IVF

IVF- the beginning…..

Well it’s May- the month that always reminds me of IVF! It was the May 2016 was month Dorothea was created. But our journey started long before that.

As an ‘older’ couple we didn’t want to hang around waiting for the ‘right time’ to try for a baby. So we decided early on in our relationship to come off contraception and let ‘nature’ run its course. And we waited……

Nothing happened- so we decided to be a little more planned; using a Fertility app and peeing on ovulation sticks (oh and obviously having sex) – but still nothing. A year had passed.

So we visited the GP and had some basic fertility checks; blood tests and a semen analysis. We were referred for fertility treatment April 2015 after tests revealed malefactor infertility; analysis showed a near normal count but low ‘normal forms’- meaning that although natural conception was possible, it was unlikely.

Following some more tests; more bloods and tests ruling out STDs and other infectious diseases, specialist fertility blood tests and ovarian scans- we were played to go ahead with a funded IVF cycle.

We were referred to a local fertility clinic to commence the process. I was told my AMH levels were high (indicating a good reserve of eggs)- but that this possibly indicates PCOS. Further sperm analysis revealed a range of figures- which confused us an didn’t seem related to any health or lifestyle changes. Due to sperm quality we were told we needed to have ICSI- this is when the sperm and egg are not simply put in a dish to do their thing- but that the selected speed is actually injected into the egg.

Our cycle started in October 2018- a few days after a lovely holiday and my birthday. I felt stressed- I wasn’t feeling optimistic or positive, I felt badly prepared and was having increased responsibility at work increasing my stress load further. I hadn’t done that much research and was just trying to ‘go with the flow’. Every appointment was met with nervousness and anxiety from me- my partner tried to help relax me- but there was a lot of tears.

IVF treatment can involve a range of drugs/treatments- from self administered injections, to tablets, nasal sprays and vaginal pessaries or rectal suppositories. The box of drug supplies for a cycle is overwhelming- a huge amount of unfamiliar drugs with a scary amount of needles and syringes! I was fine with the needles and drugs; I’m a nurse, so this part of the process didn’t bother me at all.

It was the mental side of it; after wanting to be a mum for so many years I was so nervous it wouldn’t work. Anxious at every stage and felt it was hard to relax and get rest.

So the injections were ongoing (to grow the follicles and mature the eggs) at each appointment they were counting 30-40 follicles! This was a high number; and they said I was at risk of OHSS ( ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome)- and wanted to monitor me closely- they reduced my dose injected stimulation drugs to help reduce the risk. (Normal amount of follicles is expected to be approx 10-20). I can not describe the feeling of huge fluid filled ovaries; it was certainly weird and uncomfortable!

The nurse told me ovaries are around the size of walnuts- but after 7 days of stims mine were now the size of large oranges. When I walked quickly I could feel them ‘bouncing’ inside me; and I was told no running or activity due to a risk of torsion.

So I had a scan and blood tests in a Friday; and was due to return on the Monday, on the Monday my scan revealed a shock- massive follicles! The nurse was shocked and said she was unsure how they’d grown so much on a reduced dose- I was surprised, I’d had no dose adjustment. It turns out they left a voicemail that I never received- to half my stim dose!!! I was told to stop stims and await blood results; a call came later that my hormone levels were dangerously high- they were 21,000 and should be less than 17,000. I gad to return to the clinic- I was given a drug called cabergoline to counteract the effect and hopefully stop the likelihood of hyper stimulation syndrome. I took the drug- but was scared; and I had to return to work.

I quickly felt very unwell; I collapsed vomiting at work in the corridor, Nick had to come fetch me. I had such severe vertigo and sickness that I could only lie flat or crawl; I’d never felt so ill. The clinic said it was a severe allergic reaction to the drug; and that I needed to try and drink 3-4litres of water a day.

After 2days of being poorly; with severe sickness and inability to drink- I had egg collection. We retrieved 20 eggs from 31 follicles. To retrieve the eggs they insert a dildo like implement into your vagina- poke a needle through your vaginal wall and into each ovary; sucking out the contents of each plump follicle. In my clinic I was sedated, so don’t recall a thing; afterwards just a little period type pain and spotting of blood.

After the great news of 20 eggs- 17 were mature and yet only 7 fertilised. This was gutting!!!! We had hoped to get at least 50%. Then came the wait; we had to wait for a call, hoping that day by day our cells would divide normally. The aim is to get them to a 5 day embryo; called a blastocyst.

On day 3 we had a call- we only had 3 embryos left in the running- and they were not brilliant quality; we were advised to come in for transfer. The risk was if was waiting til day 5 there would be no embryo to transfer. We were gutted.

I remember crying en-route to the hospital. Nick played my ‘relaxing IVF app’ but it didn’t help- I was in pieces. So two embryos were transferred; a ‘good’ 8 cell embryo and a fragmented 10 cell (you can tell from the pic that the top embryo looks more equal and the cells are similar sizes).

I remember Nick asking the Dr what we could do to improve our chances; should I rest etc.- she replied ‘either you get pregnant or you don’t’.

Then came the dreaded two week wait- the most awful time; questioning every potential symptom- do I have sore boobs, any pain, is my period coming. 11 days later we got our answer.

We returned to the clinic to have our thoughts confirmed- it hadn’t worked! A urine and blood test confirmed this cycle had not worked. We went home to cry.

Not only had this cycle not worked- but it was our only funded cycle- our only chance of getting pregnant on the NHS. What millions of couples take for granted- having a family- we were going to have to find thousands of £££ for.

Yes- infertility sucks!

It affects you mentally, physically and financially. It challenges your relationship, can make you seriously ill and makes you feel like a total failure! Why can’t I do the main thing we were put on this Earth to do. I just wanted a baby- a family!

Our Ivf fund

Guest Blogs, IVF, Other fabulous ladies

When it’s not all #blessed in pregnancy (guest blog)

I hate being pregnant. There we go. I said it. I. hate. being. pregnant

 

And I don’t mean hate it like I hate bad manners, cucumber or crap maternity leggings. I mean hate it like there have been times I thought I’d rather die or worse, lose my baby than carry on being pregnant

 

This is probably the first time I’ve admitted quite so honestly and openly how I feel about pregnancy

 

The reason I hate pregnancy? Hyperemesis Gravidarum (yes, like Kate had). The reason it’s hard to be honest about hating pregnancy? IVF – or more specifically the survivors guilt that comes from successful IVF

 

When you’ve had a successful round of IVF the pressure (often self-imposed) to exude gratefulness from your every pore on a daily basis is huge, especially if you’re engaged in online support communities like I am. Knowing that others are literally going through hell to get where you are: 6, 7, 8 rounds of treatment, 5, 10, 15 years of waiting, £10k, £20k, £40k money spent and counting makes it very difficult, almost impossible to be completely honest about the darkness you might find yourself in when diagnosed with Hyperemesis

 

For me the guilt is compounded by not having just had successful IVF but by being one of the very lucky few to have a got pregnant on our first round of IVF – not just once, but twice. We have a 2.5yr old daughter that was conceived first time round and I’m currently 32wks with our second who conceived with our first transfer. At my age (38) and with our diagnosis (MFI due to a blockage) the chances of a live birth with each round of IVF are just 27%…  This makes us not just lucky, but the luckiest of the luckiest of the lucky so to all extents and purposes I should be feeling #blessed every single second of every day

 

But as I’m sure you’ll have gathered that’s not the case. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is NOT just bad morning sickness. It’s a serious medical condition that can impact both mother and babies physical and mental health. I suffered with HG in my first pregnancy and simply never thought I could be so unlucky as to have it again, or god forbid have it worse but almost as soon as those two lines appeared I had a feeling I was in for it and lo and behold by 6wks pregnant I was on my knees, literally

 

The worse thing about HG is not the fact you’re being sick constantly or that you feel dizzy with nausea 24/7 or that you burst blood vessels in your eyeballs from heaving or get debilitating dehydration headaches or that your hair falls out from lack of nutrients. No, the worse thing about HG is not physical, it’s the emotional toll that it takes on you and your family: the isolation it brings, the frustration it causes and the despair it leaves you in.

You feel like a complete and utter failure every single day. A bad wife, a useless mum, a neglectful friend, a worthless colleague and an ungrateful daughter. You live in constant hope that things will get better. Every night going to bed hoping you’ll wake up without that watery sensation in your mouth, every trip to the hospital or GP hoping they’ll prescribe something that actually works, every midwife appointment hoping they’ll say you can have your c-section earlier just to bring about some relief. But no. It’s relentless. And whilst I’m most definitely over the worst of it now I challenge anyone to remain mentally stable when they feel nauseous 24/7. It’s a uniquely debilitating experience that is almost impossible to describe. At work it makes my brain foggy and slow, at home it makes me snappy and impatient. I’m not a horrible person but with HG I’m certainly not someone I would want to spend any time with and that’s pretty tough to accept

 

I’ve had a brilliant support network throughout both personally and professionally, I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive husband (he’s a saint), family or group of friends but there really is only so much anyone else can do for you. There are only so many times you can explain that yes, you do still feel sick, no you don’t feel much better etc. before you get bored of your own narrative and it goes without saying if one more well-meaning person were to suggest Ginger or Seabands…

 

Throughout IVF I found a huge amount of support and solace in meeting other women online going through the same thing, I built up a great network and felt I always had somewhere to turn when (through no fault of their own) friends and family just didn’t understand.

With HG I’ve found it almost impossible to be honest with anyone about how it really is, online or in real life. I’ve not wanted to come across as ungrateful or selfish so I’ve largely kept myself to myself. With about 6 weeks left of this pregnancy, as I start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel I realise that not sharing probably hasn’t been that helpful. In the cold light of day it’s clearly ridiculous to think I’m being punished with HG because I got so lucky with IVF and ridiculous to assume that people wouldn’t understand.

So, if there was a moral to my story (and I didn’t start out thinking there was one) I think it’s probably that it’s ok to admit that life after a BFP (big fat positive) isn’t all rainbows and unicorns it’s ok to admit that sometimes pregnancy is just a bit shitty and to ask for a hug whenever you need it

 Follow Anna at:

www.instagram.com/needlesandnoodles

For help and information:

https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/