23-29 September 2019

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Infertility in New Zealand

Infertility in New Zealand

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Experiencing Infertility

Understanding the non-physical aspects of infertility

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Supporting those with infertility

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Hollie's Story

Hollie and her new husband happily started trying to their family, unaware of the years of tests, treatments, anxiety and heartbreak in front of them

My husband and i met at high school when I was 15, we got married on the 9th April 2011 and had thought we would start trying for a baby straight after the wedding, so i had come off the pill around 6 months before we got married and started taking Elevit, eating healthy etc in preparation. Towards the end of the year, we still hadn't had any luck even with using the ovulation sticks and the disappointment each month was setting in. I went to my GP at the time, who brushed me off, so after another couple of months I called fertility Associates and decided to go to them directly for a consultation and to see what they thought. We did all the initial tests - bloods and sperm count which all came back fine. My cycle was between 28-34 days so Dr Fisher suggested trying some rounds of monitored Clomiphene cycles. We went into this with high hopes that this would be the 'fix' that we needed - sadly after 8 rounds we were still not pregnant. We did a few more tests including a hysteroscopy (to check my tubes weren't blocked), then we went onto the list for public funded IVF, our specialist advised us against IUI as it wouldn't have increased our chances by much. While we waited for our allocated month to come up we continued to try some unmonitored clomiphene cycles, used ovulation sticks, had a few months off, got drunk, booked things we couldn't get out of and all the other things people who get pregnant easily say to people who don't... and as usual none of these things worked for us, even though others swear it worked for them. We tried everything! Luckily for us our allocated month got brought forward from May to January - We thought this was it - and the emotional roller coaster that is IVF began. Our first round we had 15 eggs collected, by the next day this had gone down to 5 as 5 were immature, and 5 fertilised abnormally. Then by day 3 we only had 2 left - one we used for a fresh transfer on day 5, the other a frozen transfer - both unsuccessful. We began doing weekly acupuncture, and went to see a naturopath who put us on strict diets and all these supplements. We went back on the list to have our second round of IVF publicly funded and decided to pay for a round privately while we waited. We did the same protocol, but the results were dismal lots of fragmentation - by day 3 we only had one egg that hadn’t made it to a blastocyst and wasn’t looking very promising but we transferred it back on day 3 and hoped for the best - this was also unsuccessful. 

We gave up on the naturopaths diet and supplements, but continued with the acupuncture and healthy eating. On our next Public funded round of IVF we decided to try something different so we down regulated first before starting a longer course of injections, as well a endometrial scratchings and the 'Colorado protocol' of adding in antibiotics, steroids and aspirin. This seemed to work better for my body - by day 5 we had 3 in the freezer and 1 for a fresh transfer. Our fresh transfer was heartbreakingly unsuccessful again, but on the next frozen transfer we finally got a positive result after the dreaded 2 week wait. We were nervous but so ecstatic that our luck was changing. I went for bloods every few days, then weeks to track HCG and try give me some peace of mind - we were headed overseas on holiday so booked our scan at what would have been 8 1/2 weeks the day after we got home. The morning of the scan something didn’t feel right, I didn’t want to get too excited incase it was all about to come crashing down... and sure enough that is what happened. I had a molar pregnancy - so my placenta had grown but no baby was inside - bloods showed my HCG was still rising, and after a scan 3 days later, we were given the choice as to whether we wanted to wait to miscarry naturally or have a D&C. I chose the D&C and had it done the following week. Even though this was devastating, it gave us a bit of hope that if one embryo had sort of worked  - maybe the next one would too. Once we felt ready we transferred the next frozen embryo, and then after that the last frozen embryo - neither transfer stuck. I was not ready to give up, but we started to talk about what our other options might be - my sister offered to be a surrogate for us if needed to try one of our own embryos, or said she would give me her eggs if that’s what we needed to do, we looked into adoption - both here in NZ and overseas, and made contact with Oranga Tamariki about fostering/home for life. I went to see the counsellor at Fertility Associates to work through all that was going on. We decided that we would do one last privately funded round of IVF- and then we would start seriously pursuing our other options. We did the same longer protocol with down regulation, Colorado protocol, acupuncture and this time I started to get Fertility Massages through Bloom Massage and we decided to use the time lapse technology so our embryos wouldn’t be disturbed and we could see exactly how they were developing.. This round was hard as we knew it was the last, and with so many disappointments in the past it was getting really hard to be positive. I began to do a lot of positive IVF visualisation and meditations. This egg collection on day 5 we had 4 good looking embryos - so we did a fresh transfer with one, then froze the other 3. After the 2 week wait we got a short lived positive result - a chemical pregnancy/ early miscarriage. Then finally on our next frozen transfer - embryo number 9 - we got a positive HCG reading, and even though my HCG was slow to rise - it did and we had our beautiful boy Oscar by c-section at 38+3 due to a low lying placenta. We couldn't believe that after all the years, struggles and heartbreak we finally had our baby. 

Once Oscar was over 1 year we decided to try for a sibling naturally, but after 7 months we weren't pregnant so contacted Fertility associates to transfer one of our frozen embryos. Quite a different experience - I went to the embryo transfer alone as hubby was home with Oscar as we didn't want to tell our family and friends that we were trying this time around. I did all the things I had done on Oscars successful transfer - acupuncture, fertility massage, eating brazil nuts, taking it very easy for a couple of days etc. We were heading away to the snow for the weekend when I was supposed to have the blood test – so I decided to buy a pregnancy test to use while we were away and do the bloods once we got home. For all but a couple of my transfers I didn't do at home tests I waited by the phone all day for that dreaded 'unknown' number to call - usually around 2-3 pm.

I did the test in the morning the day before I should have been having the blood test and 2 strong lines came up straight away - we were pregnant again! We were so excited but also still so nervous that something may happen to end this pregnancy - but we made it through the 7 and 12 week scans and then to 20 week scan where they told me I had Complete Placenta Previa, and possible accreta. It all sounded like no big deal, so other than a few extra scans booked in between the 20-30 week mark we didn't really worry as id had no bleeding.  At each scan they continued to believe that it was accreta and mentioned a possible hysterectomy and delivery around 36 weeks, but I didn't really think it would happen - like that would be worst case scenario. At 30 weeks I woke to some brown spotting so got sent to hospital to be monitored overnight and receive steroid shots for baby’s lungs. The hospital and my obstetrician said they wanted some more in depth scans so after I was discharged I came back to the hospital for a more specialist scan to check the accreta, and then they decided to schedule an MRI for the following week. At the end of the MRI the person doing the scan asked if I’d had any bleeding, which I hadn't, and the said if I had any bleeding or spotting at all that I needed to come back to hospital immediately or call an ambulance. I went home and that same afternoon my obstetrician called and said I was being admitted to hospital now and to go up as soon as possible and that they were going to deliver my baby the following Wednesday. I was devastated and scared of what would my baby be like being born so early, at the severity of the surgery I was going to need - and being under a general anaesthetic so not seeing my baby being born, and having to leave my 2 year old who i hadn't been away from for longer than 1 night. The morning after I was admitted I got taken to theatre to have some arterial lines placed in my neck incase they needed to get blood into me fast, then we just had to wait until it was surgery day. We had another round of Steroid injections to help develop baby’s lungs, and spoke with lots of doctors, anaesthetists, urologists etc about what the surgery would entail, that I would likely be in ICU after surgery and baby would be in NICU. The morning of the surgery started early - going to theatre to have a spinal then have stents placed in my ureters to protect them during surgery, then we went to interventional radiology to have balloons placed in my groin so they could inflate them if I started to haemorrhage. Once these were in place hubby was allowed back into theatre to see me quickly before they put me under the general anaesthetic. My second beautiful bot was born at 33+4 at 2kgs and needed to be intubated and then moved onto CPAP and oxygen etc as he was having trouble breathing on his own. My surgery went much better than expected - I didn't need blood transfusions as they used a cell saver to give me back my own blood, I had a total hysterectomy and needed a bladder repair due to the accreta actually progressing into placenta Percreta - my placenta had grown through the side of my uterus and onto my bladder. I got to meet Henry in the NICU as they wheeled me back to the ward from recovery. I was in hospital for a further 7 days recovering, and Henry stayed in NICU for 20 days before coming home. 

My boys are now 3 1/2 and almost 15 months and I will be forever grateful to all of the people who helped, and encouraged us in our journey to get them. Infertility and IVF is a hugely draining emotional roller coaster, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat to have my boys. We still have one frozen embryo that we need to decide what to do with since I can no longer try for another baby, but for now we are just enjoying life as a family of 4. 

 

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