A Guide to Understanding IVF

While every protocol for IVF is different there are some steps that are pretty much the same for everyone.  If you’re just starting out here’s what you can expect;

  1. Initial consult with RE to discuss protocol
  2. Wait for start of period. You may already be taking estrogen/birth control pill.
  3. Vaginal Ultrasound to assess baseline
  4. Start injections
  5. Another Vaginal Ultrasound to see how you’re doing and to tweak meds if necessary
  6. More injections
  7. Another Ultrasound, maybe add in another shot to stop you ovulating.
  8. More injections until they finally tell you to do trigger shot.
  9. 36 hours after trigger shot you have your egg retrieval
  10. A day after egg retrieval you find out how many eggs fertilized
  11. Maybe a day 3 transfer, maybe a day 5 transfer.  You might choose to freeze all or have embryos tested.

Here’s my experience...

When I started on the journey to have a child I remember naively saying that I wanted as little intervention as possible.  I was against taking drugs.  I said I would never do IVF.

Health insurance back then did not cover fertility treatment for single women.  You had to be married.  I was paying for everything out of pocket and none of it was cheap!!

In order to boost my chances I tried a couple of rounds of clomid.  RE’s often like you to do a ‘clomid challenge’ to see how you respond to drugs.  What clomid does is it makes your body produce extra follicles, which is where the eggs grow and mature.  I responded well but didn’t achieve a pregnancy.

I threw out my no intervention and no drugs rule.  I took out a loan and moved to IVF.  I had found an RE that I liked.  I went to a consultation where I asked 5000 questions and then waited to start my cycle.  I remember being terrified but also confident that it would work.

IVF is not at all glamorous.  You’re constantly undressing and having vaginal ultrasounds.  It becomes so routine that when I was pregnant I once got undressed only to have the doctor tell me it wasn’t necessary anymore! (embarrassing!)

I had one last hurdle to overcome.  I was terrified of needles!  I wasn’t sure how I was going to find the courage to inject myself!  The sheer volume of meds and equipment was terrifying.

meds

I swear that first shot took me half an hour to prepare and inject.  To my surprise it didn’t hurt in the slightest.  I think the adrenaline and fear of doing it wrong  makes you not even notice the needle going in.

About 10 days in I started feeling quite delicate.  I used to say that my lady balls were swollen.  I found myself being a little more cautious as I sat down and stood up.  Imagine your ovaries as a golf ball and usually they have a little marble or two in them each month.  Now imagine that you’ve put 6+ marbles in there.  That golf ball is turning into a tennis ball… or maybe even bigger.  That’s what I was feeling.. I couldn’t wait til retrieval day.

Once my follicles had reached their goal size I was brought in for my egg retrieval.   It was a little scary (isn’t any surgery?) but over quickly.  I felt a bit sore for a day or so after my first one but nothing major.

Then I waited to see how many had fertilized… then how many made it to day 3, then to day 5.  I was lucky and was about to transfer one and freeze the rest.  It didn’t take.  Nor did any of the frozen ones.

There’s a lot more research now that points to frozen transfers being more successful.  Taking a break gives your body a chance to get rid of all those nasty drugs and find its equilibrium.  In hindsight I wonder if taking a break between tries might have brought my child to me more quickly…. I was on the train, month after month and I wasn’t going to give up until I got my baby! (Or went bankrupt.)

I did a second round of IVF and got even more good looking day 5 embryos.  I did a fresh transfer which didn’t take.  I did more Frozen transfers that failed.. and then I took a much needed break.

to be continued.  

He is here.

My son is nearly 18 months old and yet not a day has gone by where I haven’t mentally stopped time for just a moment and marveled that he is here.  I am still in awe of the woman who let go of her dreams of a traditional family and built one on her own.

At age 38 I had finally accepted my reality;  I was not going to meet Prince Charming.  He was not lurking in the corners of Tinder or OKcupid.  He was not behind me in the checkout line at the Supermarket and he most certainly was not taking up a seat at my bar, sipping on Bourbon.

It had been a year and a half since the end of a significant relationship.  I had done the embarrassing rebound thing with someone entirely inappropriate and been on a handful of blah dates.  I was happy in my skin and felt more than capable of parenting on my own.

It was time. I did a lot of research and asked a lot of questions of women who had walked this path before me.  I then visited my doctor, got some tests and booked a date with a local RE. (Reproductive Endocrinologist)

I lacked health coverage for fertility treatments (back then only married women qualified) but I had savings in the bank.  I felt so sure that a baby was less than a year away from my arms… I figured I’d spend maybe $5000 on getting pregnant and still have money in the bank for when baby arrived.

Mother nature had other plans.