My Experience of IVF with Crohn's Disease
Today is one of the posts that I wish I'd had in hand almost two years ago when I embarked on IVF. You wouldn't think that fertility and Crohn's disease would be linked, and for many women, they're not. But I definitely found that my disease played a part in my decision to have IVF and led to me changing some things in the IVF cycle. So today I thought I'd blog about this topic; in the hope that it helps others who are perhaps considering going through, or about going through, IVF.
Are women with Crohn's disease more likely to have IVF?
One thing that really reassured me when I was trying for a baby is the knowledge that, in general, having IBD doesn't really impact your fertility. Although, of course, if you're in a flare, it can, in theory, be impacted. Before my diagnosis, I had missed periods; and I'd been told (when finally diagnosed) this was because my Crohn's was taking all of my body's energy to fight the disease and stopping menstruation. Therefore, I can only imagine that this could be the same when trying to get pregnant if you're very very unwell.
Therefore, I couldn't find anything to suggest those of us with Crohn's might need fertility treatments more often than those who don't. In my case, I found out I had low AMH (this is a measure of your ovarian reserve) and decided to try IVF before I started Humira.
My experiencing with IVF and Crohn's disease
When I found out my ovarian reserve was low, I was convinced it was due to my disease or the medication I've taken over the years. But, in fact, it can happen to anyone. I was in a weird stage of limbo between flare and remission (not quite flaring but not quite well) so I decided to try IVF before the next step which was to take Humira.
I had been told that the IVF might alter my disease, just like pregnancy hormones, and to be honest, I felt quite unwell throughout the whole process. This got worse when I had to take progesterone towards the end of the treatment, which really increased my diarrhea (I would later discover the same issue in the early weeks of pregnancy when progesterone is rapidly increasing).
My Crohn's disease meant I needed to change a few things. Firstly, many women take progesterone suppositories but I have instead prescribed injections; because progesterone suppositories have to be taken rectally and they were worried this would impact my perianal disease.
The standard protocol is to put the embryo back inside when the woman is awake, but I was put to sleep as I find any type of vaginal procedure really painful and have done since my perianal disease. This meant I had two anesthetics quite closely together but meant I avoided pain and could relax after the procedure.
The outcome of IVF
My IVF sadly didn't work. The day before I found out I had a really bad flare-up and the next day my bleeding started, confirming the cycle had failed. I will never know if that was my Crohn's or if it was never going to work anyway, but I'll admit that I did blame my body and my IBD when the truth is that failed IVF can happen to anyone. I read this study which showed that those with Crohn's disease have the same IVF successes as those who don't have it and it's not thought to influence it.1
However, despite this, I did go on to start my Humira the next month, and, the following month, I found out I had naturally fallen pregnant (cheers, Humira?!)
I'm very lucky that although my experience wasn't pleasant, I had my happy ending. I do have one embryo 'in the freezer' and it's something I think about from time to time but, for now, I am very much enjoying being a mom to my nine-month-old son.