Home » Infertility » “But now you’re just like everybody else”

“But now you’re just like everybody else”

“You’re not IVF anymore, you’re just like everybody else”.

These are the words that came out of my mother-in-law’s mouth last week. I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more, and it stirred up a lot of old emotions relating to people just not getting it.

I’m currently 36 weeks (on the month countdown now!) and I apologise for being so absent. I realise I’ve got a lot of catching up to do with so many of your blogs.

Generally speaking, things have been fairly straightforward – I have had to leave work much earlier than expected due to Pelvic Girdle Pain (who thought back pain could be so excruciating…) and have had a few growth scans as the bump has been pretty static over the last month so god knows where this baby is hiding itself, as it seems to be growing satisfactorily!

Every single day though, I count my blessings. I realise how grateful I am that IVF exists; that it was financially accessible to us; that we drew the long straw in the Russian roulette that each cycle is; that despite the few scares along the way, this baby is healthy and is very nearly fully cooked. I will NEVER forget how being a fertility patient feels (I may well be one again sometime in the future), and I find it insulting, the suggestion that that is all in the past and can therefore be dismissed.

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Mother-in-law’s little episode came amidst news that the NHS is going to be dramatically cutting funding for fertility treatments. For those of you outside of the UK, the NHS is AMAZING, and we are incredibly lucky to have it. Our tax contributions as a nation fund pretty much entirely free healthcare (I say pretty much as things like prescriptions for medications are charged at around £8.50 flat-rate for each med, and dental treatment again has a flat rate depending on what you’re having done – so these are not free but heavily subsidised). NHS Trusts around different regions of the UK manage their own budgets to an extent, and some novel treatments, like new cancer drugs, and things like fertility investigations/treatments are offered variably, depending on whether they’re deemed to be cost-justified, and this is a postcode lottery. Where I live, I am funded for fertility investigations, but no treatment at all. 20 miles down the road, a couple will get THREE FREE cycles of IVF on the NHS. In another region 7 miles down the road, a couple will get one cycle.

However, with many billions of pounds savings that need to be made, these few areas that do offer IVF currently will likely soon be withdrawing it, as it is classified as “non-essential”.

My husband and I debated the justness of this – why, when a healthy couple who look after themselves and both work and pay into the system, is it fair to be denied access to treatment on the NHS because it’s not clinically necessary for a couple to have a family? Why does an unemployed obese, smoking diabetic get his emphysema, his diabetic complications, his heart disease treated free of charge when he’s made life choices that lead to his clinical condition?

So hard to get your head round, isn’t it?

13 thoughts on ““But now you’re just like everybody else”

  1. There are some f’d up qualification rules here too. It seems to me that these programs should be led by those who have been through the system for various reasons. At the very least there should be focus groups composed of IF sufferers. For example, in Quebec, the funding for fertility treatments used to be open to single women and lesbian couples, both categorized as “socially infertile”. While this worked to my advantage at the beginning, for my first child, but for my second I actually fell into the “secondary infertility” group. What I found in my 2 year journey to baby #2 was that doctors completely take advantage of the system. Where in a system not funded by government, there is presumably a greater focus on problem solving specific to each individual patient, in a system like ours there’s a LOT of gambling and trial & error. It felt more like a McDonald’s drive through. This isn’t working, so let’s try that. Over and over. If I had been paying out of pocket, there’s no way I would have done 12 IUIs before proceeding to IVF. There’s also no way I would have put up with the shitty quality of service at the clinic where I had 4 of those IUIs and my two first IVFs – they most definitely made me feel like just another number, just another lump of assured monthly income. On the other not – you’re not like everyone else. Your entire experience of conception and pregnancy is different. Your fears are most definitely different. 36 weeks. Wow! Incredible. I’m so excited for you! Xx

    • To add on to that last bit, I’m certain any person who has had one easy conception & pregnancy, followed by loss and difficulty conceiving resulting in having to do IVF, would agree that the whole experience of conception through to birth is vastly different. I personally could not allow myself the naive bliss I felt throughout my first pregnancy this time around. Although I do feel excited to finally be so close to the finish line, I don’t think I’ll feel 100% assured that I’ll get my baby in my arms until my baby is actually in my arms.

      • Oh and thank you! I can’t quite believe it either.
        I’ve definitely relaxed a little, but, like you, just want this little one in my arms now (also slightly terrified of the prospect of labour!!).
        And I’m sure you’re completely right – as always, nobody who hasn’t had first-hand experience of infertility, gets that it completely changes your perspective of pregnancy. I just couldn’t believe that my MIL, who has known about the IVF, the early (and later) pregnancy bleeds etc could be so flippant. X

      • I think it’s often just a matter of unintentional ignorance. My parents and some friends have made similar remarks, which drive me bananas, but I have to remind myself they don’t mean to be hurtful. I’m also slightly terrified of the prospect of labour! My first was 4.5 weeks early, and up until then I had been watching videos of births, reading all kinds of books of birth stories, etc, doing perennial massage… Mentally getting myself ready for a natural hospital birth. I was fortunate in that I was actually able to do it all naturally. Now, I’m not going in blind, and I’ve done no prep work for my mind or body! I’m afraid I’ve become more of a wimp too, after all that it took to get here! I’d like to go natural again, but I’m terrified my baby will be 5-6 weeks further developed than the first time around and that she’ll be a 9 or 10 pounder!

      • I know you’re right, but it does really wind you up, especially on “vulnerable” days.
        Haha oh bless you. If it’s any consolation, a midwife told me that the difference in head circumference between a 9lber and a 6lber is barely a centimetre. The weight is basically body fat and so once the head’s out the way the rest is just going to flip out anyway!! X

    • This is just it, isn’t it. Once you privatise healthcare, it becomes a business and is solely driven by profit. At the moment, drug companies are not even allowed to supply free pens and post-it notes anymore as we are meant to prescribe generically and in accordance with national guidance. I couldn’t imagine altering my clinical practice for financial incentives!
      And what does it give the patient? That heartless, conveyor belt experience. It makes me so cross x

  2. I’m in the U.K. And about to start second round of IVF after first resulted in a miscarriage. On the one hand I completely get that a family is “non essential” in that it’s not necessary to your health. I do think that lifesaving treatments should be prioritised and money shouldn’t be taken away from those to fund non essential things.

    However I see IVF as a quality of life thing, like good (physical and mental) health. I’ve definitely been through the wringer with infertility. Tbh I would be happy if it was subsidised rather than free – I don’t take it for granted.

    Equally I think there’s something unjust about denying treatment for the most basic human experience – reproduction – just because I happened to be born with defective bits. It’s not my fault (as far as I know) – I’ve had problems ever since I started being “active” – in over 15 years of doing the business I have never once got pregnant.

    I’m not obese, I don’t smoke, I drink very little and I’m generally healthy. I got into my long term relationship at the age of 25 – I didn’t leave it too late. So I don’t think I’m any less deserving than other people with self inflicted problems like smoking related diseases, alcoholics, obesity health related problems or injuries from doing dangerous sports. All of those things people are still entitled to do by law (and that doesn’t even include the cost of treating drug addicts or people who “need” cosmetic surgery for reasons not to do with reconstruction.

    I’m not judging any of those people; I’m just saying I don’t think you can say any of those things are less deserving than people with fertility problems. And in most cases those people with fertility problems won’t be an ongoing drain on the NHS over and above an average person – unlike people with addictions or the chronically obese.

    • I completely agree with you, Nara. It’s so difficult to comprehend people being condemned to a life without a family just because a treatment isn’t made available to them. Perhaps subsidising, rather than completely funding is a good compromise.
      That’s actually a v good point about not being a drain on resources in the future – I hadn’t thought about it that way.
      There’s also the point that the educated middle classes in this country are having fewer children, and far later. These are the children who, realistically (but not a blanket statement by any means!) going to be employed and contribute towards national insurance and our economy.
      Another couple in our antenatal class are a consultant/consultant couple who paid privately and got pregnant on their third cycle. Yes, they paid privately, but out of 7 couples at that class, 2 of us IVFers are white-collar workers, and my experience of encountering infertility at work is that it is largely a disease of the middle classes…

      Sorry, I have gone on a bit!

      I was never unfortunate enough to have experienced the horror of a pregnancy loss- I’m so sorry. I really wish you all the best for cycle number 2 xx

  3. I hear you on the unfairness bit. I’m in the United States where coverage for IVF and/or infertility treatments varies wildly depending on which insurance you have. It’s maddening that we have to pay nearly $20,000 for our IVF cycles when other people pay $500. Must keep reminding myself of the end goal, and none of this is fair at all, really. I’m grateful for lots of things and try to focus on those. Congrats on your pregnancy!

    • That is really harsh isn’t it. Do you find that clinics try and keep costs down for you (and not try and fling you unnecessary scans, expensive meds where there are cheaper alternatives, or even PGS/sexing embryos etc)?
      We borrowed against the house to pay for ours and I remember people saying to me, if this gets you a baby you won’t care how much you’ve spent, and it is so true.
      So definitely, definitely keep focusing on the fact that every cycle is a chance.
      Thanks ever so much – it was number 2 for us. I wish you every luck for yours X

      • Thank you 🙂 It’s true – people keep reminding us of the same thing, that once we have a baby it won’t matter what we spent to get there. To be honest, I’m a little terrified that we’ll get pregnant and have a baby and then struggle to afford it, but people make things work on much less all the time, and we are fortunate to be able to afford the treatment to try to conceive.

        I don’t know if I would say the fertility center has tried to help us “keep costs down” per se. It’s been a mixed bag. For example, they tried to prescribe me a prescription prenatal vitamin that was $120 a month even with my insurance. Obviously, I didn’t fill the prescription as I can buy prenatal vitamins with no prescription for roughly $10 a month. They do offer discounts on IVF when there’s no insurance coverage, so in that respect they’ve been helpful. It’s still going to total roughly $25,000, I expect, once all is said and done, so if we didn’t have savings and if we hadn’t been able to secure a loan, we would not have been able to pursue this at all.

        So I will try to continue to focus on the silver linings 🙂 There are many.

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