National Infertility Awareness Week

niaw220It is National Infertility Awareness Week in the UK, as you may know Fran and I have been unsuccessful in our journey to become parents both naturally and via fertility treatment.  Fran told her story a couple of months ago, you can read it here –

It is obviously a subject close to our hearts and we our supporting the week by sharing our story and that of one of our Achieve Bootcamp members, Sarah, who is currently receiving IUI treatment.  Her partner Mike, shares his story below:


Although only a few paragraphs, this will be quite difficult to put down in words, as my other half, Sarah, will tell you, I’m not usually one for sharing what’s going on in my head.

Unfortunately,  Sarah has Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome, so have had to embark upon the journey of fertility treatment in order to try and start a family – so far it’s been a rollercoaster of a ride and sadly still no baby in sight at this present moment in time.

Overall, I’ve found the whole process quite frustrating, emotionally draining and stressful at times; from the initial appointment with the consultant we were advised pregnancy should occur naturally with the assistance of some tablets over a period of six to nine months. This basically meant regimented “evenings in”. Trying to start a family should not be regimented as it takes away a lot of the fun and romance, it was at times just a functional occurrence and not a lot else.

After nine months, and still not pregnant, we were told the next step was IVF treatment.  We mentally prepared ourselves knowing that we only get one attempt of this on the NHS. This process is quite intrusive for females and involves a lot of injecting medicines. I would love to have been more supportive, but I go white as a sheet when I have to have a measly flu jab! Sadly, IVF had to be aborted as the injections caused over stimulation of the ovaries – no one’s fault but just frustrating and emotionally drained after gearing yourself up only for the procedure to fail. As with anyone, failure is always hard to deal with no matter what the situation.

This was a difficult period as it’s hard to remain positive and be supportive to one another, with neither of us knowing whether we will be fortunate to become parents. Even harder to take where there are constant news stories of serious child neglect.

We decided to take a break before going back to see the consultant, just to get away from it all, and get rid of any stress/anxiety this had all caused.

When we next saw the consultant, it was only then we were advised of IUI treatment – we had gone well over a year believing that IVF was the only option left. I can’t understand why from the very initial consultation, we were not advised of ALL options available to us rather than being effectively forced into IVF. I think this comes down to seeing a different member of the NHS staff every time we went to the Centre of Reproduction, each of whom would not read our notes correctly so we had to repeat things to them – another frustration.

We’ve already had one attempt of IUI  at the start of 2013 (we get three attempts through the NHS) which sadly didn’t work, and it’s only this week (w/c 21st Oct 2013) that we’ve had our second attempt, so fingers crossed in two weeks’ time, we could be starting a new chapter in our lives.

To explain the long gap between IUI treatment, what you don’t initially take into consideration is what else could affect the process other than medical intervention. The main one for us is work, and unfortunately, Sarah had a rough couple of months at work which adds to the stress of things, then I have not been about as much due to demands from my job meaning I can easily work 50+ hours per week. We both wanted to be as relaxed as possible before treatment started again.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the testing of fertility process for both male and females. There’s no doubt that females have the most intrusive process, but for males, it, for me anyway was a big mental battle. At Coventry Hospital, the Centre for Reproduction Medicine reception areas is quite warm and welcoming, but the same cannot be said for the part where males go.

There is no warm welcoming reception area, just a small clinical looking waiting room where you liaise with the andrology team through a small hatch. Then you go into a small clinical room from where to produce a sample. This experience makes you quite stressed; there is nothing relaxing about it. I also find it embarrassing answering personal and intimate questions the andrology team have to ask, but also embarrassing in the fact that anyone waiting in the main reception area, can see you walk into the male reception area, knowing what you’re about to do.

Unless you’re an exhibitionist, I don’t think anyone really wants to broadcast intimate moments of their life, least of all in clinical environment. So at a time where you need to be in a relaxed environment, the reality is that of being in a mentally uncomfortable environment and a feeling of stressfulness and embarrassment.

In my experience, it often feels as though the male is being overlooked by the NHS when it comes to fertility treatment. Home life has had its ups and downs trying to deal the pressures of starting a family as well as dealing with everyday life (work, finances, family etc).

Also’ as I’m not that communicative about my emotions, I haven’t really had an outlet to talk through how I feel. I know my other half will always be there, but sometimes when you do feel like talking about it, you want opinions/reassurance from others. It ends up being bottled up, which has caused me to be irritable and sometimes a complete pain in the arse to live with.

For anyone else going through fertility treatment, I truly hope it is successful for you and you get to experience and enjoy life as a family – that includes the joys of the terrible twos and stroppy teenagers.

Difficult I know, but stay positive!


Mike has been incredibly brave sharing the male side of the story and has inspired me to do the same.  I will post my side of our journey later in the week because I think it’s important that this information is out there and for couples to understand the process and how hard it can be on the couple.

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