The Ultimate Survivors Guide to IVF by Jessica Hepburn is a story based on her personal experience which is designed to support you on your journey. To empower and inspire you to live your life bravely – despite all the challenges fertility treatments entail.
Jessica admits that becoming an IVF patient changed her life and has been the hardest thing she has had to endure; she has, however, managed to create a number of positives from the experience.
Jessica reminds us that, although over 6 million babies were born as a result of IVF, the treatment d3oes not always work for everyone. So, it is important to prepare yourself for the biggest physical, financial and emotional journey of your life. Jessica’s aim is to provide everyone fighting with infertility with 5 top tips on how to survive the IVF process. Here they are.
Prior to every IVF treatment, it is crucial to look for possible options and decide what’s right for you. It means deciding on a clinic (whether in your home country or abroad) and understanding how different countries approach IVF treatment. It is also about getting a diagnosis of what treatment you need and why. This includes implications the treatment may have on your body and your future child. Jessica states an interesting point here: never forget about the children in a desperate pursuit to parenthood. That is why you always should bear in mind your future children’s feelings, too.
For patients from the UK, Jessica suggests a few important resources that might be of great help while doing your own research. Firstly, there is the HFEA website. HFEA is the UK regulator of fertility treatment. Their site is a useful background on fertility problems and treatment, including the so-called add-on treatments (from PGS to EmbryoGlue). You can also compare UK IVF clinics’ success rates and read other patients’ reviews. Jessica also recommends visiting large patients’ trade fairs, like the Fertility Show in London, and listen to useful podcasts, like The Fertility Podcast by Natalie Silverman.
Jessica’s main advice is not to rush the research and spend a few good months doing it. One must realise that IVF requires not only financial resources, but also a lot of life-changing decisions. In fact, the consequences of it will stay with a patient for the rest of their life – in whatever sense. That is why devoting time to thinking through all the possible options is the best way to start the IVF journey.
Basing on her own experience, Jessica urges everyone to do their best to get a diagnosis in order to pinpoint the cause of infertility. In other words: it is much easier to fix a problem if we know what the problem is. This allows you to have a treatment protocol that is tailor-made for you.
Jessica states clearly that IVF may not always be the solution for everyone. In the course of diagnosis, it may turn out that woman’s eggs are just too old and it is worth thinking of donor eggs. When you are offered add-on treatments, always ask what makes them relevant in your diagnosis. Jessica highlights that IVF is still a new are of medicine as it has been around for around 40 years. Sometimes even top IVF professionals disagree about different issues and a lot has not been proven yet. That is why you have to become an expert in your own body. Do the research, get a diagnosis, trust your instincts and only then, make up your mind what you are going to do.
Jessica found a perfect term for illustrating the emotional struggle with infertility. She called it ‘the pain of never’. It is a metaphor of losing something you have never had and feeling worse than everyone else. She admits that infertility is a brutal roller coaster and has a destroying effect on the relationships with family, friends and your partner. The worst part of infertility treatment is what’s going on in your head. It refers to both men and women although it is the latter that undergo most of tests and treatments. So, in this case it is great to have supportive friends and family that you can confide in. Additionally, there is a lot of emotional support out there: support groups, online forums as well as Instagram /Twitter/Facebook community. You can also think of individual or couple counselling and turn to organisations such as the Fertility Network UK or the British Infertility Counselling Association for the list of trained infertility counsellors. Complementary therapies such as acupuncture or reflexology can be also helpful in making you feel relaxed and less stressed.
Jessica strongly advises never to ignore the role of the emotional support in one’s own fertility journey.
Whatever option you choose, remember that you need and deserve all the kindness and understanding that will help you get through one of the hardest stages of your life. It is not only your body but also your mind that needs to be treated and cared for.
Jessica admits that focusing on infertility treatment is time-consuming and sometimes it is difficult to think that there is something else in life worth caring for. However, she guarantees that after all of this is over, you will still want to do some other stuff in life. So why wait? According to Jessica, it is a good idea to take control of things you can take control of. Unfortunately, conceiving and carrying a healthy baby to term is not something an intended parent can control. No scientist or doctor can guarantee us a baby in 100%.
Jessica shares the fact that she had 11 unsuccessful rounds of IVF. She admits that the biggest fear every IVF patient must face is: what if it does not work for me in the end?
The sense of failure and confusion may be overwhelming. That is the reason why it is good to have a plan B. It means some alternative scenario and another idea of how your life may look like without your desired baby.
Keeping that in mind, Jessica wrote the book ’21 miles’. It consists of interviews with 21 women who attempt to answer the question: Does motherhood make you happy?’. These conversations revealed fascinating and compelling truths. The book deals with the subject of life fulfilment and tells a story of dreams that do not often come true. Jessica admits there are two most important things she learned while working on the book. Firstly, there are different ways of becoming a mother and sometimes one just has to adjust the route to get there. Secondly, you can have a fulfilling life without children. Jessica understood that whatever your misfortune is, you must do your best to turn it into something good. For Jessica it means conquering two of the most famous endurance journeys in the world: swimming the English Channel and climbing Mount Everest (the iconic ‘from pond to peak’ challenge). She uses these challenges to raise awareness of the mental and physical struggles one must face when trying to conceive through IVF. Most of all, she strongly believes that we are the creators of our own happy-endings.
All these tips have brought Jessica to where she is today. How ever, your fertility story ends, you must live your life to the fullest. This is how you will become an ultimate survivor of IVF.
Other resources you might be interested in:
- Questions and Answers