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.

Ready.. steady.. IVF

I remember saying to Ross only a few weeks ago, “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so calm.” I had a glass of wine in hand, chilled tunes on and was feeling very zen. After the last course of treatment we packed up the car and took a trip to the West Coast for a week. It did us the world of good. The hormones, anticipation, frustration and tiredness to name a few, is a huge strain on your relationship (understatement). Timeout together is really important, whether it be before or after treatment. It’s an opportunity to talk through how you’re feeling and make future plans. I’m not sure why but I always feel like we can talk more openly and calmly out of our home environment. Less distraction.

Literally as soon as our IVF appointment and paperwork came through my nose started twitching. I have this annoying twitch that started during our first round of IVF. It’s like a tingly feeling over the bridge of my nose that comes and goes depending on my stress levels. It’s not visible to anyone else but to me it feels like my nose has a heartbeat. I felt like I had all of this under control, but the feelings quickly come flooding back. I kind of expected it to though, I don’t think you ever really rid yourself of anxiety, more keep it at bay.

We have two appointments scheduled in June. The first being a patient information evening, which is compulsory for all patients and partners that are embarking on the IVF programme. There will be approximately 30-40 in attendance for further information about the treatment and to meet the staff. This is a good opportunity to make some IVF buddies! When you’re in the clinic during treatment it will be nice to see a familiar face. Someone to make small talk with to pass the time whilst you wait to be seen. Warning: there’s so much waiting. The second is a consultation with the Dr/Nurses for initial tests. There are fairly strict guidelines in place for IVF treatment under the NHS. This includes being a healthy BMI and a non-smoker. You can find more info here: IVF criteria. Tests will be done to cover these (height, weight, smoking status assessed) and routine bloods to check my hormone levels. That’s what I expect to happen. Our first round of IVF was carried out privately in the States so protocol will be different I’m sure. We should receive our treatment plan and know our exact start date at that point. The butterflies are growing by the day!

During my first round, I gave it my everything and threw all my energy into being the perfect IVF candidate. I had to make it a success. But the reality is that it is out of your control. It’s down to science and luck. It’s not natural for your body to harvest multiple eggs, nor is it natural to be implanted with a fertilised embryo, so it’s not surprising that your body would reject it. I can’t solve my problem. My health has always been a priority of mine and I don’t think there’s anything else I can change or want to change that will actually make a difference.

If you are overweight, drink excessively, don’t exercise and your stress levels are high then yes there’s an abundance of things you can do. The majority of recommendations that I see for IVF patients regarding diet and wellbeing are those that I give to all of my clients. Eat a balanced diet, avoid processed foods, limit sugar intake and so on. There are several alternative healing therapies that are also recommended for IVF treatment that will help you throughout your journey. Acupuncture, Reiki healing and morning meditation all help me mentally and emotionally so they have become part of my life and routine.

My approach this time is a relaxed one! It actually makes me laugh (nervously) to think about how crazy you get from all the hormones. It’s so stressful. There will be no complete bans on things. Away with the no caffeine, no added sugar, no dairy, no alcohol, no high intensity training sIMG_6063.jpgessions, no heavy weights sessions. Undoubtedly my gut would be singing “hallelujah” if I stuck to the above, but mentally it’s too much. This doesn’t mean I’m going to drink a bottle of wine every night. Far from it. I don’t drink much anyway. But I’ll leave any alcohol for special occasions and during injections I won’t drink at all. I’ll continue to have my morning dark roast coffee until the day I’m pregnant because I enjoy it and I don’t want to deprive myself from life’s pleasures. It’ll only stress me out more.

In January I met with a Registered Dietician and discovered I had the following food allergens: eggs, wheat, carrots, cows milk, sesame, peanuts and hazelnuts. I’ve eaten eggs everyday for the last 5 years!! Initially I removed these foods completely and followed an elimination diet to reduce inflammation and heal my gut. My stomach troubles definitely improved. Secretly I hoped that a healed gut would lead to fertility. Sounds silly I know. But it was stressful to maintain and it affected social situations. 30% of the time I don’t worry about food intolerances/allergens and I enjoy eating out with friends/family. The rest of the time I cook from scratch and avoid them. Having a cream tea scone (my fav) will NOT be the cause of a failed round of IVF. If you have set some ground rules then I suggest giving yourself a break and stop being so hard on yourself. If you set too many boundaries you will fail. Feeling like a failure will only add to your stress.

Look at your work-life balance and how much time you’re taking out for yourself. A few months back I changed my working hours. Since I became a PT, I’ve trained clients from 6am. Early mornings have never really bothered me but this last year I’ve felt them taking their toll. Now I begin clients sessions from 8am and I’ve noticed a big improvement in the quality of my sleep, energy levels and generally I feel happier. I’m more in sync with Ross too. We relax in the evenings watching tv or workout together before dinner. I was always conscious I needed to be in bed for 830pm so I never fully relaxed in the evenings. I’ve no doubt lost potential clients because of this but I’m allowing myself to come first. Be selfish and look at your routine. Are you putting others before you?

Whatever the outcome of the treatment, I want to feel like I have given it my best shot, that I’ve given it my all. I don’t want to blame myself anymore than I already do. Spend time revelling in the positive things in your life in the lead up to treatment. Create a more calming environment and be kind to yourself because it’s having the mental power to get through IVF that’s key. Other than that you are in lucks hands.

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