This last week has been a bit stressful, largely due to the (you could call it incompetence) of my clinic. It’s fair to say I’m not a big fan of fertility clinics and I’ve got some experience here, it’s not to say there aren’t some good, kind people working in them, but at the end of the day the people behind the clinics seem to be in it for the money.
This has been brought into stark relief with a recent Daily Mail investigation about women going through IVF being coerced into giving up their eggs. I’m aware of egg sharing which is a legitimate practice, although my own clinic doesn’t do it because they think it puts the women in a difficult position – if you’re struggling to pay for your treatment but someone offers you reduced rate IVF if you give up half your eggs this would be very tempting. It is one of the reasons we wanted an altruistic donor who was donating because they wanted to – not because they were getting free treatments and not at the expense of possibly compromising their own chances. Plus I have been on some fertility forum boards where there were damning reports of egg sharing. One woman gave up half her eggs for reduced rate treatment but at the time was unsure of the quality, she ended up having to have donor eggs herself a year or so later. She accidently connected with her recipient on the same forum at the time of the sharing and the recipient was told by the clinic that the donor was having IVF because of male factor when in fact they were at the time unexplained. As the donor said you probably wouldn’t want to take eggs from someone whose infertility was unexplained as it could be an egg issue. In essence, the clinic was exploiting both women. Another awful story was from an egg sharer who was forced by her clinic (which was a very highly regarded London clinic) to give more than half her eggs to the recipient which didn’t seem fair (usual practice is half and half).
Now I don’t read the Daily Mail (with it’s homophobic, racist and sexist undertones) but the IVF activist Jessica Hepburn has written a related opinion piece in the Guardian, which points out that the recent allegations suggest that some clinics are not offering just free treatment but money for eggs (which is not allowed), and that some clinics are proactively promoting the practice in order to obtain eggs to sell on at a significant profit. I made the stupid mistake of reading the reader comments, so hurtful and such a lot of ignorance about IVF, about egg donation and about the mental health impacts of treatment. As Jessica writes “Infertility and assisted conception still carry a stigma that is felt acutely by those going through it, but little understood or empathised with by those who are not. It affects your relationships with your family, your friends, your partner and at work, and above all it decimates your self-esteem.” I’m not sure some of the commentators bothered to read that part of her article. Unfortunately I am not surprised by the expose – I suspect there’s a lot of truth in it.
Now this investigation makes my complaints about my clinic seem a little trivial but I’m going to moan away here anyway. Last weekend my lining was looking fairly good for me so I was quite positive. On Tues I had to go in for another scan. The measurement was quite a bit thinner. So I made a complaint. I pointed out that whilst I accepted a small margin of error there has been a lot of discrepancy this cycle – they keep measuring it one thickness then the next time it’s thinner. I’ve never had this before at any other clinic, and I wanted to speak to my consultant. The problem is that I hardly ever see him unlike at my other two clinics where I saw my consultant on nearly every visit. At my current clinic you see the consultant rarely – which doesn’t help continuity of care. I was really concerned as had I known the lining was thinner I could’ve started taking some more medication to assist – but now I didn’t really have the chance. The clinic didn’t help by saying they couldn’t get me an appointment with the consultant til the next day. I wasn’t having that. I said I was going to cancel my cycle (this is a very good line to use by the way – works every time). Shortly afterwards my consultant’s PA rang me. She was very good and within an hour my consultant phoned me. He asked me to go in the next day when he would do my scan. He also asked me to start supplementing with some extra oestrogen – which I pointed out would’ve been better advice a few days before.
When he scanned me the lining was 7.5 and good quality which was ok but given the Sunday before I’d been told 7.6 I was still a bit annoyed. He was happy though and I moved to set up for transfer.
On Friday I had to go in for intralipids (I’m not sure I believe in them anymore but too scared not to have them just in case) I wasn’t seen on time and so we started the infusion quite late. After 20 mins the nurses can speed it up which they did so but I noticed it still wasn’t very fast compared to previous infusions. I had an acupuncture appointment to get to with a new acupuncturist as mine is on holiday, and I really didn’t want to miss it. So I asked them to speed it up again. What followed ended up being a bit of an argument between me and the nurse. I really tried to stay calm and explain that I’d had the infusions quite a few times (including once at their clinic on my cancelled cycle) so there was no danger of reaction and that I had an appointment to get to which was to complement my treatment. The nurse showed no empathy whatsoever and said I should’ve rebooked the infusion – given I’d only been given the set up go ahead on Wed afternoon and had to chase the clinic on Thurs for an infusion appointment, and they don’t do them at the weekend I pointed out the impracticality of her reasoning. I also pointed out they started late and kept me waiting to which she responded that they were busy and didn’t have a bed available at my appointment time. But apparently all this was my fault and at that point I should’ve rearranged. In the end they sped up the drip slightly and I was 10 mins late for my acupuncture appointment. It also turned out on Wed at my nurse appointment that one of my blood tests was missing (I’m not sure it was but was too weary to argue) so I had to pay £75 for the privilege – this is something my GP could’ve done for me, and should’ve been picked up by the clinic a few weeks before.
I find it quite incredible sometimes. We’re paying a massive amount of money for our treatment, and they keep making ‘little’ mistakes (many of which seem to cost me money), their waiting times are awful – I’ve rarely had an appointment on time (the nurse admitted to me they had a real problem with this and basically said they’d taken on too many patients – what greed). All this adds to the overall stress of treatment. It’s really not acceptable. I’m able to stand up for myself, I know how to play this game after so long, but others don’t and we’re all being exploited by these clinics in some way because we’re desperate for children and will put up with all sorts of crap to get there, and we pay for the privilege of being treated like crap. I should add here that my clinic is recognised as being one of the best in terms of success rates – so they must be doing something right. But seriously!
Transfer is next week by the way. I’m quite nervous about the defrost.