I spent the best part of my younger years trying not to get pregnant. Knowing I would want it in the future and naively believing that when the time came it would happen easily.
I met my (now) husband when I was 29. Young when it came to baby making I thought. What I didn’t know then is that as a female my fertility had already started to decline at just 28 years old. We got married at 33 and started trying for a family. Nothing happened. We contacted our local GP to be told we should keep trying for over a year. By the time we had been referred for fertility tests and embarked on our first round of IVF I was 35. Which I was later disappointed to hear is the age that female fertility actually plummets!
IVF doesn’t always mean a baby
Now that we were having treatment everything was ok though right? What people don’t know is that IVF only works in 31% of cases; so a baby is sadly far from guaranteed. It can also be an incredible harrowing process with hormones tablets and injections alongside regular visits to the clinic for tests and examinations. If you are NHS funded you are one of the ‘lucky’ ones here in the UK. Whilst the NICE guidelines state that all Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) should offer 3 rounds of IVF to everyone, the reality is that most only provide 1, maybe 2 and sadly that often isn’t enough. For those who then move forward with private treatment the bills can really mount up.
In my experience all this had a huge impact on my mental health too and, 3 years later I had to make the decision to leave work because I couldn’t do it all. I wasn’t alone in this either. The facts are quite startling with Fertility Network UK research showing that over 90% of fertility patients felt depressive symptoms and 42% felt suicidal. Fortunately, I was surrounded by support so things never got that bad, but I definitely felt hopeless and worthless during my journey. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through the same or worse which is why I now work to support the trying to conceive community.
One of the lucky ones
I am so fortunate to say that after 7 years of fertility treatment, which sadly included pregnancy loss, I finally had my daughter in 2019. But my journey doesn’t stop there. The round of fertility treatment that gave her to us also created an embryo now in the freezer. We hope that one day it will become her sibling. We are so incredibly lucky to have that as, now that I am 42, my chances of becoming a biological mother are vanishingly small.
I wish I’d known about the fertility vital statistics years ago. I definitely would have looked into my options, perhaps tested my own fertility and asked my partner to too. Being informed won’t necessarily make a problem go away but it can help you explore options earlier and bring forward your decisions, minimising the trauma you might otherwise go through over years of treatment.
Fertility Vital Statistics:
Age 28 - female fertility is already falling
Age 35 – female fertility plummets
Age 42 – chances of becoming a biological mum are vanishingly
Cat Strawbridge is host of the Finally Pregnant podcast. She is a fertility patient and consultant advocating on behalf of those trying to conceive, and pregnant and parenting after infertility and loss. Find out more at www.catstrawbridge.com or head to her instagram @tryingyears. To find out more about your fertility choices and other support available you can also visit Fertility Network UK and the HFEA.
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