Why We’re Going Abroad For IVF #3

Planning for our third IVF cycle is something we hoped we would never be doing. In the same breath, planning for our second cycle wasn’t something we hoped we’d be doing either. Honestly? We hadn’t ever anticipated that we’d be planning our IVF at all, and yet here we are, 6.5 years into trying to conceive. We have had two failed cycles of ICSI and we have only ever had one embryo make it to transfer day. We have no embryos on ice, we have no clearer idea as to why it isn’t working for us, and we regularly feel like we are still stuck on square 1. You would hope that after spending thousands of pounds and going through the process twice already, we would be that bit clearer, but the truth is we know as much as we did at the very first appointment we ever had with an IVF consultant.

In 2018, I was diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes. I had those removed in March 2019, and I also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. As a result of this, it is physically impossible for me to get pregnant without IVF. My husband has low morphology, which means whilst he has a great amount of sperm, they aren’t quite formed the way they should be. Put the pair of us together, and we are far from the most fertile couple around.

Our first two cycles ended miserably; our first cycle retrieved 7 eggs and only 2 of those fertilised. Out of the two embryos, neither made it to transfer. Our second cycle saw 10 eggs retrieved, 5 of which fertilised, and this time only one made it to transfer. The one we transferred however wasn’t quite ready; it was an ‘early blastocyst’ and so wasn’t where it should have been. It goes without saying that unfortunately, that didn’t implant, and it wasn’t the time for us to bring home our little ‘Dotty’. After this, we made the decision that it was time to move clinics.

We have spent the last 12 months researching clinics across the whole of the U.K. We live in Cambridgeshire, and as a result of the IVF postcode lottery, we have not been entitled to any treatment funded by the NHS. So far, we are about £10,000 deep. We have had a look at multiple clinics and towards the end of last year, we began toying with the idea of IVF in Alicante, Spain. Over the years, we have experienced so many people tell us about their friend’s cousin’s dog walker who had a mysterious disease that stopped them getting pregnant, who flew to another country and fell pregnant with triplets and x, y, z. I have always been pessimistic about it for a multitude of reasons; you hear stories about people travelling abroad for cosmetic surgery and coming back with uneven noses, strange fillets bursting in their breasts, and bum implants so hard they break benches when you sit down (okay, exaggeration), that I suppose I always dismissed the concept of going abroad through fear of a ‘bodge job’. We warmed to Alicante, I had spent hours scrolling through Pinterest looking at things to do, and with the U.K lockdown getting longer and longer, an excuse to go abroad didn’t take too much convincing.

It didn’t last long; within a few weeks we had changed our mind. Who would look after our Labrador? Who would pay the bills whilst my self-employed husband took two weeks off work? How much annual leave would I need to take, and would it be approved? What if my contract wasn’t made permanent and I didn’t have the leave in the first place? We decided it was too much hassle, and that it was better to stay at home where we could come home to a nice home cooked meal and sleep in our own beds.

We found a U.K clinic that we loved, we spoke to them via Zoom and discussed our previous protocols and everything we wanted from a clinic; they ticked every box and we loved them. Marco and I ended the call and felt both elated and emotional; this clinic was perfect, they offered everything we wanted, gave us the protocol we wanted, had a staff team we needed, but for our cycle we were looking at close to £13,000. It was a price tag that gave us chills, but we felt confident in the clinic so we had to make a decision; if we went with this clinic, if it didn’t work then that was it, our IVF journey was over. It was our last chance, and so that is a pill we have spent the last 4 months learning to swallow. We would work multiple jobs, we would save even harder than we already were, and we would pay the price for the clinic we loved. If it worked, it would be worth every penny, but if it didn’t… well, all we could do was learn to live and love our lives on a path we never thought we’d be on. We knew in our hearts we couldn’t justify spending that money again.

For me, the decision to make this our last cycle has been a hard, bitter decision. We know there are other options available to us; options we will potentially explore, but knowing that it was our last chance saloon almost made this cycle feel more pressured. The excitement soon wore off and instead it was anxiety inducing; whilst I knew there was every possibility this cycle could work, knowing that there was a good chance I would have to face the third and final negative test was making me feel a different level of emotion. I felt a sadness I hadn’t felt since my first diagnosis; it was a cloud looming in the distance, unsure of whether the storm is coming or if it too shall pass.

A lot of conversations have happened in our house over recent weeks, and one night we both came to the conclusion that we weren’t ready for this to be our last cycle. We knew that if we stayed in the UK, it had to be. Our case has meant that we need a clinic that will focus on our embryo quality, are happy to increase my dose of medication, are interested in sperm quality and are happy to perform further tests to get the best possible result for us. In the U.K, this was always coming with a hefty price tag, so we began toying with the thought of going overseas once more.

We have done a lot of research into clinics overseas, looked at countless clinics and totalled up multiple price lists. The more we browsed, the more we knew that we were enjoying the prospect of a little holiday thrown in with treatment. We knew that if we really wanted to make it work, we could find someone to dog sit, we could shut the business for 10 days or so, and if needs be I could go abroad with a friend for the first few days. It just seemed to make sense.

We really wanted to find a clinic in Italy. With Marco being Italian and being fluent in the language, it made sense to us to travel somewhere he considered home, somewhere we knew we would feel really comfortable and somewhere we love to travel to. It turns out in Italy the rules on IVF are extremely strict. First and foremost, it’s expensive, but in addition you are only allowed to fertilise 3 eggs and you cannot freeze any subsequent embryos. Immediately, it ruled it out.

We had a consultation with Your IVF Abroad which was so helpful. Emma & Adam kindly gifted us their clinic match service (I was not under any obligation to write this post, so this is not an ad!), and as we quite literally had no idea where to start, it made sense for us to use them. We spoke to Emma in so much detail about what we wanted from a clinic; what we felt was most important to us and what we absolutely didn’t want. We narrowed it down to three clinics, and we are now about to embark on consultations with each of them.

I spend my nights scrolling through Pinterest looking for things to do in each place, looking at Airbnb’s and looking through ASOS for summer dresses that will look lovely on the beach in Alicante or strolling through the hidden streets of Athens, and the spark, the hope and the optimism has been reignited. Whilst we are painfully aware that it may still not work, we know that somewhere abroad in Europe, whichever clinic we choose, we will receive care that is second to none and so much more medically advanced than the UK.

 

But above all, we know that if it doesn’t work, the bank won’t have run dry. We know that it doesn’t have to be the last shot, and that is enough for us.

Sun, sea, and hopefully… a sticky bean.

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PCOS Friendly Salted Caramel and Banana Pancakes

Salted caramel? Good… Banana? Good… Pancakes? Good… What have you got to lose?

I’ve never been a huge pancake eater; I regularly see them popping up on my Instagram feed, perfectly styled with amazing toppings. I have always associated pancakes with dessert, they are something I tend to eat once a year on Shrove Tuesday. As I have recently started to change my lifestyle and the way I eat to help manage my PCOS symptoms, I have also started trying new recipes, and banana and caramel pancakes are one I am so on board with.

I struggle with breakfast; I like my sleep and I often start my day with nothing but a coffee. I usually lack the appetite (and the energy) to make myself a healthy, fulfilling breakfast. I’m not a cereal fan, porridge I have to be in the mood for, and with a low-carb diet, I’d rather use my carbs for something super tasty instead of a couple of slices of toast. I found a recipe for banana pancakes and really enjoyed them; they were a combination of egg and banana, but in my husband’s opinion, they tasted like a banana omelette. I must admit, the texture was very much that of an omelette, and I missed the sweet taste that you usually get with a pancake; the dash of vanilla essence wasn’t quite cutting it. So, I mixed up the recipe, I changed the ratios and added some ingredients, and voila, may I present to you banana and caramel pancakes that don’t resemble frittatas!

I’ve added ingredients such as oat milk and salted caramel flavoured protein powder (this isn’t a must!), but you can change this of course and use any milk alternative you please. You can use cows milk if you wish, but I would advise using whole milk if you are wanting to keep these high in fat. You can change the protein powder to coconut flour or another flour alternative, however, I would recommend coconut flour on the basis it’s ideal for a low carb lifestyle. Coconut flour is low in carbohydrates, cheaper than other alternatives, high in fibre and it is also a great absorbent. Flours such as almond flour do not work as well as it isn’t as absorbent.

Do you like the sound of these? Try them out, switch up your toppings, and tag me in your pictures on Instagram! Enjoy! x

Ingredients
(serves 2)

1 ripe banana
2 eggs
40g salted caramel protein powder (You can change this to 40g coconut flour!)
2 tsp salted caramel flavouring (I use Asda’s own – 75p, bargain!)
50ml oat milk
1tbsp coconut oil
Handful of raspberries
Handful of blueberries
Yoghurt (I use Fage 5% fat!)

Method

  1. In a bowl, place your peeled banana and mash wish a fork (or a potato masher, either works!)
  2. Crack two eggs into the bowl and mix the eggs and banana until a mushy mixture is in the bottom of your bowl.
  3. Add your salted caramel protein powder, or your coconut flour (sift the flour for a smoother texture), the vanilla or caramel essence, and your milk, whisking them together to form a thick mixture.
  4. Pre-heat the pan on a medium heat, and allow the coconut oil to heat.
  5. Add ¼ of the mixture to the pan (1/4 of the mixture will make one pancake), and allow to cook for 60 – 90 seconds on each side.
  6. Once you’ve cooked your pancakes, top with a dollop of yoghurt, and add raspberries, blueberries and banana (or whatever fruit you want!). If you’re feeling fancy, you could even add some dark chocolate chips on top. Spoil yourself!

Buon Appetito!

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We Need to Talk About Toxic Positivity

Please, stop with the positive vibes only. We need to talk about toxic positivity.

When I was diagnosed as infertile, it seemed like the logical option for me to tell people. I didn’t want to keep it as a secret; I wanted everyone to know what we were going through, if only to stop people asking us when we were having children. When I had my laparoscopy, I had not been on any form of contraception for 3 and a half years; we were newly married, and it seemed like everyone’s favourite question to ask when we were going to start ‘popping one out’, like it was so simple. I had found myself getting to the point of chuntering “not through lack of trying”, under my breath, and getting increasingly frustrated at family parties or social events when the topic became conversation. For me, making our struggle known was a form of control; it was a way I could make sure that people stopped asking me questions that made me go home, sink into bed, and cry at the fact it still hadn’t worked.

What I didn’t realise was that by telling people we were struggling, it made people uncomfortable. This was something that always confused me; my misfortune made them feel uncomfortable. However, with time I have come to learn that it is human nature. When someone is hearing about a situation that is alien to them, they don’t always know how to react, and when a person doesn’t know how they should react, they try to offer a solution. When they can’t do that, they become uncomfortable. It isn’t in our nature to immediately say “I’m here for you if you want someone to talk to”, “I don’t understand but I’ll listen”, instead, we offer methods of repair. We have now progressed into a time where we see Instagram and Facebook posts using the hashtags #PositiveVibesOnly, we see post after post claiming that if we read The Secret, if we manifest our perfect life, we will attract it, and we should only ever have a positive outlook. Where is the line? Of course, a positive mind, a clear vision, being upbeat and determined is so important and is often the thing that keeps us going every day, but we need to stop pushing that it’s the only way to live our lives. It is both okay, and so important, to feel to negative emotions. It’s okay to also acknowledge that things might not go to plan and things might not work out the way we want them to.

Toxic positivity makes reference to the ideology that the only way to live your life is through positivity, keeping your head up all of the time and keeping those negative thoughts at bay. It means rejecting the thoughts of disappointing outcomes, of any negative emotion, and focussing only on the positive. You might be reading this and thinking, ‘what’s wrong with that?’, but let me explain.

In the world of infertility and IVF, things don’t always work out the way we plan. We can keep trying, we can keep tracking our ovulation, we can fund as many cycles of IVF as we can afford to, but the fact of the matter is that it does not always work.

Unprotected sex does not guarantee a baby.

IVF does not guarantee a baby, and that is the sad fact that many people have to face.

It doesn’t mean they were not hopeful. It doesn’t mean they were not positive it would work. It doesn’t mean they didn’t put everything they have into trying. It means they had to stop. They had to stop for their own sanity; they had to stop because money wouldn’t allow it; they had to stop because it consumed every second of their day; they had to stop because Mother Nature decided it was over.

For every cycle of IVF I have had, I have had someone tell me that they just know it’s going to work for us; they can feel it in their bones. They tell us never to give up, or that it will work for us because it worked for their friend’s cousin who had been trying for 20 years without a penis or a uterus, and it was just a miracle. They tell me to stay positive. When we had our first cycle, I used to tell them “but it might not”, and still they would protest and tell me I was being negative, that it will work and the phrases repeat. It could be worse… look on the bright side… at least it’s not x, y, z… but the fact of the matter was, I was protecting myself.

When you avoid a difficult situation, you lose the ability to deal with it. You lose the ability to process what is in front of you. You might not know how you will react if the worst case scenario becomes a reality, but you’ve given yourself time to prepare. When people tell us that they just know it will work, when they tell us to simply stay positive and it will work, frankly, it comes across as ignorant. It builds a barrier and breaks down the rapport, making it hard to connect with the person dismissing your reality. It is increasingly hard to have a meaningful conversation with someone about how you feel, about your biggest fear and possibly the hardest thing you’ve ever had to endure with someone who is seemingly ignoring your emotions. They are delegitimising the trauma and the grief that comes with infertility.

We encourage people to talk. We live in a world where #BeKind trends whenever mental health occurs in the media, yet only when things have gone too far. We encourage people to talk and we retweet strangers telling the world to talk, telling the world that someone will always be there to listen, and yet when someone is talking about the lining that isn’t silver, people struggle to offer anything except a false sense of positivity. It’s as important to acknowledge those darker emotions as it is the brighter ones. It is not being negative. It is coming to terms with a very real possibility, and it’s allowing yourself to prepare.

By shutting the door on the fear, on the “negative” emotions, you are not stopping it from growing. You are allowing it to fester, you are allowing it to grow, and whilst of course it is not unwise to hope you never have to open that door, if and when you do – it’s so much bigger than it could have been. You can be hopeful that you will fall pregnant, you can go through fertility treatment feeling positive and optimistic, but you can also be aware of the fact it might not work.

It’s caring and it’s healthier to acknowledge the fear and to resign to our truth; the cautious optimism is so much kinder.

 

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PCOS Friendly No Bake Peanut Butter Bars

PCOS Friendly NO BAKE Peanut Butter Bars? Say hello to your new, sweet obsession!

I’ve struggled with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) for a long time, and alongside the symptoms of irregular, painful periods, the impact on fertility, the increased testosterone and occasional (okay, maybe not occasional…) chin hair to pluck, one of the most frustrating symptoms of PCOS is the inability to lose weight when you’re trying to. As much as I’ve tried to deny it for as long as I can remember, certain foods just simply don’t get on with PCOS, and those foods tend to be ones that fall into the category of carbohydrates and sugar. For a girl like me who has the biggest sweet tooth going, a true, deep love affair with pork pies, and a hobby of devouring an entire pot of Pringles in one sitting, this has caused me complete and utter heartbreak. However, as I approach my third cycle of IVF and consequently a need to lower my BMI, I have been trying to adopt a low-carb, high-fat diet as recommended by Zita West in ‘The IVF Diet’.

I have tried many ‘healthy’ treat recipes in the past, however none have quite hit like this one. I’m not about to pretend that this is the healthiest thing you’ll ever eat, nor am I going to advocate for eating them all in one sitting, but I did have one a day with my lunch – moderation is key, right? I’ve always been a believer of food just being food, there’s no ‘good’ food, there’s no ‘bad’ food; food is food and all is good in moderation. These really are a sweet treat, but they’re great for a sweet treat when you have PCOS, when you’re following a low-carb or keto diet, and frankly, even if you’re not. They’re easy to make (you don’t even have to turn the oven on!), and they keep for ages – we were eating ours over a course of two weeks, but they can last even longer than that if you refrigerate them properly! I recommend storing them in an air tight container rather than a plate wrapped in clingfilm.

Make sure to tag me in your pictures or your stories on Instagram if you try them! You can find me at @amber.izzo … Enjoy!


Prep Time | 20 minutes
Chill Time | 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time | 1 hour 50 minutes
Total Active Time | 20 minutes

Servings | 16 bars
Calories | 173 cals

Ingredients
For the base:
100g Coconut Flour (I use Tesco Groovy Food Organic)
½ Cup of Butter
0.5 Cup of Sweetener (I use Aldi’s Sucralose)
¼ tsp of Salt
1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
¾ Cup of Peanut Butter (melted)

For the topping:
100g Dark Chocolate (You can mix this up and use flavoured dark chocolate – I use Aldi’s Moser Roth Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate for an extra crunch and added flavour!)
1tbsp Butter

Instructions

  1. Using greaseproof paper, line an 11 x 8 baking tray (approx. – any close to this will do, you just may have to adapt and have thicker/thinner bars. I wouldn’t recommend using bigger than 12 x 12).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter, sweetener, vanilla extract and the salt.
  3. Once combined, stir in the coconut flour until a dough forms. It will resemble a cookie dough – don’t expect a batter like you’re making a cake!
    Tip: if you’re not worried about sugar and you’d like a slightly sweeter taste, either add more sweetener or add some icing sugar!
  4. Place the dough into the baking tray and press to form an even coverage.
  5. Put a heatproof bowl in the microwave and heat the chocolate (chopped) and some butter. I tend to do this in 15 second bursts and stir after each burst to ensure the chocolate doesn’t burn, and it melts gently. You can also do this in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan if you would prefer.
  6. Once melted and combined, pour the chocolate mixture over the top of the dough, ensuring the entirety of the top is covered, including the corners.
  7. Put your tray into the fridge and leave to set for 90 minutes.
  8. Once they’re set, cut into 16 slices (or as little or as many as you’d like!)

 

*This recipe was originally found and adapted from All Day I Dream About Food.

The Due Date That Never Came

I opened my eyes. It was quarter past eight in the morning and the buzzing of my alarm that had been going off every 10 minutes had finally got the better of me.  I need to get out of that habit; the snooze button is my best friend, much to my husband’s annoyance. The alarm instantly wakes him and unlike me, he struggles to get back to sleep. I am quite capable of pulling the duvet over my head and dozing back into a deep snooze within minutes, drifting away into a world without any worries, without any reality at all. The sun was just rising, a ray of light sneaking into the room through the smallest of gaps in the curtains. I picked up my phone and staring at me was ‘2nd December 2020’. Instantly, all I wanted to do was pull that duvet back over my head, turn off my phone and call it a day.

40 weeks ago, we had vastly different hopes for today. We excitedly emailed our fertility clinic to let them know I was menstruating; it was time to give IVF another shot. My medication was chilling in the fridge and I spent every spare moment watching YouTube videos to make sure I knew what I was doing. Our first cycle, just months before, had failed miserably. Unfortunately, despite being able to fertilise, our embryos have never been particularly good quality and our first cycle ended with no embryos making it to the transfer. We had put thousands of pounds on the table, ready to gamble – red or black – but the table collapsed before we could even try.
This time we were trying different medication. I had lost weight, I had been taking all the recommended supplements and we were ready to try again. We were both hopeful and optimistic, but the reality of the traumatic first cycle was still sitting at the forefront of our minds.

Our second cycle wasn’t without its hiccups; the consultant located a cyst on my ovary, and I was encouraged to discuss cancelling the cycle with my husband. We weighed up our options and decided to carry on, and we were so glad that we did. With 10 eggs retrieved and 5 fertilised, we felt like it might finally be our time.  By transfer day, we only had one embryo left – an ‘early blastocyst’. An early blastocyst effectively means that it was a slow growing embryo. By day 5 it should start to hatch, which makes it a blastocyst as opposed to an embryo, but in our case, it was growing a little bit too slowly. The embryologist made the decision to transfer; it may be more comfortable in the ‘natural habitat’ and develop better in my womb. We were painfully aware of how slim the chances were, but we had reached this point. It was progress, it was a step further than the last, and whilst it might have been slim, the chance did exist. Our darling little dot was inside my womb; this tiny accumulation of cells, a mixture of my husband and I, and on the 2nd December 2020 could be due to make an entrance Earth side.

I will never forget the look on my husband’s face when I told him the test was negative. We sat on our bed with the test face down on the windowsill, nervously anticipating the result. My symptoms had dropped off days prior to the test; I think really, I already knew. I had spent the ten days between our transfer and test day trying to keep myself as busy as possible. I painted every surface I possibly could, from the bannister to the bedroom wall to the wardrobe. I read books I had been buying and never started, I started cross-stitching again for the first time since I was a child, but more than anything I spent the days partaking in self-torture. I would browse the internet for nursery inspiration, for maternity clothes and baby names; it was the equivalent to being lactose intolerant and spending the day sat in a chocolate factory – you really shouldn’t taste it, but you will anyway, knowing full well you’ll pay the price later. I might have been mad, but it gave me an element of hope for just a minute. Seeing the words ‘NOT PREGNANT’ starting back at me made me feel like nothing but a fool, how stupid I had been to let myself believe it could work. I felt empty, I felt hollow, and I felt like my status as a barren woman had been nothing but amplified.

Infertility is full of milestones: the first bleed; the first injection; each and every scan; the egg collection; every single call from the embryologist; the transfer, and every day during the two week wait until the test. After the test you’re faced with another set of milestones – the pregnancy milestones, or the ‘could have been, would have been’. For us, it was the could have been, would have been.

It would have been our 7-week scan.

It would have been our 12-week scan.

We would have been announcing our pregnancy.

We would be finding out the gender.

It would have been his last childless Father’s Day.

It would have been my last childless birthday.

It would have been our due date, 2nd December 2020, and for me that stings the most.

Turning on my laptop for another day at work, I’m reminded of the fact I would have been on maternity leave. Instead of calling clients and making my way through a case load, I would be making my way through labour inducing activities, I’d be ordering a curry and eating whatever food my body wanted, instead of starting tablets that make me feel so ill to try and regulate my insulin levels, manage my PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) symptoms, and in turn increase my chances of a successful third round. I’d be frantically checking the hospital bag had everything it needed, instead of checking the bank accounts to make sure we were on track for cycle 3 savings.

For the most part, I can carry on with the hope that one day it will be our turn. Whilst it is always in the back of my mind that it may never work, there is still an element of hope. Luckily, not every day is a due date, but days like today absolutely floor me. They remind me of how much we have been through and how much we are yet to go through before we have what most people get so easily. They remind me of how slim the chances are each time, and how the more cycles we have, the less likely it is to work. And whilst the due dates are few and far between, it fills me with dread to think there is a possibility that one day, there may be more than two to fill our years with.

All we can do is hope that one day, the due date comes with a baby.

For now, they are reminders of our little dots that didn’t make it and the due date that never came.

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3 rounds in, £13k down – The IVF Postcode Lottery – Guest Post

Dealing with infertility is hard enough, but learning you aren’t entitled to any rounds of IVF on the NHS increases the stress, the heartache and the anxiety. 


The postcode lottery (not the sort where Jeff Brazier is going to come knocking on your door!) is something we were not aware of as we went in to our first appointment at Peterborough Hospital to discuss why we weren’t getting pregnant. 
We presumed that we would be entitled to at least one round of IVF on the NHS and always referred to that as a bit of a dummy run; a rehearsal if you will. But no, there was no rehearsal. 

We had various investigations through the NHS which we are incredibly grateful for and nothing will change that. We know we are lucky to have had some support but it just stopped all of a sudden. It literally came to a point where we were sat in an appointment in the hospital and were told ‘we have done everything we can for you, if you want to pursue IVF you will need to make you own arrangements to move forward.’ 

That was pretty frightening. 

In 2019, the idea of bringing a cycle of IVF back for women under the age of 40 in Peterborough floated around. The CCG were due to review their decision and potentially reinstate NHS funded IVF. We waited to make a decision as to whether we would pursue private treatment in the sheer hope that the decision to offer nothing would be overturned. The original decision to take NHS IVF away from patients in Cambridgeshire was made in September 2017. Fast forward to August 2019 when the final decision was made, the CCG reviewed the decision and it was sadly sticking to its guns… nothing.

I can’t even begin to tell you how we felt that day. We read the article on the local newspapers twitter feed. I was at work and sent it to my husband. I was obviously inconsolable and my manager sent me home. My husband was on a train going in to London to work. He got to Kings Cross, called his manager to explain the situation and got the next train home – we just wanted to be together. He got home, we got in the car and drove to the seaside. We sat on the beach crying. 

We had 2 options; stump up the money and pursue private treatment, knowing full well this would cost thousands, thousands we just don’t have, or, we keep trying naturally. Our diagnosis is unexplained infertility, meaning nobody knows why it’s not happening for us. 

We felt we had no real option but to go ahead with a private round of IVF. 

Suddenly the anxiety went through the roof. It’s not just dealing with the fact that we can’t get pregnant. It all comes down to money. Can we afford to have IVF? We have been incredibly lucky and have been able to ask for contributions  from both sides of our families. If we weren’t in this position then the outcome is simple, we would not be able to afford IVF. Everything becomes money related. You don’t want to spend any money on yourself because ‘that’s IVF money.’ If you don’t save enough for IVF then ‘clearly you don’t want it enough.’ It honestly makes you question everything. We’ve put so much on hold; we’ve basically pressed pause on our lives. We feel guilty for every penny we spend; that’s no exaggeration. 

There are people in this area, and in other areas where there is no access to NHS IVF that don’t have the option to ask for money, or pay for IVF themselves. Is it really fair that they should be totally shut out of their chance to have a child of their own? Of course it’s not fair, it’s disgusting. The disparity across the country is shocking. If we lived 4 miles north we would be able to have a round on the NHS. 

Some CCG’s offer three rounds of IVF. I can’t even imagine the amount of relief that we would feel if it was the case here! 

It is horrific to think that couples across the region have been priced out of attempting to have their own child. Of course just because you are going through IVF doesn’t mean it’s going to work, oh no… and we’ve found that out the hard way; 3 rounds in and 13k down. It’s all risk, it’s a gamble and in a lot of cases it doesn’t pay off. 

Heartache, stress, anxiety. These feelings never go away. They just change shape, one minute they are reflective of your infertility, the next minute it’s reflective of not being able to afford IVF. 

Things need to change for couples across this region. Having your own child simply cannot become elitist for those who are infertile through no fault of their own. Because that’s exactly what it’s become. If you can afford it, go ahead. If you can’t, well, that’s it. It’s over.

Mrs. S.

Sign the #FightForIVF petition here: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/259/042/845/demand-an-end-to-the-ivf-postcode-lottery/

 

FIGHT FOR IVF – Why I’m fighting for the end of the postcode lottery – Fertility Week 2020

The IVF postcode lottery is a national inequality that you may have heard me speak about on more than one occasion. Depending on when you started following my blog, you may remember my blog post on the postcode lottery following the demise of IVF on the NHS in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. No matter how you have ended up here, you’ll know that I have been personally impacted by the IVF postcode lottery.

This year, in light of Fertility Week 2020, I have – with the help of my good friend, Hayley – launched the #FightForIVF campaign. 10 days ago I launched a petition; a petition that has since hit 10,000 signatures, has seen me subject to interviews from both Sky News and the BBC, has grown an Instagram following and has been the forefront of a fight I absolutely intend on fighting until the end.

In England, your eligibility to IVF treatment varies depending on a range of different factors; your age, your BMI, whether your partner has any children from previous relationships, to name a few. However, more than anything, your eligibility to IVF is dependant heavily on your postcode. The NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) issued guidance that recommends all women under the age of 40 who have been trying to conceive for two years should receive 3 full cycles of NHS funded IVF. Further to this, it is diagnosed by the World Health Organisation as a disease of the reproductive system. Despite this, it is up to the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to decide how much of this guidance they choose to follow. At present, less than 20% of CCG’s follow the guidelines. Depending on your postcode, you could be entitled to anything between 1-3 rounds of IVF, but if you live in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough, Basildon & Brentwood, or Mid Essex, you would be entitled to nothing at all. This has resulting in the coining of the term “the IVF postcode lottery”, and is the exact thing that we are campaigning about.

Research has shown previously that the lack of fertility services in England does in fact cause psychological harm for many of the people who are affected (WHO, 2016). Infertility itself causes symptoms of depression in 90% of people who suffer, as well as leaving 42% of fertility patients with thoughts of suicide (Fertility Network). I have, for a long time, been very open about the impact infertility has had on my mental health, how between September 2018 and March 2019, I reached a crisis point and couldn’t see the point in being alive. The dark cloud that loomed over me for those 6 months was a cloud I wish nobody ever had to experience; it was nothing but a fog, and getting out of bed every day was nothing but a chore. I was grieving for a child I couldn’t have. It took me 14 months to be seen by a professional through the NHS. 14 months to receive therapy for what was diagnosed as PTSD. I have a friend who I met through the wild journey of IVF who – under the same service – was offered no help at all when she asked for help. Instead, she was posted leaflets for external agencies who could provide support. So, when CCG’s such as Cambridgeshire and Peterborough suggest that the lack of IVF provisions have “no significant impact on mental health services”, I beg to differ. I argue that quite simply, the reason the mental health provisions remain significantly untouched is for no reason other than the provisions are frankly not offered at all.

It is unacceptable that your postcode determines your eligibility, and even more so that 3 CCG’s offer no cycles at all. Couples in those 3 areas pay their national insurance the same as everybody else in receipt of treatment, and those who receive 1 or 2 NHS funded cycles pay the same as those who receive 3. The system is broken. It cannot be justified that couples in Basildon, for example, are entitled to no IVF treatment, whilst in County Durham they are entitled to 3 – as per the NICE guidelines. It is unjust, unfair and unethical.

What has been coined as the IVF postcode lottery contradicts certain values of the NHS Constitution – compassion, improving lives and everyone counts. It is in contrast of the key principles of our National Health Service – that access to NHS services is based on clinical need, not an individual’s ability to pay. NHS services are free of charge, except in limited circumstances sanctioned by Parliament. Unfortunately, for 1 in 7 couples in England who have found themselves suffering with infertility, this does not count for them, for no reason other than where they have chosen to live.

This is why we have launched the Fight for IVF campaign. This is why I am leading this fight and why I will be fighting every round, until the point of knockout. This is why I am determined to take this as far as I need to go, for as long as I need to, to make a change for us all.

I cannot do it by myself.

I have had the help from my good friend, Hayley. I have had the help from women all over the country who have contributed to projects that will be going live on mine and the campaign’s Instagram accounts over the next week. I have had almost 10,000 signatures on our petition.

But it can’t stop there.

We need to keep the conversation going. We need to keep the conversation alive. We need to keep fighting.

Ordinary people can make a change… and I will keep fighting the fight until I cannot anymore.

Join me in the #FightForIVF

xxx

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Happy Monday – Smile Worthy Content To Set You Up For The Week Ahead

It’s the 12th October and Autumn (aka best time of the year), is well and truly underway. We spent our weekend cosied up, watching the Britain’s Got Talent final (what did you think of the winner?! Let me know in the comments!), going on a lovely long walk by the river, eating dinner with family and making the most of our brand new Hotpoint washing machine… goodness, that’s when you know you’re not 18 anymore isn’t it? The highlight of your weekend being your new bloody washing machine.

I have felt absolutely exhausted this week, so I intend on spending this week focussing on myself. I ran 10k on Friday for the first time ever and I felt so good I want to make sure I have some really good runs this week, early nights, and I desperately want to get back into using my law of attraction planner, meditating and using my gratitude journal to centre my mind some more. So, to set this week off on a positive note, here are some of my favourite things I’ve come across over the last 7 days!

We all laughed when Joey Tribbiani and Chandler had a pet chick and duck, but this man really did adopt two geese during lockdown… and now they frequent the pub. In nappies.

If you love dogs, and you love fancy dress… well, here is Toad. Thank me later. For more Toad, here you go.

This is Us Season 5 has FINALLY got a UK release date. 28th October, Amazon Prime. Oh, huns… if you haven’t seen it, immediately watch every single episode from Season 1 for the most intense emotional rollercoaster you have EVER been on.

Daisy Edgar-Jones shared a reel of bloopers from Normal People, and it is simply wonderful.

SUCCULENT PUMPKINS ARE A THING!

M&S have always been the gods of Christmas food, but I feel they’ve absolutely excelled themselves this year… here is just one of the reasons why!

And finally, this dog had a bit of accidental X-Rated fun, and I cannot stop laughing at the pictures!

Have a fabulous week, my loves.

Amber x

@amber.izzo

Happy Monday! Positive Vibes for the Week Ahead

2020 is absolutely flying by; I absolutely cannot believe that it is the first Monday of October already. I hope you all had a fabulous weekend and the 10pm curfew isn’t ruining your vibe too much. My Instagram was plagued with people who simply started drinking earlier; bed by 10pm is certainly good for the hangover.

In a world currently plagued with negativity, uncertainty and downright madness, Monday’s will now consist of a weekly blog post with a roundup of positive news and my favourite finds from all over the internet that are guaranteed to brighten you week. Start your week off right, with a smile on your face.

First up – news we all want to hear – a study has found that watching cute animals is great for your health.

Instagram has been flooded with premature Christmas enthusiasts, and I found these novelty ‘boobie baubles‘ from ‘The Funky Pot Shop’, which are most definitely making an appearance on my tree this year!

Lucia Keskin got a haircut, and now I can’t stop watching this. If you’re a Mamma Mia fan and don’t laugh, then I question your Mamma Mia loyalties.

Jane at Jane’s Patisserie has released her recipe for CHOCOLATE ORANGE NYC COOKIES and I am all over this. Adding to my ‘things I must bake in the very near future so I stop drooling just thinking about it’ list.

I found Bloomon UK and found out there was such thing as a ‘flowergram’, which  I am totally obsessed with and tempted to order myself. How cool is this? This particular flowergram is the sunflower edition and is part of a collab with the Van Gough Museum. It’s my birthday next month, kids… hint, hint, hint.

Here‘s a cute cat that keeps letting other cats out of their enclosures at a rescue centre…

This man raised over $7000 for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen by cycling from Poo Poo to Pee Pee, including cycling down Sharts Lane.

My girl crush on Katherine Ryan has continued to grow after having finally binge watched ‘The Duchess’ on Netflix – which you have to watch. This is why.

Glamour magazine have teamed up with Boots for a series of digital wellness events that are covering everything from mental health, to nutrition, and sexual confidence. You need to be on this.

These three puppies had a bit too much fun in their owner’s makeup room… woops…

And this 21-year-old exceeded all of our drunken mistakes, and got herself stuck in a tumble dryer.

Have a lovely week!

Amber x

@amber.izzo

 

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