One of the benefits of IVF is that embryos not required for treatment can be frozen for the future. For same-sex couples and others using donated sperm, this can be an advantage and make IVF more cost-effective than IUI. Egg sharing is also and option with IVF.
IUI first choice
Kate and Keri met 11 years ago and worked overseas for a number of years before returning to the UK to get married and start a family.
“The subject of children came up quite early on in our relationship,” says Kate. “Keri is eight years older than me but I was ready for children a lot sooner than her, it is something I have always wanted.
“We agreed that I was going to be the one who carried the pregnancy; Keri has health issues which would make pregnancy difficult for her.”
The couple chose Bourn Hall Norwich for their treatment.
“Keri and I wanted to try IUI first, to keep the costs down, and we chose the ‘medicated’ option because of my irregular periods.
“I had always had problems with my periods. When I was a teenager they were very heavy and by the time I reached my early twenties they were all over the place, I could go months without having one, they have never been normal.”
IUI treatment involved Kate taking medication to stimulate her egg production and ovulation (release of a single mature egg) – and then some of the thawed donor sperm would be injected into her womb close to the time of her ovulation.
Selecting a sperm donor
Bourn Hall has its own sperm bank and runs a number of initiatives to encourage more donors, as there is a national shortage. It also collaborates with a network of high-quality sperm banks and help patients with the selection process.
Kate and Keri opted to source their donor sperm from a sperm bank in Denmark and this would be shipped directly to Bourn Hall for storage until required.
“We bought three vials on the basis that if the IUI didn’t work first time we still had the option of a further IUI and if that didn’t work we would move on to IVF using the last vial,” explains Kate.
Two attempts with IUI
Statistically the chances of success with IUI are lower than with IVF – where eggs are collected and mixed with sperm in the lab before the embryo is transferred to the womb.
“After the IUI procedure we waited the full two weeks to test,” says Kate. “My ‘symptom spotting’ in those two weeks was horrendous, it wasn’t fun. It was all a bit stressful and then the pregnancy test was negative. We were already thinking about whether it might just be better to move on to IVF…
“In the end we decided to have one more try at IUI first but I overstimulated on the second attempt and the procedure was cancelled. My emotions were all over the place, it was a bit of a rollercoaster.”
Before moving on to IVF
“We then decided to take a financial and emotional break before moving on to IVF. I found the wait really hard, Keri is much more practical whereas I am more emotional. I work with early years children and all around me parents and colleagues were getting pregnant, it was very challenging.
“I was pretty agitated and often quite sad it was a mix of the two. Keri was a great support, she would give me time to have a bath and did all the cooking, little things like that which were really helpful. I think she sometimes felt as though she was on the outside watching me go through it and found it hard seeing me so affected emotionally and physically.
Successful first time with IVF
“We had our IVF consultation on New Year’s Eve and it felt good to be picking things up again. It was nice to have a focus and feel like we were actually trying rather than sitting at home not actually doing anything.”
“I started taking the medication for the IVF round March 2022 and had the egg retrieval in the April. They retrieved 20 eggs which is a lot and I felt a bit rough afterwards.
“Bourn Hall told me that they would need to do a ‘freeze-all’ to give my body time to recover. This did feel like another setback at the time. I was really pushing for a fresh transfer because I wanted to have a baby so badly.
“I was really irritated, a bit angry, but we knew that the doctors had made that decision for a reason. In hindsight I am so glad that we did wait because I felt so much better when it came to the transfer.
“I was pretty confident that the IVF had worked because I felt different in myself. I started feeling really sick then had lower back pains. I secretly took an early test which I know you are not supposed to do but I did and it was positive!
“Our IVF had worked first time!
“Luca was born in February 2023; he actually arrived early but the first thing the midwife said was “he’s a big boy!”. When I first held him, it was just the most lovely feeling, I cried my eyes out.”
Could IVF be more cost-effective than IUI?
“Now I wish we had just gone straight to IVF rather than attempting the IUI first, we could have put the money towards the IVF.
“We have still got seven embryos left in the freezer, something you don’t get with IUI, and one vial of sperm left, so we know just how lucky we are.
“The staff at Bourn Hall were amazing throughout our journey. During our treatment I was emailing them asking ‘am I doing this right, is this normal?’ ‘is this okay?’ and every email that I sent with worries or questions would always get answered really quickly. They made it all actually quite easy. The way they sent the schedules out was just really easy for us to see and understand as well.
“We will definitely be back for another round hopefully in the next couple of years for sure.”