Kate, 38, is a fertility nurse who enjoys running, spending time with her dog and eating cake in her spare time. She speaks to Feminine Vitae about her fertility journey. Experiencing infertility can be the most challenging emotional journey in a woman’s life. Kate shared her experience with us. Infertility affect 1 in 7.
Kate’s infertility journey
Kate’s fertility journey started with her trying to conceive naturally with her partner in 2013. “The first obstacle was that I didn’t have a regular periods” she says. “I then had two cycles of ovulation induction, which is taking medication.” When this proved to be unsuccessful, Kate then went on to try IVF with an embryo transfer. However, this still did not result in a pregnancy. After her next cycle of IVF was abandoned due to no response, Kate’s doctors ran tests to try to get to the root of the problem. “I had subsequent blood tests and scans” she recounts. “I was then diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, meaning an early menopause.” An early menopause occurs when a woman enters menopause under the age of 40.
Following this news, Kate began to consider undergoing a cycle using donated eggs. “It wasn’t an easy decision,” she says. “We actually took some time to have some time off from the fertility treatments and reflect on our options”. After a lot of deliberation, Kate and her partner decided to go ahead with the treatment. “From an a number point of view, it had a much better success rates. We were very fortunate that they found the right donor for us, and we were very humbled.” Unfortunately, despite this treatment resulting in a pregnancy, Kate then suffered a miscarriage. Following this, she was diagnosed with progesterone sensitivity, meaning her body could not tolerate the hormones needed to support a pregnancy. Kate’s experience is not an entirely rare one, as nearly a quarter (23%) of people have suffered a miscarriage following IVF.
Coping with infertility at work
The effect of this fertility journey on Kate’s life was profound. “You’re constantly thinking about it. You’re thinking about when the next treatment is, what you need to do, what you need to follow” she says. Due to the nature of her role as a fertility nurse, Kate believes her job were more understanding about the impact trying to get pregnant had on her work life. “Overall they were, they were really, really supportive” she says, “After my miscarriage I had CBT, and I was able to take some time off. Partly I think because of working in this sector, they offered me open-ended counselling.” However, she clarifies that her experience is not representative of all women going through fertility issues. “I know that’s not the case for all ladies, and I had many patients who did struggle to get time off work.”
Although she appreciated the support from her workplace, there were still times when Kate struggled with the effects of her fertility issues. “I found the isolation the hardest” she says, “And obviously it’s quite traumatic when you’re having the treatment. So what I tended to do was make some changes in my life to adapt to that.” Physical activity was crucial to improving Kate’s wellbeing. “I do believe in exercise or time outside” she says. She also stresses that this doesn’t necessarily have to mean the gym. “It doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re running, walking, doing yoga, it’s really, really important for you just to get that change of scene” she believes. Despite having previous reservations, Kate also finds meditation helpful to unwind. “If you’d have asked me a year ago, ‘Are you going to sit and meditate?’ I would say ‘I’m far too busy for that!’” she admits “But it just gives you that 10 minutes for your body to de-stress, and for you to take that pause and be calm.” Techniques such as breathing exercises she learnt in her CBT sessions have also proven to be effective tool for dealing with the emotional repercussions of her journey: “It’s really useful when you’re in certain situations – perhaps someone’s bought their baby in, or you’ve had to go to a party or somewhere where there’s lots of babies or pregnant ladies – so that you can calm your nerves.”
Support & Wellbeing
Whilst undergoing IVF, Kate made sure to get the nutrients she needed through both food sources and supplements. “During my cycles I took Vitamin A” she recounts, stating that she also ate “walnuts that were high in selenium, because there was some small evidence that might help with implantation.” Although no longer receiving treatment, Kate still uses supplements to manage her overall wellbeing. “On a day to day basis at the moment I take Vitamin D and magnesium” she details, “because I know my vitamin D is low. I think that’s the case for a lot of people that in this country.”“On a day to day basis I take Vitamin D and Magnesium.”
Kate advises anyone else going through similar issues on their fertility journey not to bottle up their emotions. “Working in the fertility centre, I had the medical knowledge, so I didn’t really want to trouble people and kind of kept myself to myself for a long time” she admits “But sometimes that’s not always the best thing to do.” She also looks to her partner for emotional guidance. “My husband is amazingly supportive” she says. As well as her friends and family, Kate finds solace in online communities. “I’m a member of quite a few online groups” she says. “I don’t always comment, but it’s nice to read and know that you’re not alone.”
“You don’t feel positive all the time, but it’s important to try and be positive when you can be.”
Key to looking after your personal wellbeing, according to Kate, is learning to say no to certain social occasions. “Be kind to yourself – if you feel that you can’t go to an occasion, just be honest and don’t go” she advises, “Or arrange another time when you feel that you can.” “Build new things into your life, or things to distract you while you’re on treatment, because it just helps with your morale” she says. By channeling her focus into running, Kate went on to run a marathon for the Miscarriage Association. “That was a massive distraction, but it could be anything,” she says. Although her fertility journey has been a turbulent one, by devising ways of dealing with this, Kate has noticed a significant improvement in her quality of life. “You don’t feel positive all the time” she says “But I think it’s important to try and be positive when you can be, because otherwise I think it would become quite consuming.”