I’ve realised that perhaps IVF is a little like people say childbirth is ie you forget what it was actually like, so that you do it again! I thought the photo was apt, as although I’ve always wanted to buy something from @Muthahood, I always felt a bit like a fraud, because I’m not actually a mum yet. But I’ve realised that all the women and couples going through IVF epitomise exactly what this sweatshirt says, and everyone needs a positive slogan in their life
To give this some sort of context, I thought I would give a little run down on what I’ve been pouring into my body to help mini Dwighty along, and how it makes you feel.
The first week of the treatment/ cycle that I am on, which is called a FLARE/ Natural cycle, is pretty straightforward, as these things go. It means I didn’t have to take any drugs prior to the first day of my cycle. Often some people have to down regulate first which means suppressing your natural cycle, so that the drugs can then takeover and determine when your cycle begins.
So for the last week or so I have been on a lovely cocktail mix of the following, everyday more or less:
- Fostimon – which is a form of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
- Merional – is also used as part of the hormone treatment for stimulating ovaries. (FSH & LH)
- Cetrotide – is a synthetic form of a natural hormone that blocks ovulation. This prevents a premature surge of LH (Luteinising Hormone – which is the hormone that ultimately results in the release of the egg from the ovary) and allows the follicles to develop fully. This is the one that they seem to believe you have to take at 5am!
- Aspirin – thins the blood and this can help in improving the blood flow to the lining of the uterus, which may help improve the chances of implantation.
- Clexane – also helps to thin your blood and works by stopping blood clots forming and improving blood flow to the uterus and lining, and in turn helping with implantation. Anything sounds good!
- Levothyroxine – another little gem to help the whole process and my immunes. Thyroxine controls how much energy your body uses.
- Dexamethasone – is a steroid and an effective way of treating inflammation in the body and this also may improve implantation. I’ll take that thankyou!
- Cheeky course of antibiotics after my cyst aspiration, which gave me some lovely side effects, that don’t need to be elaborated upon!
Straightforward does still mean: Cetrotide injection 5am; tablets in the morning before I leave the house; 7.30am Blood Test; Fostimon/ Merional injections when they “call” after my bloods have been screened (which can often be straight away, I was in the loo in John Lewis the other day!), and Clexane 12 hours after my aspirin.
You have to carry your medication around with you all the time, hence my “walking pharmacy” analogy, mine is in a fetching Thermos cool bag. The best advice I was ever given is to carry a notebook around with you as well, so you can note down all the instructions correctly, as often there is more than one and the information can be a bit overwhelming/ confusing. Even when you do though, you still doubt yourself as to whether you have taken the right drugs at the right time, or forgotten one completely! You go into automatic pilot, which is good in many ways so you don’t think about it all too much, but it doesn’t help your sense of self-questioning at any moment of the day.
The second week is always a little more “hanging around”… still 5am injection, 7.30 blood test, but then also a scan…then wait for blood results, take medication and usually have a repeat blood test and repeat scan, and then get the call with your medication! Along with the drugs from last week that continue, this week has also involved:
- IVIG infusion (and a side of Benadryl for any side effects) – this is basically concentrated human immunoglobulin, which I guess when you think about it, is sort of bizarre…but is believed to be very beneficial for those with immune issues in subfertility/ pregnancy and reduces natural killer cells. It takes about 2.5hrs for the infusion and although you desperately just want to have a good kip, it’s a time to get stuck into a good book or have a chat with the person next to you who is also hooked up!
- Oh and of course THE TRIGGER injection (this time it was Gonasi) – once the follicles get to a particular size, this then stimulates the final maturation and ovulation of the eggs, and eggs are then collected 34 to 37 hours later.
This time round the drugs have definitely taken more effect than I remember from previous rounds, so it’s just as well I’m not at bloody work, as not sure how I would function! But then I know that before, half my energy came from pure adrenaline, which is pretty much how I managed to do my job half the time! (and the love of course;))
Fortunately for Dwighty there haven’t been any meltdowns or tears, just a lot of “I’m so tired”… it’s been a big one though, particularly in the last four/ five days, essentially as soon as those pesky 5am injections started and the alarm goes off at 4.50, and you want to cry a little inside. My new bedtime is around 9pm!
I’ve felt nauseous this time too, and light headed. Maybe I did before??? These are really common side effects, along with feeling bloated (massive tick, struggling to fit into my jeans!), headaches (tick), and general lower abdominal niggling as your ovaries basically inflate (tick)! Although, as ever, I’m pretty lucky I think, in that none of my side effects have been too severe or made me feel very very unwell.
It’s funny I guess that when you are trying naturally, you don’t then launch into a conversation with friends about the details: how many times you had sex that week, what stage of ovulation you are at, or what consistency your cervical mucus might be! Yet with IVF, the minutiae of detail that you know about your body, what stage it is currently at and how it is reacting, is quite extraordinary. Sometimes I often feel it’s quite good in that it distracts from what is actually going on… the science creates a smoke screen for the fact that you are literally preparing your body to create and then accept a cluster of little cells, that will ultimately become your baby (all things being well). BONKERS! It still amazes me how this works, and how incredible it actually is.
So the next stage is a bit of a head f*ck. We’ve triggered… which means we are back tomorrow to collect the eggs and get the little blighters fertilised! (Dwighty enter stage left;)). I think for me this is one of the hardest parts, when you wait for the call from the embryologist to let you know if any eggs have fertilised and how they are doing! What if they haven’t? What if they have, but aren’t good enough? If they are, how many? What grade are they? Honestly it makes your head spin. You are then called every 24hrs with a progress update and an indication of when you are then going to transfer any embryos back in! I have to admit to becoming slightly numb at this juncture, as there is literally nothing you can do to affect the outcome. Science and nature completely take over at this point, and as the old saying goes “what will be, will be”. I think that that is something I have definitely had to come to terms with so far, and get others to understand. The fact that this isn’t a given, that there is no guarantee, and we are playing a very unfair game of Russian roulette…but that’s exactly what it is.
By the way this isn’t suppose to try and illicit any sympathy, it’s more just to explain what is actually involved in the process for those that might not be aware (well at my clinic anyway, and mine is extreme, and every treatment is different and very personal both to the person and to the clinic involved). I think it’s really hard to understand if you haven’t been through it, and that’s not a slight on anyone as I wish we didn’t have to, but I think it really is important for there to be an awareness around the commitment and the level of “stuff” that is going on, whilst you are trying to “relax” and “not think about it too much”! And to hopefully explain why, it’s sometimes hard to keep this all to yourself and still continue living your “normal life”. This process doesn’t equate to normal, but it becomes your own sort of normal.