It was in November 2018 that the couple decided to pay for private fertility tests

Ellie had a low ovarian reserve and her husband had a low sperm count. Ellie had a high FSH level which meant she didn’t qualify for NHS funded IVF, so the couple decided to self-fund.

Three IVF cycles failed, with no five day blastocysts but two weeks after the third failed cycle, Ellie was shocked to discover she was pregnant. Sadly, four days later she was told the pregnancy was ectopic and Ellie had emergency surgery during which one of her fallopian tubes was removed.

Later that same day, and in excruciating pain, Ellie was sent home with no follow-up or support offered.

Here, Ellie picks up the story

“At this point my husband had a sperm DNA fragmentation test as we suspected this could be our blastocyst problem. It came back very high and we made the difficult decision to move to donor sperm for our 4th cycle.”

“That cycle was a disaster. The embryo quality was poor and on day five we had a 3cc embryo (our first ever blastocyst) so were not hopeful.”

“Just before Christmas 2019 we found out it had worked and we were pregnant. We were so happy! The next three weeks were the best we’d felt in years. We were content and feeling that all the pain had been worthwhile.”

“Then at seven weeks I woke up one morning and just felt different. Over the next few days the minimal pregnancy symptoms I had disappeared. I then started spotting.  We went to a different clinic this time, it was an awful experience.”

“They scanned me quickly and said there was a heartbeat so it was all fine. With some pushing they measured the foetus, it was measuring at six weeks but I was over seven weeks.”

“The nurse told me it was fine and to think positive. She dismissed all of my concerns and my previous history. We then had to wait three days for my scan at the IVF clinic which was booked for eight weeks.”

“This time I didn’t go into work and neither did my husband. We just sat there, in a silent house that we had bought three years ago in anticipation of starting our family.”

Ellie’s eight week scan tragically confirmed she’d had a miscarriage. The foetus had no heartbeat and no clear foetal pole to measure. Their baby had sadly died at some point in the previous few days.

Writing her story just days later, waiting for her second miscarriage, Ellie says she’s tired and broken

She says her journey has been devastating, used all of their savings, cost her a fallopian tube and stripped her of any joy out of life.

“I don’t expect the care with this miscarriage to be any different. I imagine I’ll get another leaflet at my next appointment.”

“But I know I’ll keep going, because I can’t bear the idea of a life without a child. I don’t think I can carry on with my own eggs, I don’t trust my body anymore.  The NHS won’t offer any testing as I’ve not had three miscarriages – I may pay for Karyotyping to rule out issues with my chromosomes.  We will have to consider embryo donation and the ethical implications that go with that.”

“Not many people understand the stress and pain of infertility, IVF and miscarriage as a package – it’s not something that’s talked about.”

“So here I am, talking about it and I hope that my story can help others get tests quicker than we did or maybe just to feel that someone else gets the pain they’re going through.”

We do Ellie, we really do, and we’re in awe of your bravery, courage and determination to help others.

Have you been through the same as Ellie? How were you able to cope? Would you like to share your experience? If you are happy to, we would love to hear from you at mystory@ivfbabble.com

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