Emma Barnett says IVF is like 'banging your head against a brick wall'

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Emma Barnett during the #March4Women 2020 at  on March 08, 2020 in London, England. The event is to mark International Women's Day. (Photo by Lia Toby/Getty Images)
Emma Barnett during the #March4Women in 2020 in London. (Getty Images)

Emma Barnett says IVF is like 'banging your head against a brick wall'.

Speaking to Kate Thornton on White White Question Time, the broadcaster and BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour presenter spoke about the difference between going through fertility treatment without children and going through it now that she has a four-year-old son.

Barnett, 37, said having had success on her first round of IVF with her son, she was 'just in the nick of time' before the 2020 coronavirus lockdown to have an embryo inserted, but that it didn't work.

She told Thornton: "The shock of that hit me in the face because for the first time in my life, to do with my health certainly, I was confident.

"I was falsely confident it turned out, and the contrast of expectation and reality just was so overwhelming."

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Barnett said having read about and interviewed women who had done anywhere from six to more than ten IVF rounds, she never thought she'd be one of them.

"I've become fascinated by when people do things again, and again, and again, to try to have a different outcome," she added.

She described the process of going through fertility treatment as 'very binary' because there are only two outcomes: pregnant or not.

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Comparing it to sporting achievements and a recent interview she had done with British tennis player Andy Murray, Barnett said athletes, while they may win or lose, can also 'at least get to the semis perhaps and then you'll get a medal, or you'll get bronze, or you'll get some cash'.

But she added: "With this process, you can't be a bit pregnant. You can't have part of what you've gone in for. It's 'either or', so I think that's very sobering and quite dispiriting, to say the least, as you go back in each time."

Listen to the full episode to hear Emma talk about interviewing Kate Bush, going into 'host mode' with her friends and family, and why she loves her landline phone so much

The journalist, who worked for BBC Five Live and for LBC before moving to host Woman's Hour from January 2021 said she always thought about the families who had not been able to complete their rounds of fertility treatment during lockdown and called herself 'extremely lucky'.

"I do only have to look upstairs at a sleeping baby at night — hopefully, he is sleeping child — to know why we're doing it," Barnett told Thornton.

"And then obviously, I'm very mindful of those people who don't have a child at all who were doing this. It's just horrific, I'll never forget that. But it's different, again, doing it with a child."

Explaining her decision to write a first person piece in The Times newspaper's magazine on her unsuccessful treatments, saying she 'totally ripped off the band aid of not talking about it'.

Lauren Laverne, Emma Barnett and Martha Lane Fox joined digital media brand The Pool in an open panel discussion entitled: The World, as run by Women. Photo credit should read: Doug Peters/EMPICS Entertainment
Lauren Laverne, Emma Barnett and Martha Lane Fox at a panel discussion called: 'The World, as run by Women'. (EMPICS Entertainment)

She said she had concerns about looking 'greedy' to the would-be parents who had never been able to conceive, and that she should be 'grateful for her lot' she weighed up that there were more reasons to share her experience than not to.

Barnett said: "I realised that's another myth women can feed themselves: that we should just be happy and quiet.

"I wasn't writing it to complain, I was just writing it to simply state: I've done this now (at that point) five times, one miscarriage, and it's absolutely sh*t.

"I want to use the privilege of my platform, to say I'm doing it now, and it's still not working. Because I think often people only write about it or talk about it like I did before, when it's successful."

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