When the subject of IVF arises it’s more common for the focus to fall upon the woman undergoing the treatment; injections, egg collection, embryo transfers and the absolute hope that within her body a miracle is about to occur.
But when her partner is male, how does he feel about the process and the important part he plays?
Vicky Gooden has written for CREATE as our guest blogger before and shared her experience with CREATE, how to support someone with Endometriosis and why she decided to have acupuncture alongside IVF.
Here Vicky interviews her husband John about his experience of IVF. Thanks for sharing Vicky!
I sat down with my husband John to ask him a few questions about IVF from his point of view. Feelings, emotions but also the practicalities of the role he and so many other men play. For example, what is it really like to be ushered to a room to, you know, do their bit?
When you first found out that you and I would need to go down the IVF route to try and start a family how did you feel?
I had no problem with the idea of IVF however the reasons we were exploring it were
because of your diagnosis of endometriosis and other complications which were troubling and unexpected. One minute we thought it was just nature taking its time and then we found out that there were real issues and that IVF would probably be the most successful route to becoming parents. I felt no shame in undergoing IVF. We wanted a child and we were willing to do whatever was necessary.
We largely decided to keep IVF a bit of a secret, do you think that was for the best?
The reasons we kept IVF a secret were to relieve the pressure of success and also to protect ourselves emotionally from difficult conversations. I maintain that this was the best course of action for us but everyone is different.
What did you know about IVF at the time?
Only the basics really, not the individual steps or how unique an individual protocol might be, plus the variations and choices of treatment available.
How involved were you in the research of clinics?
Given the demands of my career and my unpredictable calendar you took over the process of the clinic search, but it was also heavily influenced by a medical consultant affiliated with CREATE who we were seeing privately for various gynaecological procedures. I know that you were very keen on as natural an IVF route as possible because you still had trust in your own body so this became an important factor.
What other factors were important to you in the selection of a clinic?
Logistical things like accessibility and proximity due to the amount of appointments and the rather unpredictable nature of cycles but more than that, success rates, patient safety and care. And in our case whether they would accept NHS patients.
When you and I received our IVF protocol how did you feel regarding the injections I would need to do and the range of instructions and timings to stick to?
I was initially surprised about all the necessary steps even with a mild round but then I guess in order to create a miracle perhaps it’s not always so easy. It was an eye opener and quite astonishing that in those injections were potions to help aid the creation of a baby. Unbelievable.
Your sperm count was good but did you still make any modifications to your own lifestyle to give IVF the best chance of working?
My sacrifices were very small by comparison but the two things I did put on hold were hot baths and cycling as you and I had read that those two factors can have a negative impact on sperm count and quality. I was also taking regular CoQ10 supplements.
How did you find it best to support me through IVF?
I was present at all of the appointments and did my best to engage with all elements of the process and to try and understand each step and what it would involve. There was a real need for increased emotional support as we were not successful in our first two attempts.
Things changed at home with regards to diet and routines which I was in full support of. If you embark on a journey like IVF you need to give it the very best chance of success so we adopted a ‘whatever it takes’ approach particularly with regards nutrition, holistic and complimentary support and therapies.
Did you yourself have anyone else to talk to about it all?
I’m by nature quite an open person so I would happily speak to some close friends and family. However, it wasn’t a process known to many - I wasn’t speaking to people who had gone through it - so those I did speak to were just a sounding board. It would be great if there was an IVF alumni or similar who could give support to those going through the various stages of the program, much like how an NCT group operates for those who are new to parenthood.
When it came to egg collection day how did you feel?
Through all of this my primary concern was your own wellbeing. Everything else was out of our control and in the hands of others. I was very positive and had faith in the process and all of the efforts that you had taken to make IVF successful. But ultimately it’s still a stressful and intimate process which needs delicate handling from a partners perspective. Excitement also played a real part too of course, this felt like the real beginning of our journey, the moment that could determine our outcome.
Now then, probably the bit that most people want to hear about. What actually happens when the male has to play his part and provide the sperm sample? What was the room like? What was in there? How did you feel about all that?
Let’s be honest, the ‘hands on’ role of the man in the IVF journey is a simple one aside from emotional support. We really only need to deliver a small contribution if you get my meaning. At CREATE I was shown to a room, informed of the multimedia station and premium adult magazine collection. I took advantage of everything I could to ensure the very best deposit for our future. There’s no getting away from the medical nature of your time in said room as you are given a small cup in which to complete the task and then deliver through a hatch in the wall when you’re done. It’s not rows of cubicles filled with fellas doing the same thing, there are no neon signs indicating that you’re now entering the sperm deposit zone and you’re not given a time limit. Afterwards I did just want to put it behind me and move on, but then reminded myself that the women have a far more difficult time of it.
When the call came to tell us about egg fertilisation and embryo development how did you feel? Did you understand what it all meant?
We were very lucky to have a successful egg retrieval which led to a number of good grade blastocysts over the coming days. I’d never heard the term ‘blastocyst’ before embarking on the IVF journey and found it fascinating to understand more about embryo development from one day to the next. Receiving the calls each day to update us on embryo progress was both exciting and a little nerve-wracking but when all you need is one, I knew that we for sure had multiple attempts if needed.
We were so lucky to end up with 5 day 5 blastocysts but when it came to our fresh transfer we hit a stumbling block in that during the procedure the consultant was unable to pass the catheter into my womb. This resulted in the procedure being cancelled and embryos frozen. How did you feel in that moment?
As I referred to earlier, my concern first and foremost was your wellbeing and when I saw you in a lot of unexpected discomfort and stress, that was my main focus, everything else was secondary. That said I was led to believe that frozen transfers can be just as successful and sometimes better even. At that point the most important thing we had to understand was why the team were having difficulties with the transfer and to make sure we had answers and a plan in place to ensure a situation like this could be avoided in the future attempts.
NB: The issue of the first transfer was an anatomical issue that I then had to have multiple surgeries to rectify in order for an IVF transfer to then be attempted again.
Our second round resulted in a rare cervical ectopic pregnancy which I know you’ve spoken about here but our third and final round saw me become pregnant and 9 months later we had our beautiful baby girl in our arms. It can take a few attempts at IVF before success, if the third round hadn’t have worked would you have considered another cycle?
Our journey was an arduous one with many twists and turns. You really endured a lot of invasive procedures (outside of Create) and stress so I would have supported whatever your decision was in going forward.
Undergoing IVF can really take a toll on a couple, any advice for men to take on board on how to look after their relationship during treatment?
I know it’s against man rules, but…read around the subject and consider buying some books on IVF. I think it’s important to understand the steps, any risks and all treatments available. As a partner in the process you may be forced into making important decisions because your other half is unable to, so in order to make the right ones you need to gather all the information at the start. It’s also important to show compassion because anything relating to conceiving and delivering a baby is so very precious.
Any other words of advice to men about to embark on the IVF journey with their partners?
There are many steps to an IVF journey and therefore it might not happen as quickly as you’d like, and we were aware, there is no 100% guarantee of a baby for everyone who decides to undergo fertility treatment. However, sometimes good things do come to those who wait and for some that wait might be many years. Our wait was 3 years but now baby Elodie is with us I don’t really give much
thought to the time it took to finally meet her. Once we were successfully pregnant, the waiting game was literally those 9 months, and not the previous years of struggling.
If you’d like to learn more about CREATE Fertility and the treatments we offer please call us.
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