Part 6 – Zita West Clinic & Top Quality Eggs, finally!!

Part 6. The Final Round – ding ding. London Baby!!

I had been given tremendous advice by Dr George and the Zita West team in relation to supplements, nutrition and keeping calm for what was set to be our final ever round of IVF.

I was in an extremely good place, mentally, and my health was on top form. I was finally losing weight, which was utterly liberating for me!! After years of struggling to lose weight, I stumbled across the possibility that I could suffer with a dairy intolerance. It had been suggested to me before, but I wasn’t ready to accept it, as I loved cheese!! Although, apart from a little cheddar, some mozzarella and the occasional use of creme fraiche and yogurt in cooking, my dairy intake wasn’t huge, because I really really hate milk. Yuck. However, I was struggling to lose weight, even after I cut out gluten,  processed foods and kept everything very low carb. I was also regularly suffering from IBS type symptoms!! So, following a simple blood test, it was revealed that I had a sensitivity to dairy and I was advised to cut it out. Although, we agreed to allow small amounts of feta, cottage cheese and halloumi, and see how we go.

Within 2 months of no dairy, I felt like a new woman and had lost 7lbs, which is utterly amazing for me, but the most shocking of all, was the fact that my body and face had changed shape completely!! It suddenly dawned on me that I’d been chronically inflamed and swollen for years!!!!! I was thrilled with the results, and didn’t look back. I settled into life without dairy with absolute ease, and I felt AMAZING. I am no longer bloated, inflamed or swollen, see this before and after picture of my face below!!

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Wowsers. I still have a shock when I look at the before picture.

I had more energy as a result of cutting out dairy, couldn’t remember the last time that  I had IBS type issues, was more flexible, happier, hadn’t suffered from back pain in months, and was finally losing weight!!! By this stage, I was also convinced that the dairy intolerance was playing a huge role in our IVF outcomes, as chronic inflammation is no good when it comes to fertility. As a result, I was feeling super excited and optimistic for the next round of treatment, and was sure that my new found health would support the cycle in an extremely positive way!!

My diet is mostly a Mediterranean style eating plan. Although, I would like to stress that it’s not a ‘diet’, but a new way of life. I understand that for some people, going to a weight loss club is the best way for them to lose weight, but I couldn’t stand the thought of becoming a yo-yo dieter, to me it seems so unhealthy. I wanted to work on changing my lifestyle and eating habits on a permanent basis, not just for IVF and weight loss purposes.

As a self-confessed foodie and lover of cooking, I was also worried about changing things too much. I mean, what food lover doesn’t eat bread and cheese for goodness sake?? However, I quickly found a new style of cooking, to maintain my foodie status, and I quickly discovered that you can maintain an extremely healthy lifestyle and be a foodie at the same time!!!

So, as stated above, I follow a Mediterranean style diet, with plenty of fish, plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables, grains, beans and nuts. I replaced butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil, and I also ensure that I maintain a low carbohydrate and high protein diet. Both of which are perfect for IVF and diabetes. This diet is also considered anti-inflammatory, so win win.

An average couple of days in the life of Emma’s diet go something like this….

Day 1

Breakfast – Smashed avocado, smoked salmon and 2 poached eggs

Snack – Hummus and rice cake

Lunch – Emma’s home made hearty stew, with beef chunks and butter beans

Snack – apple

Dinner – Monkfish wrapped in parma ham, with a chorizo and cannellini bean ragu, and a side of wilted greens.

Dessert (just a couple times per week) – Peanut and Dark chocolate Eat Natural Bar

It is recommended to eat 80-100g of protein per day when undergoing a fresh round of IVF, to support with egg quality, and the meal plan above has a rough total of 110g.

Day 2

Breakfast – Emma’s Spicy eggs (chopped tomatoes, wilted spinach, chilli and 2 eggs, oven baked)

Snack – Apple

Lunch – Prawn and Feta salad with lemon, olive oil and chilli flake dressing.

Snack – Mixed nuts

Dinner – Chicken and vegetable curry with small portion of brown rice

The average amount of carbohydrate in the above day 2 meal plan is 75g. I try to limit my daily carbohydrate intake to 50-80g per day. Studies have shown that reducing carbs, especially refined carbs and increasing protein can significantly improve egg quality, potentially double your chances of blastocyst formation and considerably improve clinical pregnancy rates. This is also good for non IVF’ers, especially those with PCOS, as low carb diets helps with insulin resistance. Elevated blood glucose levels, caused by high carb intake, can cause a pretty hostile environment for an egg to develop. I’m not talking about blood glucose levels high enough to be in diabetic range, just the general spike that a normal, healthy adult would get after a high carb meal.

I would like to take this opportunity to state that everything I write is my own opinion, thanks to research and actual first-hand experience. I am not a nutritionist or a medical professional, so always consult with your doctor, before making any drastic changes!! I also wouldn’t advise cutting out dairy, unless you feel that it is contributing to inflammatory and stomach issues, like I did.

Ok, so back to the IVF prep and in the 4 months leading up to the treatment, I also began taking a host of Zita West Supplements, including inositol which is known to improve insulin resistance and help with egg quality.

In previous cycles, I took everything under the sun. I am pretty sure that IVF no. 3 consisted of around 30 supplement pills a day!! What I have learned from my experience is that you don’t need to go overboard with this stuff. As long as you eat a healthy diet, packed with nutrients and take a good quality pre conception supplement, you’re good to go. I also found that taking so many things stressed me out, because I would panic if I forgot to take some, and then panic that I wasn’t taking enough, leading me to do hours of Google research and buying another 30 different types of supplements, on top of the 30 I was already taking!!! Ok, slight exaggeration in the amount of pills, but you know what I mean. I’m pretty confident to state that half of the ivf’ers reading this are either taking a considerable amount, or at least considering it!! Take it from someone who knows ladies, please keep it simple, for the sake of your sanity, if nothing else!! Below is the list of supplements that I took in the final fresh round, which gave us the best ever results.

Inositol  x 1.5 level teaspoon

Vitafem x 3 per day

Vitafem boost x 3 per day

Vitamin D spray x 2 squirts a day

Vital DHA x 3 per day

Folic Acid (I need a higher dose due to being diabetic)

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Link to Zita West shop as follows –

I’m not on commission by the way, hahaha, I just genuinely believe in these products. They are extremely high quality, and I wouldn’t take anything else now.

De-stressing and accepting our fertility issues was something that I was determined to achieve before this cycle. I firmly believe that stress plays a huge role in poor ivf outcomes, so working on my mindset was a must. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my nephew played a huge role in helping me to find peace with our situation, because he filled a huge baby-less gap in our lives. However, there was so much more that contributed to it. I remember going to a yoga and meditation workshop a few months before the cycle, and I got so much out of it. So much so, that I cried for 2 days afterwards, but the intense feeling of an almighty release was quite amazing. Other things that I did to help with my mindset was talking at length to a counsellor about my feelings, using the app ‘headspace’, regularly exercising, attending occasional guided meditation and yoga sessions, positive visualisation, and writing it all down. I love writing and it has definitely become a portal for dealing with my feelings. I have become my very own counsellor as a result. I also became better at giving myself a serious pep talk when I felt my head slipping into negativity. When I lay it out clearly in my mind and tell myself that ‘thoughts are thoughts, not facts’, it really works for me.

I was also ensuring that I was getting 8 hours sleep per night and began using an eye mask to help with achieving greater deep sleep. It all worked tremendously well and to eventually feel comfortable with the fact that it may happen for us, but equally, it may not was incredibly healing. To know that whatever our outcome, baby or no baby, I’m looking forward to an extremely full and exciting life with my husband, is an achievement so great that it has quite literally changed my life.

December arrives, I’m in a good head space, and I’m fit, healthy and very happy. Time to begin the IVF cycle!! The protocol was long, with buserelin to down regulate and fostimon and merional to stimulate the ovaries. I was to have a course of intralipids before embryo transfer, and begin clexane injections from the day of transfer, as part of my new and additional immune support.

London is fair trek from the Swansea valley, so we hired a gorgeous little flat in St John’s Wood, which was walking distance to Zita West and Care London, where Egg Collection (EC) and Embryo Transfer (ET) would be taking place. Lyn couldn’t take the whole time off work, so me and my mother went ahead, in time for my first stimulation scan, to check how many follicles were present. Apart from a scan and bloods every other day at Zita West, we had nothing else, IVF wise to do, so we packed our diary with every touristy trip possible. My sister came to visit at the weekend, and we had a ball. We went to the Tate, Little Venice, Madame Tussaud’s, Sushi Samba for the nicest sushi I have ever tasted, Camden Market, a catch up in Sketch with some gorgeous fellow IVF’ers,  Churchill’s war rooms and so much more. I honestly loved every second, and didn’t stress once about the cycle. I had the best time ever, and felt like I was on holiday. I fell in love with London during this time too, we had a great adventure in a city that I can honestly say is my adopted second home. My heart will always belong in the mountains, but there is certainly a piece of my soul that belongs in that city!!

During all of this fun, I began to feel more bloated than ever before, and I was occasionally getting pain in my ovaries. Stimulation scans showed that I had up to 20 follicles growing and a lining of 10.4mm, however my estradiol levels were through the rough at 28,000. No wonder I was bloated. I was at risk of OHSS and unfortunately it was deemed too risky to go through with an ET until everything settled down. It was decided that we would freeze all fertilised embryos and return for a frozen embryo transfer (FET) in the spring. I was surprisingly calm about the whole thing, and actually felt happy with the decision. I believe that the pressure a fresh IVF cycle puts on your body is too great, so to wait for everything to settle before a transfer made so much sense to me. Also, we had gotten pregnant via a FET before, so I felt confident that it would work.

Egg Collection day arrived and unbelievably, 26 eggs were collected. We were floored, because the average in previous cycles was around 10-12!! The next obstacle though, was fertilisation. This is where we struggled almost every cycle in the past, but blow me down, 22 eggs were mature enough for the treatment and a whopping 16 fertilised. Even more amazing, was that 12 of the 16 went on to blastocyst and were good enough to freeze! 12, waaaa!!!! We literally had no words for this amazing result. To go from as little at 20% fertilisation rates, and none to freeze in some of our previous cycles at other clinics, to a 74% fertilisation rate, with 12 top quality blastocysts to freeze, is just unbelievable. We always knew that making the move to Zita West was the right one, but never in our wildest dreams did we expect that result. We would have been thrilled with 1 or 2!!! Dr George and the whole team at Zita West are miracle workers and we’re still blown away by their knowledge and expertise in all things fertility. If you are considering a move to this clinic, do yourself a favour, and go now!!!! Thanks to Dr George and team we could honestly start to believe that after 7 long years, we may actually become parents someday. We can never thank them enough for that!!

Dr George ? Fertility  7/7/13

So armed with this wonderful news, and the London 12 safely tucked away in the freezer, we decided to head out and have a well deserved glass of champagne. We went back to Camden, as we wanted to catch up with family living close by, and I had seen a bar there the previous week, that I fancied. Bear in mind that I hadn’t consumed a drop of alcohol in months, and I had borderline OHSS, so champagne probably wasn’t the brightest of ideas, but I was excited, and drank it anyway. Some friends of mine also happened to be in London on a trip that evening, so we met up with them for a quick drink too. My intended 1 glass turned into 4 and by the time I got back to the flat, I was as sick as a dog!!! Jeeeepers, not cool at all….

I was so unwell, we decided to abandon the flat that was booked out for another 3 days and go home early. The train ride was hell on earth and it was at this point that I was beginning to worry that I had done something to make the OHSS develop and/or worsen. The Zita West team were amazing, they gave me a prescription for Dostinex (Cabergoline), which would help keep OHSS at bay, told me to eat plenty of protein, drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes, inc coconut water, keep off my feet, and they checked in on me every day for well over a week. They joked that I was probably getting sick of them, but the truth was, I was so grateful for their support. I was very impressed by the level of care offered, without a second thought to them.
I soon got over the cycle though, the bloating subsided after a couple of weeks and I was beginning to feel better, and ready to begin the prep for frozen embryo transfer no.1 of our London 12, but transfer number 6 in total. Exciting times!!!

Tune in next week to hear about the transfer, a pregnancy and another miscarriage….


Part 7 – A frozen Transfer, a miscarriage, and another nephew on route… Coming Soon.



Part 5. Reproductive immunology, Chicago tests and NK cells…

By this point, we had been trying to conceive for 5 years, had had 3 fresh rounds of IVF, 2 Frozen Embryo Transfers, and 2 miscarriages. We were almost done with the whole fertility saga, and having Liam in our lives was making the decision to stop trying so much easier. However, we felt that we owed it to ourselves to seek out a new clinic, to try one last round with a new protocol and immune treatment. We felt that we just about had one more round in us, but that was it. If it failed, we’d move on and we knew that that was going to be ok. We would create new hopes and dreams for our life together, we would travel more, and enjoy life as a couple rather than a family of four like we had once dreamed. To be honest, I would have been able to call it a day there and then. I was happy to move on at this point, and needed to, but I was scared that I would reach the age of 50 and regret the decision, because I knew that there was one last thing that we could try. So the hunt for a new clinic was on….

From around November 2014 to September 2015, I was frequently visiting a reflexologist who specialised in fertility. Her name was Barbara. I found the treatment to be extremely relaxing and beneficial, but thanks to her incredible knowledge and experience in all things IVF, I found myself opening up to her in ways that I never expected. This was around the time when I was still struggling to come to terms with the second miscarriage, so I needed an avenue to vent my pain and feelings, and Barbara became it. We talked about everything and she helped me to navigate my way through the confusing thoughts and feelings that I was experiencing. She also told me about some studies that she was aware of, and some potential tests that we could undertake, like the sperm DNA fragmentation test, to try and understand why we were having recurrent implantation failure and miscarriages.

I was also reading the book by Dr Alan Beer ‘Is your Body Baby Friendly’ at the time. His words made so much sense to me as I have an auto immune condition, as do most of my family members. We, as an extended family, have huge immune issues, ranging from Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Crohn’s Disease, Migraines, Fibromyalgia, Lupus and a terrifying episode of Hodgkins Lymphoma with my Grandfather just before our wedding. Barbara was also aware of Dr Beer and suggested that we may want to find a clinic to undertake the ‘Chicago tests’. She knew of other couples who had had success at Care Fertility in Nottingham, so we decided to book the tests with them, and a consultation with one of the Dr’s. However, there was one little problem – Nottingham was 184 miles away from our house, but we thought screw it, and went anyway. Jeepers, the things we do to have a baby, huh??!!


Information taken from the Zita West website states that “The late American physician Dr Alan Beer is at the heart of the work surrounding the idea that a woman’s own immune system might be responsible for repeated miscarriages. In layman’s terms, he argued that natural killer cells, or NK cells, which usually destroy cancer cells and viruses, could get out of control and target the pregnancy.

Research has suggested that during a normal pregnancy, a unique type of immunity occurs that stops a woman rejecting an embryo and aids the growth and development of the foetus. If this immunity does not exist embryos may not implant, early pregnancies may miscarry or later complications may occur for the mother or baby. Special tests may identify couples that are at risk of these problems. Treatment that stimulates the proper immune response (immuno-modulation) in the mother may then improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.”

For more information on reproductive immunology, please follow the link below…

So, in April 2015 we booked a hotel and went to Care Fertility in Nottingham. I planned on having the full Chicago tests and Lyn a sperm DNA Fragmentation test, as well as a joint consultation with one of the Dr’s. I was very impressed with them and the clinic was lovely, the Dr gave us some good advice, but one of the things that stuck out the most was her insistence that Royal Jelly can actually cause poor quality in eggs during an IVF cycle. By all accounts, the stuff is great when trying to conceive naturally, but for some reason, not in IVF. I was floored, and gutted. I had been taken Royal Jelly for years, thinking that I was doing my little eggies a great bloody favour. Ugh!!

Anyway, we had as many tests as we could on the day, but were told that the Chicago tests were only done on certain days, so I had to go back the following week. GUTTED!!! Lyn couldn’t get any time off work, so my lovely sister, who had an 8 week old breast fed baby at home, offered to drive me because I am a wimp on the motorway. It was also a nice opportunity for us to check out her old stomping ground, as she went to Nottingham Trent University. One thing I’ll never forget from that day, is coming out of the 15 minute appointment (368 mile round trip for 15 mins!!!! Eeeek) to find Katy with her electric breast pumping machine strapped to her chest in the car park. I’m sure that the poor guy who decided to park next to her was left more than a little red in the face. Katy however, found it hilarious, as did I.

A few weeks later, the test results came back in and it was confirmed that I had high NK Cells and a mutated gene linked to thrombophilia. If we were going to undertake another round of IVF, I would need immune support treatment. Lyn’s DNA fragmentation was perfect, couldn’t be better in fact. Probably thanks to all of the spinach and kale that I forced him to eat!!! Good quality DNA of the sperm is essential for normal embryo development. High levels of DNA fragmentation in sperm cells may cause implantation failure and miscarriage, but conventional examinations won’t pick up the problem, they just look for issues surrounding sperm concentration, motility analysis, and morphology assessment. DNA damage is caused by oxidative stress, such as smoking, lifestyle, poor nutrition, environmental factors such as high levels of heat. As a potential baby inherits DNA from both parents, if the sperm is damaged or fragmented, it can lead to implantation failure or miscarriage. The good news is that DNA fragmentation can be improved by a change in lifestyle, supplements and better nutrition.

For more information, follow the link below. There is a lot of information regarding DNA Fragmentation available on the site…

Armed with our newfound information, we decided that yes, we would do one final round of IVF, and having read Dr Beer’s book by this time, I was now aware of a pioneering Doctor in the field of reproductive immunology, who had been mentored by the man himself. His name, Doctor George Ndukwe. He used to be based at Care Fertility, but was now medical director at Zita West, London. Given than he was a world leader in this field, and this was our last shot at IVF, we decided to go to London for IVF with him instead. However, we would go on a little holiday first. Treat ourselves to a luxury break in the sun, before we possibly become parents!!

After a meticulous holiday search, we finally decided on Crete, to a 5* adults only, al a carte, all-inclusive resort. We could not wait. May 2016 came, and we headed to our own little corner of paradise. It was the most perfect week, hands down the best of our lives together. We had a swim up pool, quality food and drink on tap, beautiful views and only the sounds of running water and bird song. I have a 100 mile an hour brain at the best of times, but throw in IVF and miscarriage, and it catapults to a million miles per hour. It’s exhausting!!! However, for one whole week, it slowed to about 5mph, and it was glorious. We came home rejuvenated and happy, but most importantly, mentally ready for one final round of IVF.



So, it was August 2016 and off we went to London to meet the famous Dr George Ndukwe at Zita West Fertility Clinic. We wanted to find out from him if it was worth trying one final round of IVF, even though we had already discussed this with Care. He is a world leader in reproductive immunology and given my diabetes and history of miscarriage, I was convinced that he was the only man that could help us. Despite feeling satisfied about the next round being the last though, that didn’t stop me from feeling a mixture of great excitement and tremendous nerves at the prospect of meeting Dr George. What if he told us that there was no hope? He’s the best in his field and if he does, that’s going to be it for us!! It was a gut wrenching thought and I felt completely sick.

We arrived at the clinic, dripping in sweat, from nerves and the scorching London heatwave that was well underway, and as we sat in the waiting room, I remember feeling actual real fear, so much so that I was shaking, even my insides were shaking. This was our last hope. He was our last hope. I was silently chanting “please be nice, please help us, and please give us the news that we so desperately need to hear.” I was in a fog of terror, I had convinced myself that he was going to tell us that we should give up.

So we’re there, in this lovely waiting room, with calming music and comfortable chairs. I’m still shaking, and in walks Dr George. The second we met him, we fell completely in love with him. His big joyful smile that made his eyes twinkle, instantly set us at ease and his infectious laugh was just fabulous. I knew instantly that we’d be going back there for treatment and we hadn’t even set foot inside of his office yet!! I trust my instincts implicitly, they are always right, and I had one of the strongest of instinctive feelings ever with Dr George. I just knew. Phew, the relief was unbelievable!!!

Dr George ? Fertility  7/7/13

Our consultation was mind blowing. Dr George took us through all of the reasons why he felt that IVF and FET’s had failed for us in the past and stated that he truly believed we would become parents. He obviously could not guarantee it, but looking at our medical notes, we had a damn good chance!! Thanks to extensive research and having read Dr Alan Beer’s book, much of what Dr George was telling us, I already had a basic understanding of, but to have it confirmed by a medical professional of his stature meant so so much to us.

As you know, we had already been to Care Nottingham for the Chicago Immune tests, so did not need to have them done again and Dr George felt that due to my elevated NK Cells and mutated gene linked to Thrombophilia, I would require 3 intralipid infusions before the IVF and Clexane injections from transfer day. Due to my diabetes, he decided to stay clear of steroids, as they would interfere with my blood glucose control.

We agreed that we would undertake our 4th and final fresh IVF cycle in January 2017. Dr George wanted to wait a minimum of 3 months, to ensure suggested lifestyle changes, new supplements and nutrition changes would have the time to impact on my health and egg quality. We decided to wait a little longer though, as I felt that I needed more time to prepare, health wise and practical wise. We would want to live in London for the duration of the cycle, to minimize the stress of travelling, so I needed to find something fabulous and at a fabulously good price!! I also needed a fresh annual leave supply, as I would be taking 3 weeks off.

I was so incredibly pleased to hear all about the holistic approach to IVF at Zita West, because I had been trying to do it off my own back for around 12months, e.g. looking at my nutrition and finding ways to properly de-stress. The approach at Zita West met my expectations and needs exactly and fitted in with my newfound lifestyle perfectly. The advice provided by the nutritionist was exemplary and just fuelled my enthusiasm for transforming my mind, body and soul. I felt, for the first time in years, hope and excitement. And to top it off, Zita kindly gave me one of her relaxing scented candles to take home. That was the icing on the cake for us. We had been looking for a clinic that was at the top of it’s game, but was also friendly and would become part of our family, so to speak, and we had found them!!!

Stay tuned for Part 6, all about the best round of IVF that we have ever experienced and how we achieved 12 top quality frozen blastocysts!!

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Thank you for reading. Em 🙂 x