Category Archives: Older Mums

Dressing for the final trimester

Final trimester

So now we’re into autumn and winter, By now, I need more maternity clothes but at least I’m only buying for one season. I invested in some maternity jeans. I did find the younger brands…Topshop, H&M just a bit too skinny for my older body. I tried on jeans from Mamas and Papas and Next but it was M&S that worked for me. Straight leg & a mid blue. Super comfy over my growing bump. And the overbump style added an extra layer of warmth. I found H&M were great for long sleeved vests and jumpers. I also already owned a couple of long sleeved tops that were cut loose enough to fit. My Ugg Chelsea boots had a lovely cushioned sole so helped me carry the extra weight.

Seven months pregnant:

7 months

Eight months pregnant:

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At almost full term friends had an informal Christmas gathering:

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And finally, heading into hospital for my section in a standard Phase Eight top in a loosely gathered style and my Barbour jacket with a scarf to help cover the gap for my bump. Luckily, we had a mild winter & I didn’t get too big so no need for a maternity coat.

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Dressing for the second Trimester – maternity wear for older Mums

Second Trimester

It was around this stage I bought some bump bands. Just a couple of cheap ones from Debenhams and they got loads of use. If you don’t know what they are, they are stretchy bits of material that you put round your waist that cover any gaps if your tops ride up and also allow you to unbutton your trousers. Brilliant for getting more use out of your normal clothes. I also bought some of those popular printed trousers from Monsoon which handily had a stretchy waist band. I’m still wearing them. I also borrowed a pair of Mike’s jeans for a while – just rolled up the legs. And jackets and long cardi’s were great for cooler days.

Four months pregnant (yay for stretchy vests)

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Five months pregnant

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By now I’ve invested in some H&M maternity vests and t-shirts which were great value. I also bought some black maternity leggings from M&S when they had 20% off. Think they cost around £7 & they got worn loads.

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5 months

Maternity wear – first trimester

I didn’t know where to start when dressing my growing bump. I was really conscious of being around 20 years older than the average pregnant Mum so I was hardly the average customer for maternity clothes. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune on clothes that wouldn’t have a long lifespan. I considered buying from Ebay but decided against in the end. I figured most women would buy as few clothes as possible and wear them to death. So here’s how I managed in the end.

Early Days – first trimester

I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my pregnancy in the early days so didn’t really want to shout from the rooftops and we told very few people. My early weeks were in the summer so I decided to just buy some loose tops and trousers that I would be able to wear the following summer as well. I also found some of my existing vest tops were very stretchy. So no maternity wear at this stage.

Two months pregnant:

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Three months pregnant:

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Loose jackets and long cardi’s were also very useful and I wore flats throughout.

 

Exercise classes: aqua natal vs yoga

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Prior to being pregnant, I was taking a weekly yoga class which I loved. I kept going for the first 6 weeks of pregnancy but then did some research and realised I should stop. Most yoga teachers advise no yoga for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter no lying on your stomach, flat on your back or strong twists. My existing class would need too many adaptations so I began looking for a local pregnancy yoga class. I did loads of online research and made a few phone calls but couldn’t find any classes at all locally for pregnant women. Big disappointment.

In the original maternity information pack there was a scrappy photocopied leaflet advertising the local council’s aqua natal class which you could join after your 12 week scan. I wasn’t sure aqua natal was for me.  I did yet more research on ANY exercise classes for pregnant women and discovered that the one hour aqua natal class on a Wednesday evening was the sum total of the local offer. So much for encouraging pregnant women to keep active!

I don’t know how you feel about aqua natal but I was very unsure, it just felt a bit dated and only offers the benefits of exercise.  Given that lots of people don’t enjoy swimming and lots of women, pregnant or otherwise, feel self-conscious in swimming costumes, then it feels even more inappropriate as the one and only activity offered by my local authority and NHS. Pregnancy yoga on the other hand includes breathing, exercise and relaxation. It teaches positions to help with pregnancy side effects such as bad backs and swollen joints, it helps get the baby in the right position for labour and you learn breathing techniques to assist with both relaxation and during labour. I started by doing quite a few YouTube pregnancy yoga tutorials but ended up buying this Tara Lee dvd which I love doing and, as an added bonus, also includes a section on hypnobirthing. Much as though I really wanted to meet other pregnant women, I felt that practising yoga by myself was the only viable option. Such a shame when there is so much emphasis on keeping fit and healthy and, for us over 50’s, that feels even more important.

On the plus side, I’m really enjoying an active pregnancy and the yoga dvd, along with some walking, gardening and housework has definitely helped me maintain a level of fitness that I’m happy with and, so far (touch wood!), I’ve had a complications-free pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

 

Booking appointment

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Following on from that first midwife appointment, I’d been sent a huge pack of information in the post, including my maternity notes and two appointments (booking appointment & the 12 week scan).

The booking appointment turned out to be a longer introductory appointment which took at least an hour. I have no idea why they call it the booking appointment and I really had no idea what to expect.

We basically went through the green “pregnancy notes” booklet filling in the sections covering contact details, who my named midwife is, if I smoke or take drugs, my employment status, my medical history, my mental health, my estimated due date and my family history. I had “primip” written across the page on previous births which I had to Google to find out means this is my first pregnancy.

The midwife, Michelle, then took blood samples testing for iron, blood group, antibodies, sickle cell, thalassaemia, rubella, hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV. Some of these I’d already had as part of the GP check up or as part of my fertility treatment so I was pretty confident there would be no nasty surprises.

I also gave my permission for the standard scans and the screening for Down’s Syndrome which would happen at 12 weeks. We went through the reasons for having the flu and whooping cough vaccinations and if I would be happy for me and the baby to receive blood if required.

Michelle talked me through some symptoms that, should they occur, I should contact the maternity unit immediately and also did a “antenatal venous thromboembolism” assessment. Thankfully age was my only risk factor noted so I came out at low risk.

We discussed diet and the importance of exercise and that I would be consultant led.

Overall it was a long but positive experience and I felt I wasn’t treated any differently at all because of my age. Although this was only my second midwife appointment, I was beginning to feel as though I would just be classed as an older Mum and essentially lumped in with all the other over 35yr olds. Such a relief!

Early days & first visit to the midwife

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I was dreading the first visit to the midwife. I knew my GP was comfortable with me getting pregnant at my age but I was worried about the rest of the NHS staff. My first appointment was less than a week after I had tested positive but by the time it came round I was officially 5 weeks and 1 day pregnant – very odd. It’s strange the things you don’t know when you’re pregnant for the first time, I had no idea you are technically pregnant from the date of your Last Menstrual Period (LMP) – which was about 3 years ago in my case!

I went along with a small notebook which has become my pregnancy bible. On the front page, I have all the key dates ie fertilisation date, embryo transfer and from these I worked out my estimated due date (EDD) & the donor’s LMP. I also noted down the medication I was taking and key phone numbers. I used this online ivf calculator to work out the LMP and EDD. I had questions for the midwife written down and I was feeling a little bit of pressure to get some results.

Reprofit wanted my HCG levels monitored via blood tests done at regular intervals to check the hormone is increasing at the expected rate. Most people get these done at a local fertility clinic but I didn’t have links with any and was struggling to find a private provider locally. Reprofit also wanted an early scan, at around the 6-7 week mark when a heartbeat should be detectable. I understood the importance of this as heartbeat is a key measure of their success. In 2014, 70.3% of donor egg cycles at Reprofit resulted in a positive pregnancy test and 56.2% resulted in a heartbeat detected (blame those awful chemical pregnancies/early miscarriages for the difference). I also wanted to see a heartbeat as soon as possible as I was still worried at the prospect of a chemical.

Much to my relief my first appointment went surprisingly well. The midwife took my contact details and date of birth and explained the basics eg. which foods to avoid in pregnancy. She explained that, because of my age, they would want to take extra care with me so there would be an automatic referral for consultant led care. I would be sent a pack of information in the post, including my maternity notes, along with an appointment to go along for a longer meeting with a midwife called the “booking appointment”, during which they would also take some basic blood tests.

She explained that the NHS does not offer HCG testing but she understood why I would want an early scan. She gave me the number of the EPAU (Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit), based at the hospital, and said to give them a call and see if they would consider an early scan on the grounds of my age and it being an IVF pregnancy.

I sat in the car park of the GP surgery and phoned the EPAU and was hugely relieved when they agreed to scan my and gave me an appointment for a couple of weeks time. Reprofit would just have to do without their HCG levels.

Now I just had to sit and wait and hope that everything continued to go well.

OMG, I’m pregnant, I think?

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You would think getting a positive pregnancy test would be all you need to believe you’re pregnant but that’s not my experience.

I found it took a long time for the news to sink and then I started to question if this pregnancy was real.

One of the downsides to online forums is you hear about “chemical pregnancies” which were news to me. And they’re scary. Chemical pregnancies are an early miscarriage and take place before anything can seen on an ultrasound scan – so before 6 or 7 weeks. The cruel thing is, you have produced enough of the HCG hormone to give you a positive test but the pregnancy fails almost immediately. Within a few days HCG levels have dropped sufficiently that you no longer get a positive test. Chemical pregnancies are more prevalent among women who have been through IVF as we test early. Most women who conceive without assistance don’t realise they are pregnant until they miss a period and, at that stage, you are much less likely to have a chemical pregnancy. The problem is exacerbated by the current home pregnancy tests with their ability to detect a pregnancy early on. Knowledge of chemical pregnancies puts a new slant on your positive pregnancy test – will this embryo stay with me?

The thought of a chemical pregnancy was exacerbated in my case by my continued lack of symptoms. Some women start to feel nauseous (or may even vomit), need to wee more often and/or feel unusually tired early on in their pregnancy and these are reassuring signs. But I continued to be free of symptoms. How do you know you’re pregnant when you don’t feel any different?

So I did what I suspect most women do…..kept testing. I went and bought another twin pack of tests and re-tested a few days apart. Thankfully, as you can see, the second line on the test kept getting darker and darker as my HCG levels began to rise. I was slowly starting to believe I may be pregnant but, even then, at the back of my mind, I was still dreading a miscarriage.

I did start the ball rolling, though, and made that first appointment with the midwife at the GP surgery which was one of the most surreal phone calls I’ve ever made. I never ever thought I’d be going to see a midwife and I was worried about the reaction I might get. At this point I was just about still 49yrs old but my 50th was looming. How would NHS employees react to my age?

When should you do a home pregnancy test? My experiences….

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While running the gauntlet of the Two Week Wait, you’ll need to decide whether to test before the official test date (OTD) given to you by your clinic, or not, & it’s a toughie. Of course, if you’re pregnant you want to know asap but are you ready to handle yet another negative pregnancy test? And, if it’s a no, is it a real no, or have you just tested too soon? Home pregnancy tests only work when there is enough of the pregnancy hormone HCG in your urine and, if your embryo was a late implanter, then you may take a little longer than the next woman to reach the required level so testing early may give you a false negative. But just remember if you test early “It Ain’t Over till OTD.”

In my case, I had a blastocyst (usually a 5 day old embryo that has developed normally) transferred and was asked to test 12 days after transfer. The online forums may refer to this as 12dp5dt (12 days past a 5 day transfer). I made a mistake and tested impulsively 10dp5dt and got a negative but I had multiplied the mistake by testing in the afternoon and using a poor quality test. I also had a full bladder so, if there were any hormones in there, they were no doubt well diluted! As I had a complex transfer and no definite symptoms during the two week wait then the result was no surprise to me. I was convinced it hadn’t worked anyway. So I decided to wait a couple of days until my OTD to confirm it hadn’t worked and focussed instead on the two frozen embryos I had waiting for me.

My OTD was a Sunday morning. I woke up quite early and snuck off to the bathroom. I’d bought a supermarket own brand test as I figured all I was doing was confirming a negative. I honestly could not believe my eyes when the second line started appearing almost immediately and it was a definite strong line – take a look at the picture! After staring at it for a few seconds and looking at the instructions again to check the result actually meant positive, I wandered in to a drowsy Mike and mumbled “I think it might have worked”. He, of course, had no idea what I was going on about. I managed to burble out enough sense to get him to come into the bathroom to check the test himself. A definite positive result.

I suspect all couples act differently when faced with a positive pregnancy test. Mike and I reacted with utter shock, no tears, no elation, no jumping up and down, just pure shock. I think we had each convinced ourselves we couldn’t be so lucky for this to work first time and my lack of symptoms had reinforced our belief. We just hugged, stared at each other, stared at the test again and honestly the fact that I was pregnant just would not sink in. I spent the morning going back and looking at the test every 10 minutes or so. But it would not sink in.

But I was, I really was pregnant. OMG…….I am going to have my first child at 50yrs…..

Two Week Wait

 

 

There’s no doubt the two week wait before you can do a pregnancy test  is a challenging time. There’s so much advice out there on what to do and not to do, and, as always, it’s inconsistent.  The key messages I took were as follows:

  • Don’t take to your bed for two weeks, gentle exercise is a better idea. I did yoga and gardening through my two week wait as I think getting the blood flowing is a good idea.
  • Keep hydrated
  • No heavy lifting
  • No baths, swimming and no sex to avoid infection
  • Keep taking your prescribed medications at the same dose
  • No sporting activities
  • No alcohol
  • Avoid the foods they tell you not to eat when pregnant
  • No caffeine
  • Some people swear by brazil nuts or pineapple to aid implantation. I did occasionally eat these but I was intermittent at best.
  • And, finally, TRY to relax….so much easier said then done when you will undoubtedly have a  running dialogue going on for the whole time…

Has it worked? Is that a symptom? Should I exercise? Thank goodness I have frosties to fall back on, we can always go back for another go. Should I test early? How soon can a pregnancy test detect HCG? Perhaps going to yoga this week will help get the blood flowing around. Are my boobs any bigger? Is that just the progesterone? Why do other women find it so easy to get pregnant? Does my stomach feel harder than yesterday? Is that a sign? Why are the days taking so long to pass? Can we have sex? And how can Mike stay so calm? Oh, I just fell asleep in the passenger seat, that’s unusual, does that mean I’m pregnant?

Seriously, the two week wait is just hard work so I think the easiest thing to do is accept that as the case and get through it as best you can. Go back to work, stay busy, find anything you can to distract yourself, stay away from Google.

If you really want to symptom spot then these are the most popular symptoms reported on Fertility Friends from people who went on to have a positive pregnancy test, in order of most reported. But I think you’ll agree, many of these are also common pre-period symptoms and/or side effects of IVF medication so I suspect this is a list that only works in hindsight!

  • Period pains
  • Tummy cramps (not AF type)
  • Painful boobs
  • Frequent peeing
  • Large boobs
  • Backache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Emotions change
  • Increased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness (room spinning)
  • Night sweats
  • Strong sense of smell
  • Veiny boobs
  • Spotting
  • Funny taste in mouth
  • Itchy nipples
  • Loss of appetite
  • No symptoms
  • Other
  • Vomiting

And GOOD LUCK !! As Mike said, what’s done is done and if it’s worked it’s worked and most probably nothing I do is likely to change the outcome.

Leave it in the lap of the Gods, and just hope for the best

Embryo Transfer

I was pretty nervous about embryo transfer, although excited too. This could be the day I get pregnant for the first time in my life! Mega busy morning as we had to pack and leave the apartment, store suitcases at the station and then make our way to Reprofit for our lunchtime appointment.

I’d watched a load of YouTube videos to try and get an idea what to expect but nearly all of them were American and they seem to routinely prescribe valium so were not surprisingly pain free. Reprofit say embryo transfer is painless so don’t offer any pain relief but I was a little concerned. I contemplated taking some paracetamol but then realised if the treatment didn’t work, I would undoubtedly blame myself. So I turned up painkiller free and free of any body cream or perfume. Let nothing get in the way of my success!

We had a meeting with our Doctor who updated us on the condition of our embryos. We were delighted to hear that three were good quality blastocysts so he suggested we pop one back and freeze two. Then, if we needed to come back, we could put two back in next time. We readily agreed.

A nurse took us to another room, asked me to strip off to the waist in a small cubicle, to not use the toilet (full bladder required), to wrap an apron around me and then get on the bed. My husband was sat alongside me. She placed my feet on the raised foot rests and prepared me for the doctor.

The first part of the procedure is similar to a smear test when the speculum is put in place. Then the doctor puts a tiny catheter through the cervix into the uterus using ultrasound for guidance. The embryo is brought in by the embryologist who double checks your name (can’t fault Reprofit’s procedures!) and the embryo is passed through the catheter into the uterus by the doctor and can be seen as a small blob on the screen. In most cases this whole procedure takes no more than 10 minutes.

Typically I had to have the longer version. No matter how hard the doctor tried and how many catheters the nurse passed him, they would not go through into my uterus. The embryologist appeared and was sent back to the lab and in the end the doctor went and found a colleague to have a go. We were at least 20 minutes and by now I was getting period pains which at times were quite strong. Mike was quiet as a mouse holding my hand tightly while I shut my eyes and focussed on taking deep breaths and staying calm. The nurse was wonderful. Thankfully in the end we got there and I could see that lovely little blob on the screen and the cramps immediately stopped. I’d read somewhere that laughter following transfer can increase success, in fact the more relaxed you can be the better, so we watched some stand up comedy routines on our iPad (free wifi at Reprofit) while we rested for 10 minutes.

And then the mega busy day continued. Straight onto the tram back into town, a quick coffee and muffin at McDonalds in Brno then onto the train out of the country and we flew later that evening eventually getting home around 12 hours after our transfer.

And so began the dreaded Two Week Wait until we could do a pregnancy test.