In honor of National Infertility Awareness Month, I’ll be sharing with you a series of posts based on my own experiences with infertility issues.
Sex, Drugs and In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization is a process where a woman is provided with a variety of medications, which vary according to her doctor’s preferences and experience as well as the woman’s responsiveness to the medications to encourage her body to produce eggs; those eggs are then fertilized with (in my case) her husband’s sperm (although some single women use a sperm donor), and cared for until they are a viable embryo. Once an embryo, the embryo is then implanted in the woman’s uterus and for the next 28 days or so, she waits and waits and waits to determine if she is pregnant.
After my IVF consultation and initial appointments I experienced two primary emotions; elation because you think you can beat the odds that your reproductive specialist has offered you and fear of how on earth are you going to be able to pay for all of this. For the optimist, you think, well of course I will get pregnant and for the pessimist, it’s the opposite. If you are a couple like our, one is up the other is down. And with the stress of what you are about to embark on can lead to disagreements and more stress.
The next step . . .
Many doctors will run you through a variety of different treatment methods and testing before proceeding to IVF.
Don’t think the men get out of all the fun. I’ll be sharing with you later “The Man Exam.”
If all the tests show a high likelihood of conception, then next you undergo a training session. This training session will teach you about your medications; how much you are to administer, when, where and how you are to administer them. You and your spouse must attend together. You are taught how to administer your injections and provided with information about the process of IVF as well as given instructions about how difficult a process this can be, how stressful on a relationship and then provided with counseling and support group information.
The “training” session . . .
For the training session, my husband and I entered a room with 6 other couples. While it was encouraging to see other couples who needed medical assistance to conceive as we sat there talking to them, we couldn’t help but calculate the odds of success in conception based on the numbers the doctor gave us.
If there are so many conceptions from IVF among X number of people, what are our chances in this group? And if those are our chances which will be the ones who don’t conceive.
We were also determined that we will absolutely follow all the medication rules, perform the injections as required and do absolutely everything perfectly. This determination to be perfect actually sets you up for failure. For example, there was one injection I was not able to give myself. No matter how much training I had, I just couldn’t do it and my husband had to. Several evenings he would have to stay late at work to rush home afraid that the injection was not performed on time (I had a 30 minute window for injections, but they must be performed every 12 hours). One evening he came rushing in, late for the injection and bearing a speeding ticket. Apparently the need to give his wife her drugs was just not convincing enough to be let off the hook. The pressure to be perfect in your measurements and timing is overwhelming.
The ultimate ultrasound schedule
During this portion of your treatment you will have several ultrasounds as well as blood draws to determine your estrogen and other chemical levels and to determine when you will be ovulating. You may have between 3-5 medications to take a day. Most are injections and several of them become uncomfortable after a few days, as your injections sited are limited. My medications included progesterone and clomide – both of which can cause you to gain weight as well as have intense mood swings.
Next while being monitored via ultrasound you will go in for a “test” run. The doctor will do a simulated egg harvest, so that you will know what to expect and how it will feel. He/She will also do a test run of the implantation procedure, which is painful as there is a pinching, clipping feeling as the embryo is implanted in the uterus.
Now the intensity of what you are doing really begins. First, you have to take off a great deal of time from work. Remember, just because you have an appointment does not mean you get in and out of the office. I was very fortunate; I had a great deal of sick days as well as an understanding supervisor that I was able to not only share the treatment with, but who was flexible in his requirements of me during this time.
However, my husband was not so fortunate. Many of the visits were conducted without his presence, including the harvesting of the eggs. I had to ask my brother to take me home, as my husband was at work. The moral support of your spouse being with you throughout the testing and procedures is so very important, but not always possible. I was so nervous that I ended up throwing up so many times in the office while waiting to have the eggs harvested that I lost consciousness and required medical treatment. The doctor wanted to cancel the procedure; however, I insisted that we continue. I also developed a severe reaction to the antibiotics that are given to you prior to the harvesting procedures. Although not intensely painful when the collect the eggs, there is some discomfort.
The BIG Day!
When the doctor has determined the day is right, they will use a little “comb” to comb the follicles in your fallopian tubes to harvest the eggs. After the implantation you remain in the office for an extended period of time before you are permitted to stand and leave. After that you are to have restricted activity (in my case I was determined to lay down for 48 hours straight).
In my case, 13 eggs were harvested, quite a big change from the one or two a month that women produce without medication. The eggs are then fertilized and when they are considered viable (which means they could possibly survive pregnancy) they are implanted in your uterus. This is approximately 48 hours after they were harvested. Our euphoria was complete. 13 Eggs! WOW, with that many how could we possibly not conceive was our thought of course.
Nine embryos were fertilized and considered viable for implantation. I chose to try 4 of the viable ones for this time. The implantation itself if painful for a moment, it feels as if you are being injected with a large needle and a piece of you clipped off from the inside. It is very important to have someone with you: a significant other, partner, friend, spouse, family member. First, it is very comforting to have someone holding your hand; my husband was able to attend this portion of the treatment with me. His upbeat enthusiasm and excitement while I had to stay in position for an extended period of time was a comfort. The remainder of the day was spent “relaxing” at home on the couch or bed and trying not to move too much or worry. However, best laid plans and all that – far too soon I was up, packing and preparing for our impending move.
And now you wait, and wait, and wait . . .
Then the really hard part begins. You wait. You wait some more, you wait a third week and then at last you can take a home pregnancy test. During all this time you are still taking medication, in my case, progesterone. If you are lucky, your test is positive, of if you are like me and not so lucky, the test is negative. All test results must be confirmed at your doctor’s office, where you begin a whole other series of treatments to support your pregnancy if you tested positive for pregnancy.
In our case, the first implantation was not successful. As the saying goes, try and try again. We were very fortunate in that we had additional embryos to attempt a second try. And we were very blessed with a resulting pregnancy. However, our pregnancy ended at 11 weeks with fetal demise and I’ll be sharing our experience with a miscarriage later. Unfortunately, this can be a common event of those who undergo IVF treatment.
Stay tuned for the next installment, 7 Do’s and Don’ts for those Doing In Vitro Fertilization.
Disclaimer: This is not to be considered medical advice. It is simply my experiences and advice from medical professionals. Please consult a medical professional for your own information and to find out your options.