This is not a post that I was planning to write, but I feel I need to express my thoughts on this topic as it has got my back up somewhat!
I’m not a regular soap viewer, I’m more of a “I’ll watch them if they’re on” kind of gal, however a couple of months ago I realised that Coronation Street was embarking upon an IVF storyline, wherein Toyah Battersby had undergone 5 unsuccessful cycles of IVF with her husband, who she had then left for Peter Barlow. Toyah and Peter then decided they were going to forge ahead with another round of IVF.
I decided at this point to make a point of watching the show to see how accurately representative it would be of IVF treatment. I’m by no means an IVF expert, only going through my first round myself, however I am a member of many infertility forums, groups and networks online and know that my situation and symptoms whilst going through the treatment has been very similar to thousands of other women. In some cases I would even suggest that I had got off lightly in terms of some of the terrible side effects that many women face on a daily basis. Whilst mine hasn’t been a bed of roses I certainly haven’t been bed-bound as a lot of women unfortunately become.
In the show Toyah has now got to the point in the process where she has had her embryo transfer so I feel now is a good time to write this post and express my complete and utter disgust at how IVF has been represented on the show. With Coronation Street being such a long-standing soap opera in the UK who highly publicise their liaison with charities and real-life victims where other storylines are concerned (i.e. Michelle Connor’s tragic loss of her baby earlier this year), I am shocked and saddened that they have handled such a sensitive issue as IVF with such a blasé attitude.
Firstly, the mere fact that Toyah was undertaking IVF with her husband and then happily substituted him for Peter Barlow, someone she had only recently began dating, is laughable. One of the fourteen consent forms that we had to sign before embarking upon our treatment is concerned with Parental Responsibility, and states that couples may only commence treatment if they have been living together for a minimum of 2 years. These consent forms are not clinic specific, they are legislated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), who govern the administration of IVF treatment in the UK. One of the many purposes of these consent forms is to protect any child borne out of IVF and to ensure that a woman is not just using any Tom, Dick or Harry to play daddy as and when it suits her.
The second thing that really angered me was the treatment itself. I’m aware that Corrie has many storylines going at any one time and are probably restricted as to how many hours a week they can devote to one particular plot, however where the hormone injections were concerned, we saw Toyah self-administer one injection and then she went happily off for a shift behind the bar in the Rovers Return, with a full face of make-up, no worse off.
As you will know from my previous blog, this is just so unrealistic it makes my blood boil. Yes people still have to go to work whilst they are undergoing treatment and as I’ve said I’m well aware that everyone differs in their severity of side effects, however this was not demonstrated at all on the show as one minute Toyah was taking her ONE injection, the next it was egg retrieval day. If only it was that easy and quick!
The egg retrieval was another complete and utter mockery. Toyah’s sister Leanne had to accompany her as Peter was unfortunately at that moment being questioned by the police over the attempted murder of Ken. Nightmare. Toyah was most concerned that Peter wouldn’t make it to the clinic in time to give his ‘sample’. Sure enough, her procedure came and went and in the next scene we saw her at home being given a hot water bottle by her sister. Peter then decided to show up only just having been released from the police station and informed Toyah of some great news! He had been able to go and make his sample on his way home. Now I don’t know what kind of clinic they have been attending, but I’ve never heard of a fertility clinic that doubles as a drop-in centre for sperm donations. The male sample has to be given immediately before or immediately after the egg retrieval so as to allow the fertilisation process to begin immediately. Men don’t get to just turn up willy nilly and offer a sample. What an utter joke.
Next up was the embryo transfer, which Toyah went to alone having only decided that morning that she was going to go ahead with it, contrary to her and Peter deciding that they would wait to have the transfer until the allegations concerning Peter’s role in Ken’s attempted murder had died down. Once again, I don’t think any clinic would allow you to just phone up that morning and get an appointment with the click of your fingers. With the way this storyline is progressing, I don’t think it’ll come as a huge shock to me in a couple of weeks when Toyah does a pregnancy test and finds out it’s positive. Because, you know, it’s just that easy.
I decided enough was enough and I emailed ITV with my concerns and frustration at their complete ineptitude in portraying a storyline that affects thousands of couples in the UK alone and is a very sensitive and highly emotional subject. I have already seen many women mention their disgust with the show on some infertility forums, and I think the main thing that has angered so many people is just how easy it looks. It would appear that you just pick a guy, any guy will do, go to a couple of appointments, take one injection, a couple more appointments, then wham bam thank you Corrie, you’re pregnant.
As can be seen from my blog to date that is so far from the truth it’s laughable. My worry is that people who have been watching Coronation Street and reading my blog must wonder what on earth I’ve been moaning about for the past month – IVF is easy! Well I can tell you with certainty that it most certainly is not easy by any means. In fact I have been shocked just how hard it has been, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. The fact that Coronation Street has chosen to do a storyline like this without bothering to carry out any research just makes a complete mockery of the whole issue and my heart really goes out to all couples who are currently undergoing IVF treatment and watching this travesty take place on our screens. I guess with media like this, we are the only ones who will really know just how difficult it is.
I am currently awaiting a response from ITV, but I won’t hold my breath for any admission of guilt or wrongdoing. As one of the biggest soap opera’s in the UK, I guess they can do what they like.