It’s one of those things people don’t even want to think about when they’re going through fertility treatment – what might happen if it didn’t work, ever? Could you really be happy if you didn’t end up with a baby? What would you do if all that time, effort, money and emotional investment led to nothing? Would your life ever feel fulfilled and enjoyable? Could the overwhelming sadness go away? I want to tell you about someone who is a brilliant example of the fact that life after IVF treatment can be both fulfilled and enjoyable. She’s called Lesley Pyne, and I first met her when I was a trustee for the charity which is now Fertility Network UK. Lesley was one of my fellow trustees, and had joined as she was involved with the section of the charity for people who were involuntarily childless known at the time as More to Life.
Today, I met Lesley for the first time for a while and it struck me that she looked about 10 years younger than she did when I last first knew her – which means she must look about 20 years younger than she really is! Her eyes were bright and shining, and her zest for life was almost palpable. Lesley, who always seemed to be making an effort not to stand out when we were fellow trustees, was dressed in bright colours with electric blue nails. She is happy, she is making the most of the good things in her life – and she has just written a book explaining how she went from feeling devastated by unsuccessful treatment to this confident, happy woman who gets the best out of her life – it’s due to be published in June and is called Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness.
It strikes me as we talk that Lesley has embraced something we could all learn from – living for the moment, focusing on the positives and making an effort to enjoy what we have. I haven’t read Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness yet – but she explained that it contains her story and those of a number of other women who have come out the other side of involuntary childlessness to find fulfilment. She says it is a journey, and it can be hard along the way, but that there is life beyond childlessness, there is more to life – and if you need help along that path, keep an eye out for Lesley’s book when it comes out in June.
If you’re fed up with people DOING things for January – whether it’s Dry January, joining a spin class or taking up tap dancing – you may like to read Lesley Pyne’s latest blog post. I’ve known Lesley for a long time and have witnessed her building up her support network to help other people who are experiencing involuntary childlessness – she offers lots of support and inspiration for anyone living without children, and has helped many people through their own difficult times. You can sign up for regular emails from Lesley which offer tips and advice. What’s more, she’s right about January and people doing things – it can be exhausting to be faced with other people’s bouncy enthusiasm when you’re just trying to get through things yourself.
I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions this year – I’ve come to the conclusion that if you try to give things up, you just feel more focused on them and have a sense of being deprived when you can’t have them. And when you don’t feel you HAVE to go to the gym or go running, it can make exercise seem much more attractive. I know it may be my strange logic, but it works for me…
I know people – especially women – sometimes find it hard to see themselves as “inspiring”, but if you have a story to tell about living without children and learning to come to terms with this, then why not get in touch with Lesley? She can send you a list of the questions she would like to ask, and will need submissions by the end of February. You can get in touch with her if you would like to know more at firstname.lastname@example.org
When Lesley Pyne came to talk to the Infertility Network UK London group about coping strategies, she was a huge hit – so now she is going to be talking about this online on 26 April. Lesley has personal experience of IVF and involuntary childlessness and now works supporting others – you can find her website at www.lesleypyne.co.uk
The online group is run by Infertility Network UK and is completely free of charge – if you would like to attend, all you need to do is email your Skype username to email@example.com. The London group found her tips and suggestions really helpful so I would definitely recommend joining the online talk if you can
One of the things I do in my role as London Representative for Infertility Network UK is to organise get-togethers for patients at our London support group. Last night, we invited Lesley Pyne to come along to talk about coping strategies which was one of our most popular evenings to date.
Lesley taught us some techniques to help deal with difficult situations and there was a lively discussion with members of the group who had lots of questions about coping. Lesley explained how she had got through her own decision to give up fertility treatment and talked about the need to look after yourself, to allow yourself time to grieve and to seek help when you are finding things difficult.
You can find Lesley’s website, full of helpful advice, here and if you would like professional help from a counsellor, you can find a list of specialist fertility counsellors on the British Infertility Counselling Association website here.
We’re delighted that Lesley Pyne is coming along to the next Central London get together for Infertility Network UK on the evening of April 7th. Lesley, who works with women who are experiencing involuntary childlessness, will be sharing some of her advice and tips for coping and it promises to be a really helpful session.
These sessions are open to everyone and are completely free of charge, so if you’d like to come and join us, just email Kate at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details. You can find Lesley’s website at www.lesleypyne.co.uk
If you have read my earlier post on this, you may also be interested in listening to this short interview with me and Lesley Pyne on coping with Mother’s Day which was done by a student at Bournemouth. I have a feeling I was actually talking about Christmas at the end of the interview rather than Mother’s Day but it doesn’t really matter as the sentiments are the same! You can find it here
It’s something no one wants to think about when they are starting out on a fertility journey, but the truth is that IVF doesn’t always work. We know that average success rates in the UK for an individual cycle are around 26%, which means a 74% chance of it not working. In reality, as recent research has shown, cumulative success rates are far better and over a course of treatment, the majority are likely to have a child – but even so, IVF is not going to work for everyone, something this article from Australia illustrates.
It may seem as if treatment not working would be the most unbearable outcome possible, but I have been really struck by pioneering childless women like Jody Day of Gateway Women and Lesley Pyne who show that this doesn’t have to mean the end of your hope for a happy future. Jody’s Gateway Women offers a chance to get together with other women in similar situations and she runs workshops and events, Lesley offers support through her blog, newsletter and one-to-one sessions, and there’s also help to be found from More to Life which offers support and regional contacts for anyone who is involuntarily childless. It may be useful to see a counsellor, and BICA – the British Infertility Counselling Association – can provide a list of specialist qualified counsellors across the UK, some of whom offer Skype or telephone counselling too.
You may be interested in this great blog post from Lesley Pyne about her experiences joining a BBC discussion panel for the 100 Women project to talk about living without children – and wince at the comment she got from one of the other women on the panel. For those of you who aren;t familiar with Lesley, she has become a voice for women who are involuntarily childless and offers support services to those who are coming to terms with living without children. You will find a lot of interesting and inspiring posts on her website!
There’s a programme you may be interested in at 11 am tomorrow morning on BBC Radio Four. It’s about what happens when IVF doesn’t work, and it features Lesley Pyne who has been a great source of support and inspiration for many people who’ve had unsuccessful treatment. Lesley, who now helps other women who are looking at living without children, went through unsuccessful IVF herself and was a leading member of the support network More to Life for many years.
How successful is IVF?
The truth is that fertility treatment isn’t always going to work for everyone. For every cycle of IVF, there is an average 25% chance of success. Which means there’s a 75% chance that it won’t work. Cumulative success rates are much better – figures from one clinic released at a Fertility Fairness event earlier this year showed cumulative success rates for women of 37 and under reached 80% over 3 cycles, which is why NICE recommends three cycles as being cost-effective and clinically effective. Age is key here though – if you are older, the chances of success are lower. For women who are 35 and under, the average IVF success rate is 32% but by the time you are in the 38-39 age bracket, that goes down to 20%. Once you reach 43-44, it’s right down to 5% – which means that 95% of cycles for women of that age will not succeed.
When to stop IVF
It can be difficult to know when to stop trying with IVF and there is no right or wrong time to do this, no magic number of cycles. I’ve found that on the whole when people haven’t been successful they do reach a point at which they know that stopping is the right thing to do – sometimes that’s because they’ve run out of money, or because they can’t cope emotionally any more or because their clinic has suggested they should think about stopping. Often it’s just because they’ve got to a point where it feels like the right thing to do.
I’m going to be joining Lesley on BBC Radio Four Woman’s Hour tomorrow morning to discuss IVF and stopping treatment and to look ahead to the documentary later in the morning.