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Emily’s story: pregnancy loss after IVF

Emily shares her story of IVF, and the three losses she experienced from two rounds. She describes the effect on her mental health, and the difficulty of finding out about other pregnancies in the family.

It was not in any way easier because we had gone through an earlier loss. It compounds the grief.

Having seen doctors back in 2019, the wait for IVF was excruciating. We were referred backwards and forwards between hospitals which cost 2 further years of pointless painful waiting, unfortunately lengthened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Our one round of ICSI resulted in 2 embryos. We had defied the odds of less than 20% chance to get that little blue line the first time. At the routine 7 week scan we found we were having identical twins.

There was another follow up scan at the IVF clinic due to it being twins, at 8.5 weeks, and I was floored when they told me we had lost both babies. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, having just begun to hope after our positive scan. I felt numb with shock and unable to process anything. Everything was a blur.

I read through all of their leaflets about what to do next and thought waiting for it to happen naturally would be best for my health. My pregnancy symptoms continued, brutally.

The hospital booked me in for surgical management 3 weeks later as this was advised as the maximum waiting time for it to happen naturally. I wish I hadn’t waited. It had prolonged everything. My pregnancy symptoms continuing just made it more difficult to accept. Even after my surgery, I had horrendous clotting a week later and pain which inexplicably continued for a further 2 months, despite follow up GP and scan appointments with ‘normal’ results.

After a month of personal grieving, I discovered some podcasts with other people’s experiences and listening to them helped me to gradually feel emotionally stronger.

All the professionals kept telling us that it was a ‘good sign’ that we had become pregnant the first time. It angers me that so many people say that and that it is somehow normalised.

We were told there was no reason to delay transfer of our second embryo. With the hourglass of time ticking on my age and associated fertility, this felt like the right thing to do. We also felt becoming pregnant again might help with some of our emotional pain.

Our second pregnancy was also healthy at the 7 week scan. It didn’t feel reassuring this time. I booked a follow up private scan for 8 weeks, still terrified, and again everything was great. It was one baby this time which would be less complicated, my hormones were strong and I started to believe a little more with every day this might be ok…

But at 10.5 weeks I had the tiniest spot of brown blood and rang the hospital. I kept myself calm, I must have read a hundred posts on IVF forums about tiny amounts of spotting. My own big sister had had a little around 12 weeks. The Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit did call me in for a scan for the following morning though.

We found out that our perfect little baby had been lost a couple of days before. We wanted to see the scan pictures. It helped to feel closer somehow. It was not in any way easier because we had gone through an earlier loss. It compounds the grief.

We had surgical management the next day, and this hospital had suggested getting the pathology results to see if they could find out what had happened. It hadn’t been offered to us the first time as we just kept being told it was likely that it was because twins are riskier. It felt like a step forward to try and find out, if we could, although it wouldn’t change anything that had happened.

The weeks that followed were devastating. We’d come to the end of our funding. Less than two weeks later our healthy dog went in for a minor eye operation, and didn’t recover from the anaesthetic. So we lost 4 babies last year.

I hadn’t been prepared for my mental health to get gradually worse, not better in those weeks. I just kept thinking I was processing it. I can’t explain why it became more difficult other than the Christmas time period gives you more time to reflect.

For our third baby, I also felt horrendous guilt that I had been so worried and should have spent less of that precious time worrying and more time feeling thrilled that we were together for those few weeks. That baby knew how loved it was, don’t get me wrong… It is just that we are capable of telling ourselves the worst aren’t we?

My story reached its darkest point just before New Year. My best friend and newly married little sister had been hiding their first pregnancies and they decided to tell me on the same day, despite my sister knowing I had already struggled with the first set of news that morning. In their mind, they thought we would see it the way the rest of the family did. Even I didn’t know how I would react. I said all the right things, somehow, but was imploding. Both are due within a fortnight of our own due date.

The days that followed were dark. There were episodes when I couldn’t breathe normally. I had to remove myself from my happy, excited family. That very same day I received their news, I had already been in floods of tears at finally getting my period. It dawned on me why all of my family’s recent support had suddenly vanished over the previous week or so. I feel like a human yo-yo and I don’t feel I can accept my future nieces/nephews right now, and I feel like a monster for feeling that.

Repeating that it is ‘bad luck’ and we have ‘been through the worst’ does somehow help me. I know it won’t help everyone and it is natural whatever we are feeling, however bad it gets. I am now seeking professional support because I couldn’t get there on my own, and there is such a long way to go, but there is some comfort in not being alone.