15 years after my last treatment, today with two teenage children, I remember those days and how different everything was then
It is fifteen years since I had my last IVF treatment and finally said goodbye to the fertility clinic. As a mother of two IVF children, now both in their teens, I often think back to those days and how different it was to be a fertility patient then. There have been big leaps forward in the range of treatment available and in success rates too, but what has possibly changed the most from the patient perspective has been attitudes towards fertility treatment.
A private matter
Although it might not seem that long ago, when we first realised we were going to need to have IVF to conceive, people didn’t talk about fertility problems and treatments as openly. I remember one of my friends being surprised that we would “go that far” to have a baby, and at the time I didn’t know anyone else who’d had IVF. What I didn’t discover until much later was that there were a couple of others at my workplace having fertility treatment at exactly the same time, but we were all keeping it secret.
Children born by IVF were still referred to as “test-tube babies” and having a baby conceived this way was quite a talking point. The number of people seeking fertility treatment has risen rapidly in the last fifteen years, and it is no longer seen as unusual to have IVF or donor treatment.
Access to information
Perhaps the biggest change has been the access to information. When I had IVF, most people didn’t have Internet access home, and there wasn’t a wide array of information about every aspect of fertility problems and treatment at your fingertips in the way that there is today.
One thing I found challenging when I knew I was going to need help to conceive was that it was virtually impossible to find out what it would be like to go through fertility treatment from the patient perspective. The only information about IVF came from the clinic or books written by medical experts. I wanted to know how people coped with work and treatment, whether the injections were painful, how the drugs made you feel, what egg collection felt like – and I couldn’t find the answers to these questions anywhere which is why I started writing books about fertility from a patient perspective.
Therapies, coaches and holistic treatments
Another huge change in the last 15 years has been the ever-growing numbers of complementary therapists and holistic practitioners offering fertility support. There are also fertility yoga teachers, fertility astrologers, fertility coaches, fertility nutritionists – the list of people keen to promote their different ways of approaching fertility problems is endless, and it can be tough as a patient to know who to trust and what to believe.
When I had IVF, the only health advice you were given was that you shouldn’t smoke or get drunk! Now fertility patients are bombarded with tips about what to eat and what not to eat, what to do and not to do. In some ways it may be more helpful to have access to so much support, but in others it was easier to be a patient 15 years ago as you didn’t have so much information to try to make sense of.
Despite this, the key difference for patients over the last 15 years are good ones – the treatments on offer have improved, more people are able to be helped by fertility clinics and today you are far more likely to end up with a positive result.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.
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