Our mission at Access Fertility is to make fertility treatment more accessible for everyone. With that in mind, we are proud to offer our affordable IVF treatment programmes to lesbian couples and other same-sex partnerships. Our IVF Refund and Multi-Cycle programmes now help with Shared Motherhood IVF costs in most of our clinics. In order to better support our patients, we wanted to learn more about the IVF experience for lesbian couples. We caught up with Emma and Jessica Hill, who shared their story about IVF for lesbian couples to help others who are looking into lesbian fertility options.
When did your fertility journey start?
Jess and I met in 2012 when we were working together at ASDA. We knew straight away we wanted to have a family together. In 2016 we got married, and had started looking into fertility treatment even before then. We knew IVF for lesbians was a route we would need to go down.
We had two rounds of IUI first, as many lesbian couples do, but unfortunately they didn’t work. This meant we had to pause for a while, and think about how we could afford the next step.
How did you feel, embarking on that difficult journey?
There was no medical reason why the IUI hadn’t worked. As a result, it felt stressful. We didn’t know whether next time our IVF would be a success – no one prepares you for that mental strain. What’s more, each time the physical demands were harder on Emma, and it was taking over our lives. Worse still, we thought we should be saving all our money to have a baby, so we stopped going out and spending money on ourselves. IVF for lesbians is no easy journey, just like with any couple going through the fertility process.
After the first round of IVF didn’t work, we discovered Access Fertility. Their programme seemed like the perfect solution for us. Specifically, the Multi-Cycle Programme gave us the reassurance that if it did fail again, it would be OK. We could keep going – it gave us hope. Additionally, by taking the pressure off, it put our mind in a different place and helped relieve the stress on Emma’s body.
What support did you find for your situation undertaking IVF as a lesbian couple?
In the early days, our family and friends were aware that we were undergoing treatment. However, after a while we stopped telling people, because it was heart-breaking to share the bad news. Like many people undergoing fertility treatment, we found it so hard hearing about other family members getting pregnant, too. Similarly, I think there were lots of times when they didn’t know what to say, or what to ask.
The clinic offered us some counselling as a matter of course – it was a one hour session. It was fine but we didn’t take them up on any more. It is important to know the lesbian fertility options though.
How was your experience with Oxford Fertility?
We couldn’t fault them, they were amazing. They have a satellite clinic in Swindon, so we didn’t have to travel. What’s more, we built a strong relationship with Jill there, she’s incredible. Oxford Fertility go about everything in the right way. They supported us, they were helpful, and they always respected our situation and our decisions. Better still, whenever they did make a mistake, they were the first to put their hands up.
How did your fertility treatment go?
Our second round of IVF, through Access Fertility, wasn’t successful. However, we’d been lucky to have three frozen embryos from that round. Thanks to the Multi-Cycle programme, we were able to try again.
On the next attempt (our fifth cycle in total), I remember we took the pregnancy test right on the day we were first ‘allowed’ to do it. It was negative. Emma was in such a state, it was horrible. Two days later we checked again, just to be sure. It was positive! We couldn’t believe it – we bought ten more tests to check. It was the most incredible feeling.
A lockdown baby
For us, the scariest part was the pregnancy – every day we were terrified that something would go wrong. That’s the tough part with IVF – you tend to know far earlier that you’re pregnant. As a result, you’re much more aware at a time when statistically more likely that things won’t progress. Nine months feels like a very long time.
Then, in October 2019, Leo was born. He was just five months old when lockdown started. Just as he would have been going to playgroups and starting to recognise faces, he was stuck in a house with us! It’s not how you imagine your maternity leave to be. I had to be at work, due to the nature of my job, meaning Emma was at home alone doing everything. It was a huge strain.
Coming out of lockdown felt very strange for us all, and especially for Leo. Whenever he was with anyone else, he’d have a total meltdown. Most families go into a little bubble with a newborn, but Covid-19 really exacerbated that situation.
What advice would you give to another lesbian couple going through IVF?
- Don’t give up – dreams can become a reality. As much as it doesn’t feel like it might happen, it hopefully will, and all the stress and money will be worth it. Nothing compares to that feeling of creating your family.
- Try not to get too hung up on the money, and look for support where you can. Overall we spent £26k, but if someone told me at the start, that’s what we would spend, I’d have happily paid. It feels like it adds up along the way, but really, it’s no price to pay for the baby we dreamed of.
- Don’t become consumed by pseudo-science ‘advice’. At one point we tried everything that the blogs recommended – flaxseed, green tea, the lot. But for us, it added pressure, trying to do all the ‘right’ things. Funnily enough, as soon as Emma gave it all up and relaxed, that was the cycle that worked. Your frame of mind is more important – if you’re happy and relaxed, I think it allows your body to get pregnant.