When considering the options to start a family, for many single women IVF is the obvious route. Emma Hampson always wanted to have children, and knew that without a relationship, she would need fertility treatment to help her with that goal. While she was well-informed, she could never have expected what the IVF process would throw at her. Here we learn how she coped, and discover her advice for any person undergoing IVF as a single woman.
How did your fertility journey start?
I’ve always been a maternal person, and imagined I’d have a number of children. As I moved towards my mid-30s, I found myself in a rut. I was single, and starting to worry that this might not happen. I knew people who had experienced miscarriages, and I realised it might not be that easy. Taking the decision to undergo IVF as a single woman had additional complications.
I moved to Manchester for a fresh start, and felt ready to start a family. Up until then I’d been working at 100mph in my job. I decided to take my foot off the pedal a little, and buy a nice flat in a good area. I was still missing the relationship, but really wanted to have a child. So I started to look into doing single IVF as a woman on my own.
How did you feel embarking on IVF as a single woman? What support did you have in place?
Once I decided, that was it. I never doubted whether I would be able to do it. The hardest part was telling family, because my parents are quite traditional. They were absolutely amazing and embraced it as another thing their daughter wanted to do. People worried, probably more than they let on, but they were supportive.
I went to Manchester Fertility and had counselling before they would let me go through treatment. It was only an hour, but it was really helpful. The conversation made me realise that after fertility treatment, and you have your child, there’s a conversation to be had with them at some point about how they were conceived. Single women IVF is a difficult journey from the beginning, that’s for sure.
There’s a good solo mum community out there, which is helpful in some ways, and not others. I’m open and don’t mind sharing how he came about, but I’d like him to grow up with a normal upbringing, where he doesn’t have to feel like he has to justify himself all the time.
How was your experience with the IVF clinic?
They were amazing from start to end. They understood I was a single woman undertaking IVF and never slipped up once in the language they used or the questions they asked. The receptionist seems to know everyone by name – she was just fantastic. She knows who you are, when you’re due in, and just makes you feel really welcome and special.
How did your IVF treatment go?
I went in initially to discuss artificial insemination, or IUI, which is a less invasive option (discover the difference in our blog on artificial insemination). The consultant explained that IUI success rates are lower, and that it might take more than one attempt. At that stage I was so emotionally involved in the picture of the future I wanted, I wanted the security of IVF. For me, it felt like the safer route from an emotional point of view.
Before starting, I took holiday to get in the right mental state. Even while I was away I was eager to get started, and contacted the clinic to say I wanted to go ahead as soon as I was back. Nothing was too much trouble for the clinic, and they arranged everything. Within two weeks, I’d started medication.
How was your egg collection and transfer?
Perhaps because I came to IVF for different reasons than couples with fertility issues, I was probably very naïve in assuming everything would work fine. However, when they did my tests, my AMH levels were low. Furthermore, when it came to egg collection day, the doctor struggled to get to the eggs because they discovered I have a narrow cervix.
In the end, we collected six eggs, which felt a bit disappointing. By day five, there were just two – one which I chose for fresh transfer, and another to freeze. On the day of egg transfer, I did everything they tell you not to. I went to work, and planned to have the procedure in my lunch hour, then go back to work. I have a demanding job – I didn’t even get the chance to consider what I was doing, and the impact. The two week wait was as horrific as everyone warned me it would be. Worse still, I started bleeding on day 8. Still, I waited until it was time for the test. I knew in heart it was negative, and on day 14, it was.
How did you feel?
At that point I realised how naïve I’d been. I wanted to make it right and start again, straight away. Fortunately, the clinic were fantastic and encouraged me to take a few days, have a break, then we’ll talk. The looked at the egg we’d frozen – it was healthier than the other one (this is common, as they usually freeze the stronger egg which is more likely to survive the thawing). We agreed to transfer it on my next cycle, and I couldn’t wait.
Unfortunately, my period didn’t come as expected. I took the time to get acupuncture twice a week. I’ll never know if it worked, but my period arrived and I was in a better state of mind to take what I was doing seriously. I had to slow down and look after myself. This time, on the morning of transfer, I went for acupuncture, and took two days leave,to sit and watch TV. It helped me cope with the process a lot better.
The cycle worked, and after another two week wait, my pregnancy test was positive. Having geared myself up for a negative, it was amazing. Manchester Fertility were great – they were all really excited for me as a single woman undergoing IVF, it felt really special.
How did Access Fertility help?
I had a great IVF experience, and both Manchester Fertility and Access Fertility played a part in that. The clinic told me about Access Fertility when I first considered treatment. I got in touch with them when I was on holiday and they walked me through my options.
I chose the Multi-Cycle Programme because I knew it would take away the financial worry the first treatment didn’t work. That really helped – it’s an expensive process and this gave me a lot of comfort. It was really easy!
What advice would you give to single women embarking on IVF?
For anyone in a similar position to mine, where you’re on your own and you want a child –do it. It was the best decision of my life, and having done it early, the pressure was off.
Do take it slow though, and don’t be naïve to how difficult it is, and the impact it will have on your life. Don’t try and do anything else.
It’s worth the rough journey, trust me. And now, it’s like I’m in a secret club I quite like being part of.