Kathryn Laing her life with the side-effects of IVF and how it can lead to major depression.
Kathryn Laing her life with the side-effects of IVF and how it can lead to major depression. Patrick Woods

The dark side of IVF

A BRAVE Sunshine Coast woman has spoken out about the dark side of creating little miracles through in vitro fertilisation.

Kathryn Laing new her chances of conceiving naturally were limited when she was diagnosed with endometriosis and polycystic ovaries.

Despite her age, she was 22 at the time, Kathryn and her partner decided they wanted a baby and were ready to have one.

So the couple went to an IVF clinic on the Sunshine Coast to begin treatment.

Kathryn knew the treatment wouldn't be easy, but she wasn't prepared for the emotional and mental cost.

She underwent three treatments, two which didn't work and one which resulted in miscarriage at eight weeks.

And now, the University of the Sunshine Coast graduate is receiving mental treatment at the Sunshine Coast Private Hospital after she suffered severe depression and began self-harming.

"My partner and I decided are trying for three years unsuccessfully to go through IVF," Kathryn said.

"The first cycle is mind-blowing. You have to have injections, nasal sprays, blood tests..."

The nasal spray helped to "lower hormone levels" to prepare the body for making eggs.

But it "burns and gives you bad headaches".

Then she had to have injections "every day for two weeks".

She injected herself, just above her naval, by "pinching your stomach together to inject yourself".

Then she had to spend a day in hospital where they "prop you up like you are having a pap smear and use a big needle to draw out the eggs".

"It's not very fun. You bleeding afterwards and cramping."

However, the good news was they were able to extract 15 eggs and two were able to be "properly fertilised".

One of these was inserted inside of her by "propping me up on a bed like you are having a pap smear" and then inserting a "long prod, past your uterus".

"It is very uncomfortable".

And then, the waiting and the hoping begins.

Unfortunately, the first attempt wasn't successful for Kathryn.

"It was very disappointing. You definitely go up and down".

She waited a couple of months before trying again.

She had better luck on the second attempt, but then had a miscarriage.

And then she tried one more time, but this procedure landed her in hospital for 10 days.

"After I had the eggs come out of me, I was very unwell, I had fluid on my internal organs as I had overstimulated."

The last attempt was at the end of 2014 and she has now put her hopes and dreams of becoming a mum on hold indefinitely.

"I am scared to put my body at risk of more fluid back on my internal organs," Kathryn said.

"I have been going through depression and spent five weeks at the mental health unit at Buderim going through intensive treatment.

"I have battled depression with IVF."

What hasn't helped either is the well-meant comments from friends saying she was "young and it is going to happen eventually".

"It is the worst thing you can say to someone," she said.

"It makes no difference your age, women in their 20s can also struggle,"

She has been mourning and grieving the loss of children that never made it beyond a test-tube.

Kathryn still has four blastocysts frozen in storage for potential future use.

"It costs $220 every six months to keep them stored," she explained.

Fertility Solutions Director Denise Donati said there were side-effects to IVF and everyone coped differently with the treatment.

"It might have less impact on somebody who has children compared to someone who hasn't.

"Everything is pinned on the success of the treatment and therefore the perceived side-effects."

Ms Donati said it was important people realised it generally took up to six attempts before a pregnancy.

"People go in expecting the first time will work, for some it does, but they are very lucky.

"Most people need to be exposed to the opportunity for four to six times."

She also said the medication used in IVF could exacerbate the experience of pre-menstrual syndrome "five or ten fold".

"One of the important things is a person should have access to a counselling service offered through every clinic," Ms Donati said.

"People are entitled to at least one complimentary session with a counsellor, a lot of people don't take this up."

And some medications used in fertility treatments have a cumulative effect.

"In subsequent treatments there is a point some people get completely depressed and almost suicidal," she said.

"But you have got to balance the perception of the impact of the medicine with a person's complete and overwhelming desire to have a child"

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