8 April 2020

The Fertility Journey: My IVF Experience

IVF is a scary word - especially when you start trying to have a family. It becomes that worst-case scenario word that everyone is scared to talk about. It's not something you ever want to have to go through, or would wish on anyone. With that being said - it really wasn't that bad. 

It definitely feels like a taboo topic - don't say the word or you may have to do it! But I had a fairly positive experience so I wanted to make sure I shared that. I know not everyone's is the same, and I completely appreciate that, but as I said - this is just my experience.

You can see the video diaries for our IVF treatment here in full, but here's a little summary.

When we were (finally) told we had funding and we would be having IVF it was actually a relief more than anything. Because we'd gone through ovulation induction already with no success, and then months of sorting out the sh*tshow that was our referral, it was nice to know there was a plan. And not just a plan, but a plan that would finish this journey one way or another. There was an end in sight - if it worked we'd have our baby, if not then we knew it wasn't going to happen and we could finally move on. I can't even explain how liberating that felt after two years of will we, won't we. 

At the same time - it was also like. Ah crap, now we have to do IVF and it has this reputation for being completely horrendous. So I did what I always did - and went into research mode. I looked at lots of sites and places, however the one thing I would really recommend reading is Get a Life: His & Hers Survival Guide to IVF. Honestly cannot recommend this enough. I read it cover to cover in one sitting and it gave me so much useful information - including things your not necessarily told at the clinic. I found this invaluable, as when we then went for our appointment to walk through our treatment I didn't feel too overwhelmed and I understood a lot of the process. It is a little out of date in terms of some of the process - and as with OI everyone's treatment will be a little different - but overall it gives a really great insight into what you can expect. My Mum also read it as well so she could understand what I'd be going through. 

We actually decided not to tell anyone when we were having IVF - for a couple of reasons. First of all we didn't want to have to continually answer questions on how it was going, or people asking for updates. Secondly, we'd always really looked forward to telling family and friends, and with any treatment, they end up knowing when you find out so for us it took a lot of that joy and excitement away. Therefore we wanted to be able to tell people and them not expect it, to have that surprise and joy like you would if it was natural and people didn't know you were trying. 

In terms of the treatment itself - I actually really didn't find it so bad. We ended up having IVF ICSI - which isn't too different from normal IVF, just one main difference. Usually, they put your egg in a little dish, and then input a load of semen and let them do their little competitive thing. However, with ICSI they literally just take one sperm and insert it manually into the egg. We had this version because of Adam's count so it'll depend entirely on both of you and your test results as to what your clinic will recommend. 

In terms of how the cycle works - again will differ on your doctor's recommendation - but we did a step-up cycle. So we worked with my natural cycle rather than suppressing it. So once my cycle started, I went on the same stimulant as OI, and then after a week, they added another one to the mix which stopped ovulation happening. When I had enough large follicles, you then get given your trigger injection. 36 hours after this you go in to have your eggs extracted (sedation, large needle, bloating - see more below) and your partner will make his deposit. At this point, you go on progesterone, and they then spend the next 3-5 days nurturing and growing your embryos, and on day 5 they will take the best one and reimplant it. 12 days later you take a test and voila!

One thing I was really worried about, more than anything, was how the hormones would affect me again. Because of OI and how down I ended up feeling I really didn't want to go through that again - and the daily dose you take is increased by quite a way. For OI it was 50cc a day, for IVF it was around 125cc a day. Thankfully I was actually okay - I didn't feel like I was really down at any point, and also our cycle went quite quickly so I don't feel like it really had a chance to turn me into an Eeyore again. 

All in all, our cycle took two weeks from when I first started injections to my extraction. For the most part, the injections were the same as OI, however, after a week you're given an extra injection and that one is like a proper syringe. Didn't enjoy that one. I was really pleased with how well my body reacted to everything though and that I wasn't going to spend weeks and weeks doing it. It actually didn't even last as long as my third OI cycle - thank god. 

The other thing I was slightly concerned about was the extraction. I've never been sedated before, put that together with the idea of a long giant needle going up your vagina and you start to feel a bit squiggly. Thankfully, all the nurses were really lovely, comforting and wasn't too bad at all. I didn't go to sleep but I don't really remember much from the procedure or really feeling much, and I didn't feel too groggy from sedation afterwards. It was actually a great excuse to sit on the sofa for the next two days not doing anything! One thing I will say that no one really tells you - you are very bloated afterwards to the point where you do look pregnant. This is normal, but obviously, keep an eye on it and your pain levels. They were concerned about overstimulation with my ovaries, however, thankfully all went well. 

The implantation was not what we expected either - when they reimplant your embryo they actually give you a scan picture to take home with you. It's basically a little white blob and I felt a bit like Rachel from Friends "I don't see it!" but it was a very surreal moment. I was like oh my god, I'm technically pregnant. Must protect belly at all costs! It wasn't really what we were expecting, but because we had a great outcome we're grateful now to have that scan. However, if it had gone the other way I think I would have preferred to not have had it at all. From that point on though we were both in full-on, Lisa is technically pregnant until proven otherwise, let's act like it. Goodbye Brie... 

The 12 day wait to take the test was actually a lot easier than any of our OI waits. Probably because it was over my 30th birthday so we had a lot on to distract us, and it actually went really quickly. Recovery for me really didn't take long - I didn't have much pain for the procedures and I didn't have any real issues with the progesterone either thankfully. So all in all, it was a much nicer experience than any of my OI cycles. 

The only thing I would say is that it takes a long time for your ovaries to go down to their normal size - at 6 weeks pregnant I was told they were still 3 times their normal size and it did cause some discomfort, and even at our 12 week scan we were told they could see they'd been stimulated. So just something to note!

But overall, it really wasn't too bad at all. It may have been different if it'd been my second or third cycle potentially, or if I hadn't done any treatment before or hadn't researched it before. So that would be my biggest piece of advice - knowledge is power, just be selective on where you get it from!

Much love, Lisa May x


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