It’s normal to feel anxiety if you get a positive pregnancy test after IVF
It’s natural to feel anxious during the two–week wait, but what happens after you get a positive pregnancy test? Emma Kemsley shares the fear she experienced during her early pregnancy.
Content warning: termination for medical reasons
Maternal mental health has recently hit the headlines. In fact, there was a whole week dedicated to raising awareness for accessible care and support during pregnancy and a year after giving birth. But for those, like myself, who have faced multiple failed cycles of IVF and baby loss, pregnancy can stir up unexpected fear and emotions. We need support and understanding from a different perspective.
We want someone to understand that we have spent tens of thousands of pounds to create our babies. We want midwives to understand why we overthink every little twinge. We want someone to listen to our (sometimes irrational) concerns and not judge.
You deserve to be supported, and your worries are natural if you’re pregnant after IVF
Anyone who has experienced IVF will understand the anguish of the two-week wait (2ww). However, for me personally, the weeks that followed and the journey through the first trimester was the hardest, yet no support was offered to me.
After five failed IVF cycles, you’d think I would’ve jumped for joy at seeing those two pink lines. Instead, fear struck my very core. A feeling of terror, one I had never felt before, took hold and I couldn’t enjoy the moment. I had this underlying feeling that it would go wrong. Call it intuition if you like.
Try to avoid Googling your symptoms if you’re possibly pregnant after IVF
Throughout the two-week wait your entire body is heightened to respond to every tiny possible sign of pregnancy. Enter ‘is a sign of pregnancy…’ into Google and a list of bizarre statements appear. I can only assume most come from women who have undergone IVF, who are quietly losing their minds during the dreaded 2ww (two week wait for the outcome of IVF). Are hot feet a sign of pregnancy? Is craving carrot a sign of pregnancy? We’ve all been there.
However, for me, the 2ww seemed a breeze compared to the wait of the six-week scan. I took a pregnancy test every few days to check those two lines were still there. I held my breath as the sonographer waited for the image to appear. I’d already mentally prepared myself for no heartbeat. Thankfully, everything was perfect.
It still didn’t stop me from overthinking my pregnancy symptoms. Grabbing my boobs to check they were still tender. Checking I still could smell everything. I must be the only woman who has desperately wanted morning sickness. I was only sick once. Daily sickness would’ve been reassuring.
Intuition vs overthinking when you’re pregnant via IVF
The following week my fear subsided a little, but then it rose again. Unable to deal with the unknown until my 12-week scan, I booked a private scan at 9-weeks, again expecting to receive bad news. Everything was fine.
At my initial midwife meeting I told her about the scans, and she laughed, in a polite way of course, and told me not worry. When I explained I thought the pregnancy would be challenging, she dismissed my concerns.
I have severe endometriosis which impacts my bladder and bowel, and I had been advised by my endo consultant that an elective c-section would be my safest option for delivery. She initially wasn’t happy about my decision and explained that someone with endometriosis delivers the same way as someone without. Fair enough, that may be the case, but when your consultant has told you not to give birth vaginally, alarm bells ring. However, she arranged for me to speak to a consultant about a c-section after I insisted.
At the 12-week scan I braced myself for bad news. Surely this was it, this is when it would end. But no, a perfectly healthy baby appeared on the screen. How someone who has conceived naturally waits until a 12-week scan to check everything is ok, blows my mind!
How my pregnancy ended – and why you should check with doctors whenever you need to
Unfortunately, a private scan at 17 weeks revealed something was wrong and we had to terminate for medical reasons (TFMR) at 20 weeks. Instead of crying, my initial reaction was relief. For the first time in months, I could breathe again. The weight had been lifted from my shoulders. That niggling gut feeling disappeared. It was right all along.
Through my first trimester and up to the point we were officially told that we needed a TMFR, I was led to believe by medical professionals that my concerns were nonsense and that I was being paranoid. Instead, they should’ve been guiding and supporting me every step of the way.
Unbelievably when I told my midwife about what the scan had shown at 17 weeks, she dismissed it completely and told me to wait until my anatomy scan, at which I would’ve been 21 weeks. Thankfully, I stood my ground and demanded to be seen sooner. Please know you have every right to ask for the care you think you deserve. Listen to your gut and speak up if something feels wrong.
IVF after pregnancy loss is just different
My point is, women who have undergone IVF and baby loss experience pregnancy differently to those who haven’t. It’s vital that maternal care takes this into consideration.
For me, IVF has taken away the luxury of pregnancy ever being a magical experience. I will only ever live in constant fear until I take a baby home. And that is the sad truth.
What to do if you’re experiencing anxiety after a positive pregnancy test following IVF
If you’re affected by the issues in this column, this article about mental health during IVF may help. Remember that your concerns are valid, and that you deserve support from your doctor and other professionals during and beyond your pregnancy. Here’s a great guide on how to talk to your doctor about your mental health.
It’s as normal to overthink every symptom and believe the worst when everything is fine, as it is to be fobbed off by professionals and persuaded that you’re overthinking it. The most sensible thing to do is to see your doctor whenever you believe that something isn’t quite right – this is your right. The charity MIND also has resources for coping with mental health challenges.