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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2006, 07:50 GMT
Personal story: IVF in Istanbul
By Helen Briggs
BBC News

Pregnant woman holding globe (CRISTINA PEDRAZZINI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)
'Over there they treat you as an individual; over here you're just a number'
Susan (not her real name), aged 35, works as a nurse in Scotland. She had a son as a teenager but has been struggling for many years to have a second child.

Eventually she travelled to Istanbul for treatment.

I had my son when I was 14, which was very young, and it wasn't a happy time. I didn't go to the antenatal clinic with the other ladies; I went to the doctors at night when there was nobody there.

When I went to have my son in the maternity hospital I was in a side room out of the way. Everybody thought I was too young so my mother looked after him and I was sent back to school for my 'O' levels.

I love him to bits, but I would like to have a happy, planned, pregnancy rather than an accident that everybody was embarrassed about.

Determination drives me on - and my madness with the NHS

When I was 19, I had a contraceptive coil fitted. The doctor told me I would have a lot of pain but that was to be expected. For about two or three months I was in agony.

I thought it would settle but eventually I couldn't bear the pain any longer and I went to a well woman's clinic. They examined me and said the coil was not even in the right place and that I had an infection.

I had been trying to have a family and nothing was happening, so I was sent to hospital for a laparoscopy. They said I had a really severe case of pelvic inflammatory disease, the worse they had seen.

They said that I would never become pregnant myself, I would need IVF, but I couldn't go on the NHS-based list because I already had a child. I felt like crying because my husband hadn't got a family and I felt they were discriminating against him.

'I lied to the doctor'

Three years later I was in a lecture about fertility and they said you could go on the list if you didn't have a child still living with you. So I went back to the doctor and lied and said my son was no longer living with me, he was living with his grandmother.

Istanbul
'The sheer size of Istanbul was a bit daunting but the people were kind'
I'm quite sure the doctor was aware that I was lying but he said I could go on the list and I got my treatment after about a year. The first time I tried IVF the pregnancy test was positive but then my period came.

The next two cycles were negative. I decided that my chances were gone and I was going to stop. But a few years later, when I was 34, I thought, if I don't do this now, I will regret it forever. So I paid to have a fourth cycle of self-funding IVF treatment at an NHS hospital.

I got a positive result but a few days later I started bleeding. I was back and forth to the hospital for two weeks getting blood tests and that was horrible because I was surrounded by ladies who were pregnant and were sailing through their treatment. That was in June this year and it was then that I decided to go abroad.

Over there they treat you as an individual

I chose the American Hospital of Istanbul in Turkey after reading a load of papers Dr Urman had written in medical journals. It cost about the same, but they offer routine treatments that they don't do in the UK.

'Just a number'

Over there they treat you as an individual; over here you're just a number. I think the clinics are several years more advanced than in the UK and your treatment is more individualised.

I found the sheer size of Istanbul a bit daunting but the people were kind and helpful. I was treated in a beautiful, big, clean, modern hospital with all the latest technology.

But when I went for my first scan, they found that both of my fallopian tubes were filled with fluid and enlarged. This fluid is toxic to embryos and they couldn't believe I had been getting treatment in the UK without having them removed.

They said they were 98% sure that this is what caused my miscarriage in June. They didn't charge me a penny in Istanbul; they said it was too much of a disappointment for me going all that way for nothing. But I had to pay nearly two grand for our flights and two weeks stay at the hotel.

'Money wasted'

The hospital in Scotland that had treated me in the past made me an appointment as soon as I came back. I took my scan pictures home with me and when I showed them to the doctor he agreed that it looked like the same diagnosis. But they scanned me twice and said they couldn't see the fluid in my fallopian tubes.

IVF/ICSI (Science photo library)
'They said that I would never become pregnant myself, I would need IVF'
I asked for another scan, where they inject a dye into your fallopian tubes, but the doctor said it was a waste of time. He said he wouldn't do the surgery to remove my damaged tubes as the procedure could be dangerous.

I have a plan B in place - I have been to my GP to ask to be referred to the gynaecology unit at another hospital urgently. If I can't get to see the gynaecologist in the UK in the next few weeks, I have booked to go to Kiev in the Ukraine for the operation. It is much cheaper; it will cost 450 for the operation and 700 for IVF.

'Postcode lottery'

My family aren't very happy about my decision to go there, especially my mother, who's a nurse as well. I am going to have to go on my own because I can't afford to take my husband because it will dip into the money I've got for IVF.

They are going to try keyhole surgery but if it fails they will have to revert to open surgery and it's a major operation. I'll be in hospital longer and I'll be on my own; it's not something I'm looking forward to.

I gave 17 years service as a nurse to the NHS and I feel really let down. I don't think I'm asking for a lot to have my tubes removed, or even for them to look to see if they can remove them.

I can understand why a lot of money isn't ploughed into IVF because the NHS doesn't have a lot of money and they've got to prioritise where that money is spent but I still think that they are backwards in their treatment methods and it's a postcode lottery for people to get IVF.

But determination drives me on, and my madness with the NHS. I think it's the thought that I'm going to have a baby, I know I am. I was pregnant in June and I'm sure if it wasn't for the operation I need, I would be pregnant now.





SEE ALSO
'We went to Hollywood for IVF'
14 Dec 06 |  Health
Personal story: IVF in Barbados
15 Dec 06 |  Health

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