I Had A Biochemical Pregnancy And Our IVF Journey Is Overby Ellie Thompson
Yep. A biochemical pregnancy means my IVF baby journey is now done and it’s dusted. And with that, we now face the end of an era. When that thought sank in, it all hit me like a train.
We went through years of planning and months of treatment to be where we are today, but our last cycle to rescue our two little guys in the freezer just wasn’t meant to be.
Surprisingly, our first frozen embryo didn’t thaw properly, and our second only managed to stick for a little while. We saw a faint little positive on test day, but over the five days that followed, the line gradually disappeared. On one hand, it felt like the longest goodbye, and on the other, once it had finally gone, it felt like such a short and cruel end to ‘hello’.
"You've had a biochemical pregnancy." The nurse on the phone said matter-of-factly.
What is a biochemical pregnancy?
A biochemical pregnancy or chemical pregnancy is when the embryo briefly implants, and then for whatever reason, stops. A biochemical pregnancy is classed as a very early miscarriage, confirmed only through elevated hCG levels (a line on a test that fades to nothing) and is usually not visible on ultrasound examination.
I know a biochemical pregnancy doesn’t compare to a miscarriage experienced further down the line; when you break it down, you’re only really talking about a ball of cells, but they were OUR cells. Those cells went through so much to get to embryo stage, and from there, we pictured their faces, what they might look like, what they might be called, who they might grow up to be… And after all, we’ve seen what those cells can turn into; we are lucky to have two beautiful children from IVF.
I had to take time out to grieve the loss of our frozen embryos, especially the one that lived, for however short a time. It's all that potential, a whole life that could have been. Mind-blowing when you start to think about it. But it hasn’t just been about grieving the loss of those two little lives though. This time for me, it’s also about it being the end of an era.
The end of IVF treatment
I’m 40 now, and IVF is over for us. Even if we had the money I couldn't put myself through treatment again, knowing how incredibly lucky we were considering the results of our previous cycles. IVF is all-consuming, and the odds are stacked up against you from the start. You have to go into it feeling like you're going to win because you've got the fight of your life ahead of you, with many hurdles to jump.
Trying naturally after IVF
The consultant also warned about finding out how likely it would be to try naturally at this point, he said, “You need to think carefully as to whether you really want to know what your AMH is now.”
Hitting 40 and not being pregnant with the embryos I thought would come through for us has been hard to come to terms with. Losing the chance to ever have a third child feels terribly sad.
I always pictured myself with three kids, but when you encounter fertility issues you soon realise you don’t get to make those sorts of choices anymore.
We won't be actively trying for a third, that in itself is another battle we're both too tired to contend with at this point. But look at us, we're lucky enough to have the luxury of quitting. If we were still childless, we'd still be battling this, I know that much. You have to know when it's right to quit, and if you're walking this road ONLY you will know that. We know now, and we've finally taken off the gloves and thrown in the towel. We didn't lose, we did good.
In our case, after a failed cycle, the consolation is realising how incredibly lucky we are that IVF worked at all, as it doesn’t for so many. We will always be grateful for our children, and if it’s even possible, we love them even more knowing how strong they must have been to make it through, against all odds.
Looking to the future after a failed IVF cycle
So, what now? It’s been a few weeks since our biochemical pregnancy, and on the whole, I’m doing OK. It’s hard seeing mums at school with their new babies, and it’s difficult at work sometimes, working with baby brands, but it’s all about reframing. Feeling grateful for what we have and moving on. It's time to make some place and move forward.
It’s going to be OK.
If you’re struggling TTC or are going through an IVF journey, listen to our podcast The JelliePod for expert advice and to hear other couples speak about their journeys. Don’t forget to join our online Facebook support group, IVF/TTC: A Place To Talk. Whatever happens, you’re not alone.