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Episode 301


In today’s episode, I interview Nicole who shares her complicated experience with IVF. Her partner, Ash, has a low sperm count and they knew from the outset that conception would be difficult. After one blighted ovum and two unsuccessful transfers, they were overwhelmed by the process. They decided to change specialists and Nicole’s blood tests showed extremely high blood sugar levels which can affect her egg quality. Within two weeks of taking medication she fell pregnant naturally and went on to have a very straightforward pregnancy and a positive birth in a rural hospital. When I spoke to Nicole her baby was only seven weeks old so she talks at length about her significant breastfeeding challenges and the advice she received from a lactation consultant.

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Nicole’s partner only has one working teste and low sperm count. Nicole also has low egg reserve for her age so together they knew that falling pregnant would be difficult. In early 2020 they started the IVF process.

“No one can ever prepare you for the IVF experience. It’s a whole new world and I found it very overwhelming and you’re paying the clinic so much money, it can really be defeating. There’s so many things that can affect your fertility and I only learnt about it all through facebook forums I joined. On our first transfer we fell pregnant and we thought everything was going really well but my first scan showed it was a blighted ovum. It was the most heartbreaking appointment, it was the worst feeling. I had two more transfers that didn’t take and it was just so hard. Every stage of IVF is difficult because every step of the way something could go wrong so it’s very anxiety inducing.

“Ash was on the waitlist to have a procedure where they put a blockage in the vein that was strangling his teste to see if it would help his sperm count. It takes three months for the sperm to regenerate so we decided to put IVF off for three months and during that time I really reflected on the fact that I didn’t appreciate the care we were getting from our specialist. I was conflicted but my gut was telling me that something wasn’t right. My new specialist told me that my embryos were fragmented whereas my previous specialist told us they were fine. After blood tests I discovered that my blood sugars were double what they should have been and that directly affects your egg quality.

“We had planned to start IVF after my next period and we were hopeful because I was on medication to lower my blood sugar levels and Ash’s sperm quality was improved but my period never came. I got a faint line on a pregnancy test but I didn’t believe it so I got blood tests and they were positive. I couldn’t believe it, two weeks after taking medication I was pregnant. I was also anxious because I knew how much could go wrong and I was thinking it was too good to be true.

“I didn’t make up my mind about my care provider till late in my pregnancy. I was worried about things going wrong. I felt the need to be in a big hospital and I was asking all my nurse and doctor friends about what I should do in the case of an emergency. I eventually opted for midwifery care at my local rural hospital and I got to meet all the midwives throughout my pregnancy which was wonderful.”

Nicole had a really straightforward pregnancy and didn’t develop gestational diabetes which was a risk considering her initial high blood sugar levels. She went into spontaneous labour and went into hospital the next morning to see if she was progressing and to everyone’s shock, she was already 7cm.

“The midwives couldn’t believe I was still laughing and talking through contractions. I had the gas when it got intense and I really enjoyed it and was giggling a lot more. When things got even more intense I had fentanyl through a cannula and I had actively pushed for about 1.5 hours. My waters hadn’t broken and I felt most comfortable on all fours. My waters were bulging and they decided to break them as they thought they may have been stopping her coming and three contractions after they broke Everly was born. Once her head was born my midwife guided my breathing and pushing so she was born slowly and I didn’t tear which was awesome.

“It was a really positive experience, the most beautiful feeling. My midwives helped me onto my back and my placenta came out quite quickly after that but then I started hemorrhaging. I ended up having more drugs, they were massaging my belly for about 20 minutes, even after things had settled. I remember just closing my eyes and hearing Ash asking if I was ok. He had Everly on his chest while all the nurses ran in to help.

“I stayed overnight and went home the next day. Breastfeeding has been my biggest challenge. I thought it would come naturally and while I’d expressed a lot of colostrum, Everly was having difficulty latching. When my milk came in I had so much milk and she found it really difficult to latch and I was so stressed as a new mum so I gave her a bottle at night time. I was expressing – I’ve got litres of milk in the freezer – and I felt so guilty that I had so much milk but couldn’t breastfeed her. It was what I wanted but she was healthy and thriving and gaining weight.”

Nicole details the intensity of the first seven weeks of Everly’s life, the guidance she received from a lactation consultant and the skills she’s learnt to encourage Everly to feed using nipple shields.

Topics Discussed

Blighted ovum, Breastfeeding challenges, IVF, Low sperm count, Midwifery group practise, One vaginal birth, Rural hospital

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