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NAWP members open up about fertility problems and pregnancy loss

NAWP members have come together to share their personal experiences of fertility problems and pregnancy loss.

Wed 24th May 2023 The PDA

As NAWP, we want to help women find their voices and thrive at work. We have come together to talk about the very difficult topics of fertility problems and miscarriages. We dedicate this article to every single patient or pharmacist who has unfortunately experienced this.

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

Sam Annall, clinical pharmacist for a primary care network said,

“We started trying for a baby in 2012 and after 18 months of no success, we were referred for tests. After various tests, we were diagnosed with an ‘unexplained infertility.’ IVF was the best route for us.

We started IVF in 2016. The initial course of treatment was short, a few days of injections before egg collection. I had to have multiple appointments to explain the protocol, injection technique, and ultrasounds every couple of days to check on the follicles then finally egg collection. I took leave from my job as a community pharmacy manager using annual and a week’s paid special leave.

The initial hormone treatments put your body into a false menopause to stop any natural ovulation, I experienced hot flushes and other menopausal side effects. Then I was given hormone injections to get multiple eggs to develop and another injection to stop the release of these eggs. I had to attend every 2 weeks for ultrasounds as the eggs developed. This was getting uncomfortable as they got bigger, but gentle walking helped. Having time off work was essential, not just for the appointments but also to try and stay relaxed and stress-free.

After 10 days, I went in for egg collection. The night before a hormone injection is administered at an exact time to release the eggs from the follicles. Egg collection is done by guided ultrasound using a needle through the vaginal wall to collect the eggs from the ovaries. I was heavily sedated with midazolam and fentanyl. After, the eggs were injected individually each with a single sperm. We then waited for them to develop into 5-day-old blastocysts. Out of 13 eggs collected, 11 were successfully fertilised, and 5 reached the blastocyst stage. The best blastocyst was chosen for transfer and the other four were frozen.

Unfortunately, one week after I was hospitalised due to severe Ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome. During this time, I found out I was pregnant!  My employer was very supportive on my return to work and booked a locum for the first week, so I could only work a half day if needed so I could ease myself back in. The main support from my employer that was needed was the ability to be able to take the time off for appointments and be away from stress.”

IVF and miscarriage

Caroline Fawcett, senior pharmacist and lecturer said,

“My son was one of two embryos implanted – but the other didn’t make it. I also had a failed frozen cycle before my pregnancy with my daughter.  I found knowing workplace policies for appointments and procedures important. The difficulty in knowing how to label a failed cycle is important mentally – if it isn’t a pregnancy without implantation, then what is the loss to be called? Professionally, I have found the more people share, the more similar experiences are found – but it is important to respect the highly private and personal nature of fertility with its unpredictable journeys and individual hopes and desires (including the decision not to have children). To me, this is one of the biggest taboos for women in leadership roles. Yes, you can have everything, but not at once, and if you get the order wrong, sometimes you can’t go back.”

Supporting people through pregnancy loss

We spoke to Ruth Bender Atik, National Director of The Miscarriage Association, on how we can help increase awareness and support individuals going through pregnancy loss. Ruth told us that the Miscarriage Association provides support and information to anyone affected by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy, whether that’s the person going through the physical loss, their partner, or family members.  

She said, “Miscarriage is far more common than people think – around one in four pregnancies ends this way. One in 80 pregnancies is ectopic and one in 600 is a molar pregnancy. Some of those people will have had fertility problems too, either before or after their loss. But people don’t talk about any of these things openly and it can be a very distressing, frightening, and lonely experience. We help by providing a staffed helpline, live chat, and support groups, as well as a website with lots of information, downloadable leaflets, and a safe space for sharing stories.”

Ruth explained that sometimes individuals experiencing or worried about miscarriage might find it easier to speak to someone they don’t know. As pharmacists, we always assess the patient’s situation and signpost them if needed. So Ruth directed us to the website where we can order free leaflets and small cards that we can have in the pharmacy to hand out to the patient. The information can also help healthcare professionals that are going through miscarriages, as we sometimes forget we are patients as well!

Zoe Clark-Coats, CEO of Saying Goodbye said, “They aren’t sharing it with you so you can cheer them up, they are sharing in the hope it will help them survive.”

People don’t have to go through miscarriage or fertility problems alone – check out the links below to access support.


Access support

Get Involved

  • Follow the PDA NAWP Network on social media using the hashtag #PDAnawp
  • For more information about the PDA NAWP Network, click here.
  • If you would like to get involved with the network and its activities, please email:

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