So two weeks later, we were back at EPAU for another scan, Mike as calm as ever, me as nervous as ever and praying we would still have a heartbeat. And we did, just the one. Although the second sac was still there, it hadn’t grown, so we were confirmed as a single pregnancy with a lovely strong heartbeat and growing as expected. Such a relief.
We also found out our baby was now measuring 8 weeks and 6 days (we thought we were 9 weeks, 1 day so near enough) and is 21.3mm long, amazing that in 2 weeks s/he had grown 15mm!
We didn’t get a picture this time, though, apparently they are not really supposed to in the EPAU so we got lucky last time.
So we were on track now for the normal NHS process ie. a booking appointment and a 12 week scan. I just could not wait to get to that 12 week scan.
Oh my goodness, how nerve wracking are those first scans?! The early days are just so difficult as there is no way of knowing if you’re still pregnant, you just have to hope for the best. Yes, you can keep repeating pregnancy tests but the hormone HCG can remain in your body even if the pregnancy has failed so they’re only reassuring up to a point. All IVF ladies will have read stories of people turning up at those first scans only to find no heartbeat, even in cases when there was a heartbeat previously, so those early scans are both lifesavers and something to be feared.
My first scan was at around 7 weeks so the sonographer should be able to find a heartbeat. It was a real make or break appointment although something inside kept telling me all would be well. The EPAU (Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit) staff could not have been more helpful and, after a quick chat with a midwife, Mike and I were called through for the scan, another internal scan at this early stage.
The relief when the sonographer said I’ve found a heartbeat was immense and we could see it pulsating on the screen. Just the most incredible sight and the first sign that this pregnancy really was happening. I was just a little shocked by her next words, though. It seems that the embryo had split and there were two gestational sacs! The second one appeared to be empty but she wanted us back in a couple of weeks to double check we weren’t expecting twins. Now that was a shock. Although we knew it was possible a single embryo could split, we had hoped that, by having a single embryo transfer, we had minimised the chances of twins.
We had a chat on the way home and both thought the chances of the second sac developing were probably slim and, even if it did start to develop, I knew that most twin pregnancies were a singleton by the time the 12 weeks scan came around. But if it was to be twins then, so be it, we would just have to find a way to make it work.
In the meantime we would just celebrate the fact that we had a heartbeat – so far, so good.
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.