The NHS IVF Postcode Lottery – Our Story

It only feels like two minutes ago we were going through the IVF process, but remarkably, it’s been nearly two years now since Dorothy burst into our lives, changing everything in beautiful ways we could never have dared imagine.

For several years our family of three had wanted to become four, but like many couples, we hit a bump in the road and for a number of complicated and emotional reasons it just wasn’t happening. We weighed up what we thought was our only options and if it wasn’t for a long and complex adoption process, we could very easily have taken a child into our family and loved them as our own.

What opened our eyes up to the possibilities of this happening was a fateful appointment with a very caring doctor. She went the extra mile to answer all the questions Mrs P had and gave us real hope. Up until this point we truly believed there was no way we’d make a baby ourselves and more or less expected the doctor to say the was absolutely no chance for us. How wrong we were.

We did our research and was amazed at the amount of options out there from adoption, fostering, having more pets through to becoming an IVF tourist to looking at affordable IVF with donor eggs if that was our issues. Don’t get me wrong, having a cycle abroad would be a more cost effective option, with the added bonus of a little mini break in the sun for me and Mrs P. This is something I would definitely suggest as an option for those who don’t have any free chances left at finding happiness.

Fortunately when we opted to begin our IVF journey we had the full financial support of the NHS for our first round of IVF. I can honestly say we were truly blessed to have this support. Mrs P and I were both in work and we would have done everything we could to make it happen otherwise as the process going private isn’t cheap but it’s an investment in our family.

In our catchment area we were allowed two opportunities for IVF to work, but other areas either have no budget or you can have your first round of IVF on the NHS and then you’ll need to pay for subsequent treatments. It really is a n IVF postcode lottery and hearing stories now from friends and families who have been through the process, it sounds heartbreaking to think we may never have been given that chance and Dorothy could still be a dream.

Looking back, this period of our lives feels like a blur. Mrs P had an operation to splice and clear her tubes. The operation was a success, but the recovery was very hard and in hindsight she wasn’t given enough time and space to recover properly. Commuting really took its toll and she struggled on with her demanding job, enduring the mental and physical burden of our dreams.

I truly feel, looking back, that I was quite un-supportive at this stage. I saw the operation as a way to kickstart the IVF process and was probably so fixated with the opportunity to succeed that I neglected the one person who was going to bear the burden of a successful or failed cycle and pregnancy.

It wasn’t my body that was going through all the changes, which began with an awful chemical menopause, through to the sickness, PND and intense labour. I was watching the beautiful glow slowly fade into tiredness and frustration as Mrs P repeatedly injected herself with egg producing chemicals, then egg stopping chemicals, while all I had to do was leave a specimen in a cup.

If you’re going through this process with your partner, it’s a difficult thing for you but I can imagine it’s torture being reminded every day that you’re not pregnant and putting the hope into every needle. I cannot imagine the feeling of failure and despair each time it didn’t work.

But it did work and we were so fortunate.

At the time of egg collection I was there. I was there for almost ever scan and I was there when all of our hopes and dreams were visible for the first time as a bright dot on a dark screen.

“Good luck little one”

These were the words uttered by Ibrahim our doctor as a small puff of air pushed our fertilised embryo into a warm resting place to grow. Mrs P was in tears and I couldn’t believe what was happening. I was mentally disconnected from the process and I really didn’t want it to fail so I never really believed it could work.

“Faith is what I needed but denial left me feeling emotionless right until the end.”

When you go through a 9 month process, doing everything you can to be there it can be difficult and you find yourself struggling to connect. I found that by providing things it gave me some hope and against the better judgement of the clinic, I bought a travel system in the early stages. We’re talking early! That was my sense of burden to feel like I was taking some of the now growing weight off Mrs P’s back.

There are families going through the same pain in silence, be it through the NHS, privately or through some of the amazing services out there to support others. A journey through IVF with donor eggs or without is going to be an emotional roller coaster. It’s emotionally exhausting going through the pain and suffering that comes with an unsuccessful cycle, or the mixed emotions of exhaustion and elation that comes with a successful one.

No one ever tells you what happens if you’re successful. You prepare to fail so much that you neglect to take into account what’s really happening until the most amazing thing happens. No one tells you that when you see your babies heart beating, it’s actually part of yours.

Everyday couples are striving to add to their family. Some are successful, some are not and I wish all of them the best of luck on their journeys. Being there at the birth of your own baby is an incredible feeling. Being in that situation you know that no matter how many times you’re woken at night, however many times you feel like it’s the worst day ever, however financially constrained you feel somehow, everything is just going to be OK. How could it not be?

Tomorrow is another day and whatever life throws at us, as a family, we’ll all be fine because we have each other.

  • This is a great post. We’re not entitled to funding as we are already parents. Don’t think that’s due to the postcode lottery but more of a common practice now. Hadn’t even considered looking into going abroad for treatment.

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