I am now on my second week of my down-regulator tablets and so far, so good. I have had some mild side-effects like nauseous, stomach cramps and generally just feeling tired, but nothing that is stopping me from going about my normal life.
I have another few days of these and then next Monday is my base-line scan at the fertility clinic. This will determine whether everything is as it should be and all being well, I will start my hormone injections next Tuesday. And then the real fun will begin!
Last week I started my reproflexology again which I will be doing alongside my IVF cycle for as long as I’m able. The lady that I go to, Angela, is so lovely and really tries her best to help everybody that she sees for fertility reflexology achieve their dream. To this end she also wants to make sure that I’m not putting anything into my body that could potentially harm my chances of falling pregnant, or staying pregnant. She therefore speaks to you about the importance of good diet, no alcohol or smoking, limited caffeine etc. In this regard Dave and I are pretty good, however, another area she talks about is medications that you may be currently taking. This is where I’m not so good, as on a daily basis (not including my fertility drugs), I take 4 separate medications. Angela explained to me the dangers of some of the medications I was taking and the possible damage they could do to a foetus, as well as the increased risk of miscarriage. Whilst I’m obviously not pregnant at the moment, the fertility clinic do advise you that whilst you’re going through IVF to act as though you are pregnant; that way you are giving yourself the best chance in becoming so.
One of these medications is my asthma inhalers which keep me alive, so obviously that is a no-brainer and something that I need to take daily. The pills which are the main problem are my anti-histamines (I have strong ones from the doctor as I have bad skin allergies), and my anti-anxiety medication, which is known as an SSRI which stands for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor, and they have been keeping me on an even keel since our first miscarriage, when I felt that things started to spiral out of control. My dose has changed a few times over the past year and a half and at the moment it’s the highest it’s been, albeit it’s still nowhere near the highest dose possible.
Angela mentioned to me some of the dangers of being on these tablets whilst undergoing IVF and suggested that I perhaps do some research of my own to find out more information, since she is not a GP and cannot tell me what to do, it really needs to be my own decision.
That evening I scoured the internet for information on anti-histamines and SSRI’s and any possible dangers during pregnancy. What I read terrified me. The words birth defects, spina bifida, growth abnormalities and fetal heart defect jumped out at me. However, in typical world wide web fashion, for every site that mentioned potential damage, there was another one that stated SSRI’s were safe to take during pregnancy. I decided to look on the NHS website as I thought the information on there was likely to be more researched and factual. Again, it suggested that some SSRI’s are considered safe to take during pregnancy, however not in the first 3 months of pregnancy as this is when any abnormality is likely to occur. However, it did state that, in reality the decision whether to keep taking these tablets throughout pregnancy is a question of how much potential risk there is to your unborn baby versus how much you need to keep taking the medication for your own health.
Obviously, pregnancy, childbirth and post-partum can be a very stressful time for many people and if you already struggle with some form of mental health disorder, it is perhaps the time when you may need your medication the most. It will also affect breastfeeding which may play a part in your decision-making process too.
At the end of last week I spoke to my GP and made the decision to come off all my medications. We have come too far and been through far too much heartache to let some pills potentially spoil all our dreams. Since this will probably be our last shot of IVF, we really want to feel like we’re giving it our all, and if the cycle goes wrong or I miscarry again, I don’t want to look back and think it’s because of something I did or didn’t do. I know I wouldn’t be able to carry that guilt, so we feel this is the best course of action. Of course, I can’t just stop my pills straight away. This has to be a weaning process done under GP supervision so I won’t be completely off of everything until a couple of weeks, but hopefully by the time my embryo transfer comes around most of the medication will be out of my system.
Whilst I feel good about the decision we have made, a big part of me is also terrified at how I’m going to feel. With my antihistamines, I know I will just be horrendously itchy, but I can cope with that, and there are lower dose ones that I can take if things get really bad. With my SSRI’s however, I’m scared of how my brain is going to react. I’ve been very dependent on these pills for the past year and a half, and I’m terrified that I’m going to go back to the bad head space I was in then. My GP also expressed concern that God forbid, our cycle doesn’t work, I will be left devastated without any support from my medication. As the pills take approximately 6 weeks to build up in your system and give you any benefit, it’s not as though I could just go back on them straight away after our failed cycle and they would work immediately.
And of course, there’s nothing to say that even if everything does go how we want it to, our baby won’t be born with some birth defect anyway. This doesn’t just happen because the mother or father were taking a specific medication; this can happen any time, to anyone.
However, we just want to feel like we’re doing everything we can to give ourselves the best chance. And with the support of my GP, my reflexologist, our friends and our family I am confident that we can get through anything. I know there will be tough times ahead and I’m scared of how my brain and body is going to react to withdrawal over the next few weeks, but we just have to keep thinking of the possible end result. We are putting our baby that we don’t even have yet, first. And that makes us feel like real parents.