2013-09-28

I’m a keen scuba diver, and diving is something that is an extremely relaxing hobby for me.

However, it is the sort of hobby that you have to have a certain level of health to do and (generally) you have to plan for.  To go on trips and holidays and so on demands committing your time and money often weeks or months in advance.

I’ve not dived since November last year.  As you know I have been doing IVF fairly solidly for all of 2013 so this has got in the way of my diving.

Firstly, you can’t dive during some of the bits of the IVF.  The pressure on your internal bits caused by being deep underwater doesn’t work with the growing follicles or hosting embryos, and you might get the bends or nitrogen narcosis if you are not careful, or diving might prove too physically demanding in the circumstances, or diving might not interact too well with the IVF drugs which are not designed for being 20 metres underwater.  It is hard to judge how risky diving is in these circumstances, and what the impact on the cycle could be – and this varies according to the point in the cycle.

Secondly, I have not had a clear advance view of when exactly these things might *not* apply and I therefore might be available to dive.  IVF is very vague and it is hard to predict in advance when I might be required to be where and doing what.  So if someone has asked me if I want to go diving a few months or even weeks in the future, I’ve not known if I could go or not and have had to say no.

Thirdly, you can’t dive if you are pregnant.  Each time I have done IVF I have hoped I might be pregnant afterwards, so booking diving trips and holidays for the post-IVF period has not made sense.

Well it is almost a year since I have been diving and that isn’t good for my wellbeing, and I am now into my third IVF and second thaw cycle which means I am in a better position to predict how I will react to the drugs and how long each component part of the cycle is likely to take.

With all this in mind I had been able to tentatively place this weekend in my diary for a diving trip.

In preparation for this I asked the nurse at the IVF clinic if I could dive (she said yes, but what does she know she asked if I was diving with oxygen tanks on my back to which I said yes because I knew she meant air…)

So I approached a doctor that is a diving expert to check whether diving during IVF was ok.  This guy is a GP and a diver, and he is the go-to guy in Scotland for these sorts of questions.

 

Dear Dr DiveDoctor 

I believe you are the expert to talk to with diving-related medical queries.  I used to be a BSAC member and I gather you are the expert referee so it has been suggested that I email you with my question. 

I have been doing IVF this year (a fresh cycle and a thaw cycle, both unsuccessful) and consequently have not done any diving, but I am keen to dive because it is so good for my wellbeing and so relaxing for me, and I have an opportunity to do some low key diving soon.  It would be fresh water, good conditions, max depth 20m. 

I am about to start a further thaw cycle process with a frozen blastocyst and on the date of the potential dive I will be at the stage of taking a down-regulation drug plus a triple dose of HRT and folic acid.  The dive would be several weeks before the blastocyst transfer, and based on my past experience I expect to be feeling physically and emotionally normal at this point. 

I would like to know if it is OK to dive whilst taking these drugs and whilst doing IVF?  I could put you in touch with the IVF clinic if that is relevant. 

Thanks so much for your time, and kind regards, 

BabyMaybe. 

 

Dear BabyMaybe, 

There is no evidence recorded to give a proper scientific answer to your question. 

In general people tend to err on the side of caution when thinking about conception and pregnancy. This is mostly because it just seems sensible. 

Having said that there are plenty of diving women who have conceived while continuing to dive and even for the early part of their pregnancy, unwittingly. We do not have evidence to say that this is dangerous. An absence of evidence is not the same as evidence of no effect. 

If you are to go through hyper stimulation of ovaries there is a risk of fluid in lungs and this could be worse when diving. 

Otherwise the choice is really dependant on your attitude to risk, based on the evidence of a few men in a smoky room. 

Dr DiveDoctor

 

The husband and I decided that this – for us – was a go ahead.  Most medical advice around conception is cautionary ‘in case’ you are pregnant.  I wouldn’t dive if I thought I might be pregnant.  But I know I am not pregnant.  And in a thaw cycle the drugs are preparatory rather than actually making eggs to be used later or anything like that.  So long as the drugs don’t interact with the diving conditions (which he is saying they won’t) there is unlikely to be any negative effect on my health or the cycle from diving, and perhaps there could be a positive effect on my wellbeing.

So we decided this was a go-ahead, I was at the point in the cycle that I expected to be, and I felt sufficiently OK physically and mentally to dive in easy conditions.

So diving I went with the husband and a friend.  Oh it was lovely, it was so relaxing to float about underwater.  Neutral buoyancy feels like flying, it is the most amazing feeling.  I felt good to have been able to do it after so long.

I just did one dive and I was exhausted and sleepy tired after, but it was so worth it.

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