BEFORE GABRIELA - 2 failed ICSI cycles

As a medical doctor, I knew after four months of trying to conceive without success that we needed to look into our underlying health conditions.  Our General Practitioner refused to do any tests until we reached one full year of trying to conceive, regardless of our underlying health issues.  

After 3 months, I met with the lead GP, who agreed that we should be tested earlier due to our underlying medical conditions.  The tests revealed severe male factor issues, but the bad news was made even worse by how it was delivered. 

The doctor thought we knew the results of the first sperm analysis since we were there for the second. The second analysis only confirmed the problem, so the news was abruptly given.  We were both extremely shocked and understandably upset.  I didn’t cry at the doctor’s office but all the way home and into the evening.  It was such devastating news.  

Having children is the only thing I have ever been sure about, and the ability to do that was now being questioned. 

We were referred to the fertility hospital after this appointment.  Luckily, we were seen relatively quickly. The consultant we saw was reluctant to treat us due to my health problems, dealing another blow.  However, after speaking to my normal consultant, he was more than happy for me to have treatment and even have multiple embryos transferred if needed.  The fertility consultant was adamant only 1 embryo would be transferred.  Looking back, I was still very optimistic. 

During our workup, we asked what we could do to help our chances and were met with ‘good diet and exercise’ without any detail.  Our center did run a holistic care series that involved many of the practices from The Fertility Breakthrough Program™.  

You could book to see a reproductive biologist/nutritionist privately for extra investigation and treatment.  While I was open to exploring some of these ideas to improve our chances, I wasn’t ready to see this person privately. So, I began to look into many of the supplements she had broadly suggested were beneficial to fertility.

Onward we went, trying our best to live a healthy life with a good diet and exercise.  Our first ICSI cycle went relatively smoothly regarding injections, scans, and egg retrieval. We didn’t get many eggs, but it’s about quality, not quantity, I kept telling myself.  

When we got the phone call from the embryologist to say there had been no fertilization, I was devastated. I didn’t even know this was a possibility.  How could it happen? The sperm was injected into the eggs.  How does nothing happen? I cried so much after this news.

We clung to the motto of onwards and upwards.  I began searching the internet for stories of no fertilization, which led me to a team in Oxford and a different team in Belgium that specialized in cases of no fertilization.  We went to have a test in Oxford to look for a lack of protein that can cause these problems.  So, my partner went for the test, and we awaited the results—more bad news.  There wasn’t enough sperm to conduct the test. 

Off we went to Belgium to see another specialist.  She thought the protocol used in Leeds was reasonable.  There was only one thing she would add.  

Again, I asked about supplements, diet, and lifestyle changes. Her response was similar to what we’d been told before:  try to lead a healthy lifestyle, but there isn’t much that can be done to improve things, and there is no evidence for much of it. 

She said it can’t do any harm.

So we returned to our fertility consultant, who said we should try it again.  I asked if the protocol would be changed to try and get more eggs.  No – he planned to do the same thing, hoping for a different result. It felt insane if we were not in any place to question or demand something different. We were at the mercy of what the doctors were and weren’t willing to do.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across Gabriela Rosa’s introductory online program.  I signed up and just watched from the sidelines.  I was nervous about hoping something could be different; it was an intense program, too.  I made a few changes here and there but didn’t fully commit.

I decided to have a course of acupuncture before and during the next cycle. I’d read mixed things about acupuncture and felt it could help and was worth a shot.  I accepted it was probably desperation.  I found the sessions quite relaxing, and so was a way for me to unwind, if nothing else. But I recognized that I was grasping at anything that could help without knowing for sure. It was so frustrating and disheartening never to have any kind of certainty.

So, we did the second ICSI cycle, and things were improving.  We had more eggs, and some fertilized.  It wasn’t a significant percentage, but some. I got sick from the egg collection and had a fever for around five days.  Despite this, they wanted to transfer our only surviving embryo. I looked up papers regarding pelvic infection and implantation rates and found zero positive implantations in the few papers.  I cried so much.  I still was not feeling well and was convinced I was “boiling my embryo.”  

Surprise, surprise, my period came ridiculously early. The clinic said it was too early for them to do a pregnancy test, and they wanted me to continue with the progesterone suppositories and heparin injections until they could do a test.  It was pure madness.  

What surprised me about the whole process of fertility and IVF clinics was just how protocol-driven everything was.  You had to go along the path without any deviations or corrections for your circumstances. It seemed to be so counterintuitive.

At our follow-up appointment, we were told the chances of a successful cycle were pretty poor and that I must have poor egg quality for us to have two poor ICSI cycles.  We were then advised to investigate embryo, egg, or sperm donation.

Immediately after this appointment, I broke down, and I’ve never cried so much in all my life.  I literally couldn’t stop crying.  We then had some long, complex discussions. Going down the embryo donor route would be hard because we are a mixed-race couple.  So we started exploring adoption and went to an adoption information day full of hope and positivity. 

At the information session, we were told we couldn’t start the adoption approval process until after my husband had his kidney transplant. At this stage, there was no renal donor or date.  It could be years. I tried to argue my case a bit.  Yes, a transplant sounds scary, but it is a relatively straightforward operation with a 5-day hospital stay.  

But according to them, that is too stressful for any child to face when newly joining a family. I didn’t have any tears this time; I’d cried too much already and was all out, just stunned. So, if we wanted a child, we’d have to pursue the donor route. 

It was then that I found Gabriela and her online programs again. Looking into what she was doing produced my first natural optimism in such a long time. I signed up and threw myself into it headfirst. Lemon drink, check, plastics out, check, on we went.  As the program drew close, I wanted to give my everything for the next IVF/ICSI and do a tandem cycle. And it had become clear that our best bet was to continue working with Gabriela.

So, we filled out the questionnaire and attended a group information session with Gabriela for The Fertility Breakthrough Program™. It all happened so fast, and there was so much doubt in my mind, but at this point, all I had to lose was money. It is a significant investment, but we reasoned it’s cheaper than a donor tandem IVF cycle.

Our journey up to this point had been relatively quick compared to most people.  I think this is because of my medical background and persistence.  From starting to try to the first fertility clinic appointment was 10 months. It was then just over a year to the first cycle and a year and 6 months to the second cycle. It was quite a stressful and emotional period for both of us. 

It felt like my life had become all about researching, reading articles and books, and being on fertility forums. I‘d heard of couples doing 10 plus IVF cycles or re-mortgaging their houses to pay for treatment. It was taking over our lives.  I had to put a limit on it. We decided on a financial cap to see us through 2 to 3 IVF cycles. But then we found Gabriela and her Fertility Breakthrough Program™.


After starting The Fertility Breakthrough Program™, things moved incredibly quickly.  I have a somewhat obsessive personality and got quite stressed with looking at ingredient lists and checking everything on EWG. But I was even more frustrated by the fact that none of this had been brought up previously by doctors as something affecting our fertility. 

Identifying and addressing our minor and major factors was gratifying, which were relatively easy to fix.  Everything our practitioner told us, I went and looked at the research.  It’s all there. Particularly the hyperhomocysteinemia, which is common in renal failure patients.  There is so much evidence that it is linked to the vascular complications of renal disease. Yet, testing and treatment (which is cheap, particularly in comparison to treating ischaemic heart disease or strokes) are not mainstream.  

Around this time, my husband was becoming more unwell and getting closer to needing dialysis.  So, we had to be extremely cautious with his supplements and dietary restrictions. It seemed most things allowed on the diet were out of bounds for him. It was tricky trying to balance doing what was best for his renal health with his fertility health. But the team worked with us the entire time.

I also had many problems and was repeatedly unwell. I got admitted to the hospital for the first time with a sickle crisis.  Something was causing me to be ill, so we had to stop the supplements.  I felt defeated.  I thought all the sickle crises must surely be destroying my ovaries.  My partner could barely stick to the fertility diet and was on minimal supplements. I had no hope anything was improving.  We both felt terrible about the program. I stopped all supplements and had a few weeks to rest and try to figure out what was causing the problems with support from our practitioner.

We saw our local fertility doctor for an updated analysis and to discuss future treatments. My partner’s sperm parameters had increased (Count 6.8mil/ml).  The consultant was pleasantly surprised.  He asked what we had been doing and said to continue as it was working. This changed things, too.  He advised that we should split the next cycle with my partner’s sperm and donor sperm.  We were elated, and it gave me hope that despite the difficulties, things were improving. 

We continued The Fertility Breakthrough Program™, planning our next tandem donor cycle in a few months. In the meantime, my partner had a date for his transplant.  So, with that in mind, we wanted to get a fresh sample frozen in Belgium (we were hoping to do our next cycle there) before the transplant, as we didn’t know how the surgery and immunosuppressive drugs would affect the sperm in the future. 

As my partner was now on dialysis, we made a day trip to Belgium to discuss donors and freeze a sample. 

We got an email saying the sperm parameters had improved and we should consider only using my partner’s sperm.  His count had gone up to 52.11mil/ml.  My partner thought they had missed the decimal point! 

I was having excited palpitations. We had one month before the transplant and decided to go for it.  We didn’t have time to chat with our practitioner about it.  So we tried adequately, probably for the first time, nearly an entire month of dancing every 2 or so days. I wasn’t hoping too much, but it was worth a shot. 

My partner had his transplant, and it thankfully went well.  While he was in the hospital, I had some spotting and cramps (which I never usually get) and thought my period must be coming, but nothing happened.  So, I took a test myself as my partner was still in the hospital. I didn’t even tell him I was taking the test.  It was just a cheap strip test. I was shaking. There was a faint positive.  I went out and bought more digital tests.  It was positive. 

I always hoped this was possible, but it was just amazing. I always say the miracle wasn’t The Fertility Breakthrough Program™ – that’s science – the miracle was finding them.  Of all the fertility clinics and people saying they can help you, I found someone who did that.  

From starting the program to a positive pregnancy test, it was 8 months. Starting the program was one of the scariest leap of faith moments I have ever had.  To put all your faith, trust, hope, and money into someone you found on Facebook in a time of desperation seemed crazy to me and my family and friends.   

Fast forward 18 months, and my son sleeps soundly upstairs.  I am so happy and proud to say that sentence and have him in my life. He is by far my greatest achievement.