After an initial meeting with a lovely coordinator in a comfortable environment, we were clear that we would undergo IVF at PFC. I appreciated the professional and helpful attitude of the doctors and the entire staff. Even when complications arose, they helped us achieve our dream, our daughter Laura.
There was never any indication that I would be the one of those who have to deal with infertility.
I’ve always wanted children, but it just wasn’t the right time for them for a long time. For many reasons I put off motherhood until later, and when the time finally came and I longed to become a mum, it didn’t work out. As I wasn’t able to become pregnant for a long time, my partner and I finally decided to seek help.
It takes time and lots of consideration to take such a step, because it’s not easy to accept that something is probably wrong and we can’t solve it on our own. Today I know that waiting and delaying the moment when you ask for help is not the best idea, because time often plays against you in this situation.
I first visited an assisted reproduction clinic when I was 35 years old. After about three years of trying. At first, I thought we had an advantage because we live in Prague there were many options to choose from as there are several such clinics here.
But how do you choose the right one?
I carried out the kind of research you might expect. I wrote down a list of all the clinics, went through their websites, read the reviews and looked up where they were located.
We came up with a shortlist of our preferred options and the very next day I filled out the contact form for the one that interested us most, the Prague Fertility Centre. I received an email thanking me and letting me know that we would hear from them in three days. Not even 24 hours had passed and the phone rang. This was in 2021, when the world was paralysed by the Coronavirus pandemic and everything was more complicated. We arranged our first phone consultation. During it, Dr. Švabíková explained to us what procedures they had, what we could expect if we chose this clinic. More or less immediately, we arranged a personal visit.
After the first consultation, I felt so relieved. Everyone was so friendly, empathetic and I immediately felt we were in the right place.
I had no idea what was in store for me.
At the beginning I didn’t really look up any information and I didn’t have anyone in my circle to ask. Having a personal, patient coordinator, which every couple gets at PFC, makes all communication easier, and she was great in answering all my questions.
All of a sudden, everything took off. Blood tests and examinations all took place under one roof and scheduled in as few visits as possible. The diagnosis came soon enough. My blood tests revealed I had high NK or ‘natural killer’ cells. As abnormally high levels of NK cells may indicate or be a cause of fertility problems, treatment was immediately prescribed. Without this treatment IVF would have been pointless. It was an immunity issue that was so highly active that no embryo had even the slightest chance of nesting in my uterus. After a few weeks, I was ready to start stimulation. The doctor arranged all the paperwork for the insurance company, the NK cell activity was subdued and I was able to start the stimulation injections in my abdomen. Regular check-ups with the doctor and scheduling the egg retrieval, which I was dreading because I had to go under general anesthesia for the first time in my life. Everything went smoothly, the days flew by and I had two embryos from my first IVF cycle. The first fresh embryo transfer took place two days after the retrieval. Unfortunately, however, my period came and this attempt failed. It didn’t work the second time with a frozen embryo either.
At that moment, I realised that it wasn’t realistic to come to the clinic and automatically get pregnant. I knew the success rate wasn’t 100%. I was equally clear also that I wasn’t going to give up, so I didn’t hesitate for a second and we arranged for more stimulation. This time the medication was adjusted a little. My body was more generous this time and managed to retrieve and fertilise six eggs.
Second egg retrieval
The second retrieval, however, was not so easy. I was dealt a bad card and experienced a complication that is definitely not common. Thanks to the doctor’s experience and care, I was transferred directly from the clinic to the hospital in time for surgery, where the doctors stopped the internal bleeding.
Everything went well, I rested a bit and started preparing for the transfer again. This time, we had our embryos genetically tested so we knew we were putting a healthy embryo into perfectly prepared conditions.
“Birthday” embryo transfer
The transfer took place on my partner’s birthday less than two years ago.
After 14 days, I saw a positive pregnancy test for the first time in my life. And on my name day (in most continental European countries, people celebrate a name or saint’s day as well as their birthday), we saw our baby girl’s heartbeat on the ultrasound at PFC. Even our wonderful doctor couldn’t hide her joy. The whole pregnancy went without complications and in February 2022 our daughter Laura was born.
We still have embryos left at the clinic and we are slowly starting to plan when I will go there for another child.
I decided to share my experience openly, even though I know that no IVF journey is the same. You can never be 100% prepared for what lies ahead. Throughout the whole IVF process, pregnancy and birth, I kept a journal which was published as a book “My IVF” in February 2023. If I were to describe my feelings in retrospect today, it wouldn’t be as accurate. IVF should not be taboo in society, it is part of today’s world and IVF and infertility issues affect far more people than we think.
Šárka shares her personal IVF journey, and now her step-by-step insights on raising her daughter Laura, on her Instagram profile: @moje.ivf