The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

by | 26 Jan 2014

In this month’s edition of Fertility Road magazine, I’ve written an article entitled Fertility Clinics: the good, the bad and the ugly. I should know. I’ve been to nearly a dozen in my time – I could write the Lonely Planet guide to fertility clinics (and they can be very lonely places).

I won’t rehash the article here because I like to keep my Sunday blogs brief. Sundays in our house are for box sets (and much respect to those of you who have already finished the last series of Breaking Bad). But I do want to say that I think there’s room for improvement on many fronts: staff that need lessons in empathy; producing rooms that double as broom cupboards; and medical mistakes that could (should) be avoided. I have experienced all these things and more.

The one thing I do want to highlight though is that fertility clinics are shit at the psychological stuff. I was surprised to learn recently that under the 1990 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, it is mandatory for all clinics in the UK to offer their patients counselling before and after treatment. I have never been to a clinic that has asked what we’re doing to sort out our heads. And over the years my head has gone to some dark places where I’m pretty sure that nothing had any chance of growing.

There’s still a lot of conflicting evidence about whether infertility is purely physiological or whether psychological factors play a part. If Ladbrokes were taking bets, I’d lay money on it that the mind does have something to do with it. And even if it doesn’t, the longer you struggle the harder things get in your head. So why aren’t clinics routinely offering their patients therapeutic support? And why has no clinic – not a single one – ever contacted me after a failed round of treatment to see whether I’m actually alright. You just need to watch Series 1 of Breaking Bad to know that when things go wrong with your health, life can get very bad indeed.

So this week’s question? What are your most ugly experiences of fertility clinics?

And for my Fertility Road article click here:


  1. Pippa Kassam

    My most ugly experience so far……this would be during our last cycle (which was abandoned during the stimulation phase due to OHSS), which was also incidentally our first cycle. The Consultant proceeded to tell me the bad news about abandoning the cycle with me perched on the end of the couch, trying to pull down my dress, as he had not spared me the time to get my knickers and tights back on! I’m a Ward Sister so I know all about busy and pressure, but the lack of compassion was devestating! I was on my own and totally thrown by this news, visibly a blubbering wreck and yet I was in and out in 15 minutes with no time to collect my thoughts or to remember the questions I needed to ask. Important shit like “how long do I continue Buserelin?” & “will I be unwell now for a few days?” Like you say, no follow up call or anything! I am keeping notes for my feedback letter to them (with or without successful treatment)!

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Thanks so much for commenting. This kind of lack of empathy makes something that is already horrible even worse. I think it’s so important we share our bad experiences because if enough of us speak out then hopefully things can change. Human kindness is so important in fertility treatment and I’ve seen some great doctors/nurses but also some really terrible ones. Your consultant sounds like one of the worst. Jessica x

  2. Lilly

    My fertility clinic (in Philadelphia, PA) insisted that we meet with a counselor. I did find that all the health care professionals treated me/us with understanding, except for maybe one receptionist and one ultrasound tech, but the doctors and nurses had full understanding. I guess I was and am fortunate in that. I did end up having a baby via donor egg. Though now, believe it or not, I face judgment from others because of my age, and I choose not to share with too many people that we actually did a procedure to conceive, for the judgment I know we would encounter.

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      It’s so encouraging to hear that your fertility clinic insisted on you having counselling (I hope it’s not just Philadephia!) but so sad to know that the flip side is the judgement of other people now. I think people’s judgement (or fear of their judgement) is one of the very worst aspects of infertility (whether you are successful or not) and I just hope you can find a place of peace beyond it. Thanks so much for your comment. Jessica x

  3. Lesley Pyne

    I absolutely agree with your article, admittedly it was a few years ago now, but we were never offered any help & not contacted at all after our treatment failed. I have spoken to many childless women & so many have had a similar experience.

    Our worst experience – we’d just failed a cycle & saw the consultant who had a very heavily pregnant. assistant with him, He asked if we minded & as we felt intimidated we said no, but actually we minded very much but it was already too late.
    I appreciate that students need to learn but we’d just failed a cycle (or maybe 2 I can’t remember) & she had the very thing that we couldn’t have.
    We both felt it was really insensitive & remember it vividly even though it was over 10 yrs ago now.
    I have to say that we also experienced many examples of kindness from the nurses especially.

    • thepursuitofmotherhood

      Brilliant comment Lesley. And, to be honest, it’s good to know I’m not alone – because sometimes you do feel as if you’re alone and that everyone else is getting something you’re not, either because you don’t deserve it, the doctors ‘hate’ you, or whatever other nonsense you’ve told yourself! Maybe if enough of us speak out something will change? I hope so.