There is nothing easy about IVF; a diagnosis of infertility is followed by NHS waiting lists, the prospect of huge private medical bills, secrecy, injections, raging hormones and invasive treatments – often while holding down a job and feeling bombarded by baby adverts online.
Many go through cycles of hope, disappointment, and hope again – and sometimes, it’s hard for them to imagine a day when it’ll be okay. But small acts of kindness can make a huge difference.
We asked women who are currently undergoing IVF, or have had IVF in the past, about the gestures from friends, family and medical staff that made treatment that little bit easier.
The gynaecologist who worked out of hours
“My gynaecologist came to his clinic on a Sunday with a very bad cold so he could scan me. I’d had a bleed that morning and, as I was only 7-8 weeks pregnant, wouldn’t have had a scan with the NHS until the following day.
“Rather than have me worry all day, he insisted on doing a scan. He is an amazingly caring man. Three years and two children later, we still keep in touch.” - Heather, 45, from Dublin
The friend who cared for bruises
“When I had an early procedure for IVF in 2016, my husband’s boss found out and insisted he left the office that moment to come and look after me. He knew it would be less stressful if I wasn’t alone.
“A friend also sent me a big basket of Cowshed products – she knew I was covered in bruises from the injections and would want to feel better. They were both big acts of kindness and were really, really appreciated.” – Josie Perry, 43, from London
The friend of a friend who sent wine
“The day before I took a pregnancy test for my last cycle, I recorded a podcast about my IVF experience. The host is a friend of a friend, someone I’d never met before, but we immediately had a great rapport. When I told her the test came back negative, she was extremely empathetic, which I really needed when my emotions were so raw.
“A few days later, I received a case of wine with a heartfelt, funny note. At a time when I felt so angry at the world, this kind gesture from a relative stranger reminded me that it can be a beautiful place sometimes.” – Seetal Savla, 38, from London
The nurse who wept with joy
“I had two rounds of IVF – my son is now 18 – and I remember the nurse who was always present when I went for my various appointments, check-ups and scans.
“Once, when I went in for an early scan, I just remember the lovely nurse quietly weeping with joy as my tiny little baby appeared on the scanner’s screen. It was so touching to see her cry, you’d think she would be almost immune to the joy and devastation associated with IVF, but she really cared.” – Christina Relf, 59, from Winchester
The friend who sent a simple text
“To be honest, a text from a friend just asking how I am means the absolute world to me while I’m going through treatment.
“It’s easy to isolate yourself while going through IVF because you’re not always able to make plans, so a simple text goes such a long way in helping me feel less alone.” – Katherine Cotterell, 38, from London
The women who sent virtual hugs
“What really helped me was the wonderful women of the donor conception board on Mumsnet. They remembered where you were up to every day, sent virtual hugs and reassurance through all the ups and downs, and were so happy when it succeeded.
“The quiet solidarity between the IVF parents in my workplace was also so special. They were there when I collapsed crying in a stairwell because another round had failed and gave me hope it would work in the end. And it did: my daughter is eight months old, born from an egg harvested almost exactly two years ago this month.” – Claire, 39, from London