IVF Protocol

In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) is no cure for infertility. Success rates of around 30%-35% aren’t the most encouraging statistics but I’m grateful we have a chance.

I wanted to write an informative post to give you an understanding of what is involved in IVF. There is a general protocol for treatment in the UK, however it should be noted that everyone’s treatment is specific to them and therefore the process may differ. I’m also not a Dr so this is a very high-level overview in layman’s terms.

Norethisterone

The treatment begins with a synthetic hormone called Norethisterone which is taken in tablet form for a week to induce a period. 21 days later this process is repeated for approximately 15 days so that the clinic can control the start date of your IVF treatment. This medication isn’t too troubling in the grand scheme of things. Headaches, 5-6 hours of broken sleep and hot sweaty flushes were the symptoms for me. I felt like a furnace, which didn’t do wonders for my hair – I was sporting a perm most days.

Egg stimulation

In general the ovaries produce and release 1 mature egg per menstrual cycle (month). On day 21 of my cycle, hormone injections are administered on a daily basis for a period of 7-12 days. The goal is to stimulate my ovaries to produce multiple follicles which will develop into mature sized eggs to be retrieved in the next stage. Every other day I return to the clinic for internal scans and blood tests to monitor the growth of the eggs. It’s invasive and I feel like a pin cushion. The internal scans are a little uncomfortable and the injections fiddly at first, but you get used to them. Time stands still during this time as you’re waiting for the next appointment, the next scan and hoping for positive progress each time. There’s a lot going on in your body, mentally and physically so you will feel a little sensitive. You will definitely want to eat chocolate. So go for it.

Egg retrieval

Once your eggs have reached an ‘ideal’ size, you administer a ‘trigger’ injection that will release your eggs. Approx 24hrs later a procedure called Transvaginal Ultrasound Aspiration is performed to extract your eggs. A thin needle is inserted into an ultrasound guide and the eggs are extracted from your follicles. In America I was under general anaesthetic for this, however in the UK it’s done under sedation and pain medication is provided. This procedure wasn’t pleasant for me the first time. I was in quite a bit of pain afterwards and my stomach was very sore and swollen. We haven’t reached this stage so I’m hoping for a more comfortable experience this time.

Fertilisation and Embryo Transfer

On the same day as egg collection, your partner provides a semen sample so that the eggs can be fertilised immediately after the procedure. The sperm and eggs are incubated in a laboratory over 3-5 days to develop and mature. Once they reach a certain cell level (blastocyst) they are ready to be transferred back into the uterus. The number of embryos that you transfer will depend on many factors and a decision will be made with your Dr regarding this. Any eggs that you do not transfer will be frozen at this time. The embryo transfer procedure is painless. During our last transfer we could see our embryo being implanted thanks to the ultrasound camera. It’s fascinating to watch and was a positive experience for us.

Two Week Wait

If you have done any research into IVF or read any of the forums I’m sure you’ve heard of the ‘two week wait’. It’s recommended that a pregnancy test is done two weeks from embryo transfer. This was undoubtedly the longest two weeks of my life. I was anxious and hardly slept during the two weeks. I over analysed every twinge in my gut, cramps, headaches, dizzy spells. I was looking for signs that I was pregnant and generally felt like a lunatic. There’s nothing stopping you taking a pregnancy test at home during these two weeks but it’s unlikely to be accurate. I was relieved to know either way of our result.

There are many factors that impact your treatment and it’s success along the way. How your body chooses to respond to treatment is out of your control. I have been in the position where the day before we were to transfer our frozen embryo the procedure was cancelled. My hormone levels had taken a nosedive and therefore my uterus wasn’t in the ideal condition for implanting. The chances of pregnancy were slim to none. At the time I felt like a failure, it was devastating. I have learned from all of these experiences that there is very little you can do during treatment other than be kind to yourself and keep a brave face on.

Every cycle is unique to the individual, as is their experience. The team at Aberdeen Fertility Centre have been outstanding thus far and I feel fortunate to be in their capable hands. Not to mention having the support of everyone around me. I realise the above might seem a long and daunting process and it is. But focus on the possibility that it gives you. It’s hope for you and your family.

Lets talk

IMG_8990It’s been almost 2 years since I openly spoke on Facebook about going through IVF treatment for infertility. Where has the time gone! I remember feeling so nervous about that post. But the response was overwhelming and the nerves soon lifted. Probably because I didn’t feel like I was hiding anymore. People I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years kindly got in touch to share their own personal experiences and struggles with conceiving. It was so comforting and I felt really supported. So thanks again to those of you that reached out!

Experiencing infertility and communicating about it is difficult and challenging. Not only for the ones going through it but for the people you engage with about it. It can be awkward. People don’t know what to say and sometimes your own reaction can catch you off guard. For a long time close family and friends were the only people who knew of our struggles. I felt embarrassed and inadequate as a woman. I still do to a degree. Accepting where we are and my diagnosis is something I’m working on and I’d imagine so until I have a baby of my own.

Discussing fertility issues, conditions and the treatments available will undoubtedly raise awareness, educate and support women/men/couples/families going through it.  My fertility is something I think about and deal with daily in some shape or form. There are triggers everywhere; a mum playing with her child, seeing someone pregnant, or recognising the massive knot in my stomach when I think about starting treatment again. It’s a barrage of emotions. Someone innocently sharing their happy news that they are pregnant for example, I instantly feel sick. Don’t get me wrong I am genuinely happy for them. But deep down I wonder whether I’ll ever experience that feeling, when will it be my turn. Then soon follow feelings of guilt and shame for feeling upset or hard done by. My life isn’t bad but I feel I sense of loss. Ugh it’s just rotten. I know it’s normal to go through these feelings and I definitely feel a sense of relief voicing them. I know millions of other people out there would too. I understand that it is a private and intimate subject, but I wish for the sake of anyone else battling with fertility issues that it was spoken about more openly.

So fast forward to where we are now. This year we started treatment with a course of hormone injections over a month to induce ovulation. I felt like it was worth a shot before heading down the IVF route again. My positive hat had really hoped it would work.. but it wasn’t meant to be. I think I’ve ovulated once in the last year so the chances were extremely slim. I felt pretty upset when we were told that my body wasn’t responding to the treatment and therefore the Dr’s pulled the plug on it. Again we were told IVF is going to be our only real chance. Mentally I feel ready to go again.. I think! Bah I feel like a fraud saying that as I have a niggling voice telling me otherwise. Okay, I’m shitting myself!! After having a break from treatment it’s hard to distinguish if this is what we even want anymore or whether we are just going through the motions. I tell myself frequently that I no longer want a baby as a means to protect myself from any upset again. But deep down I know I do. Would it be easier to accept that we are happy as the two of us, maybe so. But at the back of my mind if I don’t try again I’ll always wonder. It’s worth another shot because I don’t want any regrets.

I’ve decided to journal my journey, I’m not really sure to what degree yet! I’ll write my blog and I’ll no doubt use Instagram along the way. Being a Personal Trainer has encouraged me even more to share this as people have you on a pedestal of health. I workout regularly, eat well, practice yoga, sleep 7hrs a night so nothing will be wrong with me.. nope, I’m afraid not. I’m human and deal with health issues too. My mental health, jeez, that’s been very up and down since we were diagnosed. I do what I can to control my anxiety but I have good days and bad days like anyone else. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, that isn’t what this is. I just feel compelled to go with this blog again as it’s an outlet for me. I was at a very low point in my life post IVF and I want to avoid that happening again. I want to use this experience positively to raise awareness and help anyone else out there experiencing similar issues. I have discovered that there’s no right or wrong with this. You feel what you feel and you have to ride it out. We know what to expect now so this can only work in our favour. There are details that I will keep private but for the most part I want this to be an honest representation of me. I hope this talks to someone and brings them comfort. You’re not alone.

Bloglovin – what an eye opener!

Yesterday evening I spent time on Bloglovin creating a profile and trawling through other blogs as recommended by fellow blogger Mrs Meldrum. I was so surprised by the size of the blogging community! It’s HUGE! There’s such an amazing variety of blogs that it was a little overwhelming! It left me thinking where do I want my blog to go? What do people want to read about? What do I want to read about? My head was buzzing and I struggled to sleep for thinking about post ideas.
What was wonderful to see was the support of the bloggers of one another. I’m really excited about joining and becoming a part of the blogging community and looking forward to connecting with people with similar interests and experiences. I feel like this is the start of a really exciting journey and I hope you enjoy it with me! If you haven’t checked out Bloglovin before have a gander – Follow my blog with Bloglovin.
Sarah