I’m asked a lot for tips and advice about getting started, choosing a clinic, and donor sperm. I am in no way an expert but looking back, there are a few things that I wish I’d known, things I would have perhaps done differently, and things that I firmly believe have been fundamental in the success of my treatment.
While the thought of potentially going it alone had been in my head for years, once I decided to go for it I really wasn’t sure of the best way to go about it. As I made my decision from talking to my GP I followed her lead in doing additional bloods test through St James’, going to her recommended consultant in the Rotunda who assessed my fertility who then told me I had to go for a different test in the Mater Hospital to ensure I had no cervical blockages, and that I would ultimately have to go to a separate Fertility Clinic for treatment. It was needlessly long winded and probably prolonged the start of my treatment by about three or four months.
Then, when I did finally engage with the fertility clinic I was a bit surprised by how clinical the process is. My reality was that statistically the odds were against me, and there really wasn’t any sugar coating that. You don’t receive gentle encouragement about which is the best way to go, you need to figure this out on your own. My advice from all of this is if you are in any way considering having a baby on your own, right now or a little down the line, make an appointment at a specialist clinic for a full Fertility NCT ASAP. Having all the facts will help determine you next stops and most importantly your timelines.
The next big thing is choosing a clinic which is very daunting. I have heard the best and the worst stories about all of the major clinics, and I’m sure all of the experiences are true. I feel a lot is determined about how you guide your own journey and your own mental attitude to supporting it. You really need to be ready to hold your own hand and be your own cheerleader. But ultimately, when it comes to choosing an actual clinic, follow your gut. If you don’t like the vibe go to another one.
Merrion Fertility, SIMs and Repro Med are the most well-known clinics in Dublin. I believe the Rotunda and SIMs also now have a new offering. Since having my treatment I can’t seem to get away from radio ads promoting clinics all over the country in Dublin, Cork and Belfast. It’s also worth noting there are a number of highly recommended fertility clinics in Europe that provide free online consultations. You can share with them your bloodworks and a number of other tests that can be done via your GP and local hospital, and they will give you a synopsis of your fertility status and options available. It’s a good way of starting your research without incurring significant costs. If you do then go onto engaging with an Irish clinic it allows you time to research and have a baseline understanding of the potential treatments in advance. Interestingly, Spain and Greece provide options for solo donor treatment, however, by law Croatia will only treat married couples!
The main treatment options that people are most familiar with are IUI, follically assisted IUI, IVF and the option of freezing eggs for later down the line Other less known or discussed options include double donor IVF (donor egg and donor sperm), embryo donation and freezing embryos after going through the IVF process. This last options allows you to go through fertility treatment while you are more fertile, but holding off on the actual implantation until a later date. I think this is a fantastically pragmatic option, one which I would have strongly considered if I had known about it years ago.
While I am very lucky to have Frank through follically assisted IUI, I do wonder if I had been in a different mindset would I have chosen another path? Freezing embryos wasn’t on my radar until after I was pregnant. If I had gone down this route while in my thirties it would have relieved so much pressure.
Instead I chose follically assisted IUI as a hail mary at having a child through my own egg, even though I knew the odds were very low. This route was relatively inexpensive, and I thought it was better to save the big spend for the back up plan of going down the double donor route if it didn’t work. I was very lucky to conceive Frank the first time I completed the treatment. However, since having him I have asked myself if I wanted a sibling for Frank, and if I should have considered IVF instead? If I did, there would be a much higher chance of that happening if there had been a number of successful embryos. I’m 44 in January and I’m sure my fertility has dropped significantly since I started the process so it’s highly unlikely the same route would work again. But then again who’s to say?! Ultimately, I’m fine with my decision because having thought a lot about it over the last six months I am perfectly happy with my lot. Frank and I will have a lovely life together. Quite simply, I wouldn’t choose the financial strain a second child would put on us, also, I’m not quite sure I would have the energy for two!
Another option available in Europe is embryo donation whereby couples or individuals who have successfully completed their fertility journeys donate embryos for others to use. This is significantly cheaper than the double donor process, which it effectively replicates at a fraction of the cost.
Finance is a significant aspect of the whole fertility journey. I’m sure prices vary but from my own research into options, costs at that time were:
Donor Sperm – I paid just over E2,500 for two straws of donor sperm which would allow two attempts. There were cheaper options but I chose the highest motility that I could afford to increase the chances of it working
IUI – Follically assisted IUI costs E750. I paid for the follicle assistance twice more at a cost of E450 each time before I completed the treatments. It’s worth noting that Laya Healthcare cover the IUI part of the treatment, but not the follicle assistance element of it. This makes absolutely no sense to me and caused me huge frustration as I specifically chose their insurance plan for their coverage of fertility treatments. I probably paid another one thousand euro in total for ancillary scans and consultations.
IVF – I think it costs about E7-10k in Ireland but comes in at around E5k in Europe
Embryo Donation – I think this was around E3k, significantly cheaper as you also don’t have to pay for a sperm donor separately
The medical bits aside my biggest recommendation for going through treatments is to take a holistic approach to it. I did a lot of mindfulness, reiki, meditation and visualisation alongside fertility acupuncture to support my treatment. In fact, on the day that the insemination took place I went full ‘Look Who’s Talking’ opening credits and visualised a party in my womb with the sperm and egg coming together. During the following days I continued to visualise them sticking together and growing, and throughout the whole process I continuously pictured us coming home from the hospital standing outside our new home, which at the time I had yet to buy. While I was a little late taking the picture, it is so special to me and it brings me back to those months where I really believe (that, along with the beauty of science) I wished my baby into existence.
My final word of advice is don’t forget to have fun along the way. Even if your treatment works relatively quickly, it’s still a long all-consuming road to get there. It’s important to have light relief and distraction along the way, to remind you that life is still wonderful regardless of the trying times.
Sending positive fertility vibes to all the Mommas in the making. In the words of my Christmas decoration.. Think It, Want It, Get It XXX