I had a follower snap me the other day asking about the "real" ins and outs of IVF. You can read all about the steps in all the pamphlets the doctors give you. But they can't tell you how you will feel, will you need care for your kids if you already have them, will you turn into a crazed psychopath on the hormones? That kind of information is harder to find. So I shared my experiences with her to help and thought that could be relevant to anyone else planning on going through IVF too. I know I wrote about my feelings and the emptional side of doing IVF but this delves a little deeper into the actual process, so if you want to know what to expect from someone without a medical degree the you have found the right place!Please note that everyone reacts differently to drugs and hormones, so this is entirely my experience with them and yours could be the polar opposite. The daily injections, this is I think a major fear for anyone starting fertility treatment, especially if you are afraid of them. I'm ok with needles but the thought of injecting myself really freaked me out. Jay of course offered to do it for me, but they need to be done at a certain time each day and didn't want to have to rely on him if he got stuck at work or something. So I sucked it up and injected myself, I worked myself up the first time and cried and cried but it actually didn't hurt. You grab some skin on your tummy between two fingers and inject into that fold of skin, it's such a small prick you won't really notice it. You do this everyday so to avoid getting sore by sound the same spot you kind of go in the shape of a 'smile' from one side of your tummy down and around to the other side. I definitely got some bruises and the places of injections can be a bit sore. The only ones I found to kind of hurt were the ones I had to take in the evening to stop ovulating for the last week or so (I'm so sorry but being over 3 years ago I can't remember their name and the finer details) but you had to mix the powder and water yourself to make the injection, a part I actually found fun pretending to be a doctor! These injections made the inception site feel kind of itchy and they would swell a bit more, but nothing major. So please don't worry too much, the injections were one of the easiest aspect of the whole thing.
Will these drugs make you a crazy person or gain weight? for me personally the later was true, I was the heaviest I have ever been when we did the removal of the eggs. However, I actually was super chill and "full of love" when I was taking the hormones. Which was the opposite to how I was when on Clomiphene aka a crazy lady who my husband really didn't like! I had heard horror stories online and in magazine articles of people feeling awful, sick, emotional un stable on ivy drugs but every actual person I know who has done it said they felt totally normal if not better than normal. So I can't promise you anything but I hope you don't end up being one of those people who said they literally could never face doing another round because of how ill they felt, that would suck! Anyway, our doctors told us I may feel really happy as the hormones can give you that lovey dovey feeling, and it did. Jay was very happy with a very loving and touchy feely wife! So yes there are bad sides, hey weight gain, but I found my mood was great. Once again, this is what happened with me, so no promises.
Blood work, more needles! Great! Every second day about a week after I started injecting I needed to get blood work taken so (I think) they could check my hormone levels and figure out when I would ovulate so they could time the harvest (that is a horrible word isn't it when thinking of your lady bits) of the eggs. This was the biggest pain for me as you had to go to a clinic to have this done, trying to fit this all in before work, when EVERYONE else has the same idea means some early starts! I imagine if you already have kids this will be the hard part since you an wrangle kids with a needle in your arm!
Scanning! So many bloody scans. Safe to say you get very used to having a probe up your vagina to scan your insides! Trust me, when they first pull this thing out it is a bit horrifying, especially if you have never had an internal scan before. You probably have had one to get to the stage of needing IVF, but nonetheless its quite confronting as it looks like a skinny dildo with a round ball on the top! It gets better, the doctor then places a condom on it and lube, I know it's for hygiene and to make things easier, but seriously it made me giggle/go bright red/clench my pelvic floor like I have never clenched it before. Even worse was the offering of shall he insert it or I!? I was DYING at this point, from a hilarity standpoint and embarrassment. I leave what option I chose up to your imagination...ok don't actually think about that, but we will leave some part of my life a mystery. Anyway off course there a little bit; the reason why they need to scan "from the inside" is they need to get a really good look at your ovaries to see how many Follicles you have. If you are like me you would have never heard of having Follicles in there, definitely didn't cover that in health class! We are born with hundreds of thousands of follicles in our ovaries and they basically hold an immature egg that matures and then is released into our uterus for fertilisation. The aim of the game with IVF is to get these suckers working in overdrive, so instead of only one follicle working it's magic like a usual cycle, they want you to grow as many follicles as possible. So during the scans this is what they are counting, to see how you are reacting to our hormones and to see how the follicles are coming along size wise. Basically, the bigger the follicle the more mature the egg, meaning it is ready to be harvested. To give you an idea when they are ready, the follicles reach 16-20mm then they are what they consider "mature" and your egg collection date will be set. So this is where I think my discomfort came towards the end of the cycle. I had 25 follicles so I had about 25 2cm large follicles hanging out in my ovaries, that's a lot more room big taken up than on your usual cycle! So I felt very bloated and my abdomen was tender to touch. If you have kids then this will be another thing that will be tough as I know how toddler love to crawl, kick, stand on their mamas!
Once those follicles are nice and big you take a trigger injection which makes your body prepare to release them, your extraction os scheduled exactly 12 hours after you take that shot. This is when they go in and remove all the eggs with (don't read the next paragraph if you are freaking out about this bit as I'm about to describe the thing they use to take them out)
It's another internal ultrasounds dildo but with a giant needle attached to it!
Ok safe now so you are given some sort of local and some happy drugs so you are a bit out of it but not knocked out. I have senile found out from a friend who had as many eggs as me they usually knock you out as its obvious more painful the more eggs you have to retrieve, no idea why I didn't get that option but hey I survived. I barely remember it but Jay said he was trying not to freak out watching it all go down. I'm glad they let your partner sit in with you, as it definitely helped calm my nerves. The whole process was over in 30 minutes and afterwards you have a nice cup of tea and a biscuit for another 30 minutes to check you are all fine.
You are told to take the rest of the day off work and that you will have cramping but they said most people can go to work the next day with pain relief. I woke up the next day and was quite sore, but that was to be expected with the amount of eggs we had taken out. I spent an extra day at home curled up on the couch with a hotter bottle but felt ok the next morning. If you are ding this with kids then I would try to organise some help or if you have family around maybe send them for a sleepover for a night or two.
Once they take the eggs that's when the baby making magic happens, not quite as romantic as in the bedroom but still so amazing. Wonders of modern medicine! We had to do ICSI, the step up from IVF. In IVF they pop the sperm in a dish with an egg and its a whose strongest wins scenario were one sperm fertilises the egg. In our case Jays swimmers can't even mange that, useless, so they choose the best looking sperm and injected them into all of the eggs.
The worst bit after this is waiting by the phone to hear how your eggs are doing. Even if they get a lot out not all of them are going to thrive. We ended up loosing 6 of this embryos as they just didn't develop like they should.
This is the time all that emotional stress comes, as you worry about the eggs and their development, then that ramps up even further during the transfer and the dreaded two-week wait till that pregnancy test!
The transfer is essentially a breeze in comparison. The hardest thing is you must have a full bladder, so you are lying on a table with your legs in the air desperately holding on why they place the fertilised embryo *well men was a 5 day fertilised egg so it's actually called a blastocyst) back in you! My doctor took 3 attempts to get it in there, he would insert the a catheter through your cervix and you would see little bubbles on the ultrasounds screen and that was the liquid holding the embryo entering your uterus. They check the catheter under a microscope to make sure the embryo left it, and mine bloody didn't. Three times in a row! He said he hadn't had that happen to him in 10 years!!!!! It had me worried but I as just desperate to get to the bathroom before I let go on in the examine room! I went and had acupuncture after the transfer as that's meant to help it "stick" and continue to develop in you. But other than instructions to not get really hot, as embryos don't like heat, so no intense physical activity, baths or spas you are told to do whatever makes you feel comfortable. If thats lay on a couch and rest that fine, but if you want to get back to work or do what you usually do in your day-to-day life then that is fine too. Walking around and doing normal daily activities won't make the egg not implant into your uterine wall. So don;t worry, you don't have to lay with your legs in the air and seeing on bed pans like they did with IVF in the 80s!
So that's that, this was the post on the in's and out's on IVF in our case. I wrote about my journey and all the feelings that came with it here, but after so many requests thought it would be good to share the stuff you can't read in a brochure. I hope it helps!