IVF: Becoming a pincushion

It was a relief to take the summer off from treatments, because you realize that the past six months of your life have been measured in two-week increments and bi-monthly clinic visits. Especially with the hormone treatment, this is what an average month would be like: upon getting your period, you call the clinic to make an appointment for an ultrasound around the time you’d ovulate. You go into the ultrasound around 8-9 days post menstruation to see how well the follicles have developed, and at a precise instant a few days later you inject the Pregnyl after which precisely 36 hours later we would go in for the insemination. And then you wait. You get paranoid about experiencing signs of early pregnancy. The first week flies by, the second week you wake up each day hoping you won’t get your period, which of course eventually you do and you start the cycle all over again.

Over our month of summer holiday, during which the clinic was also closed, we had time to reflect and prepare for the next set of more intensive treatments: IVF. I had a lot of mixed emotions about this: mostly fear and worry about the discomfort, but also about the cost. It ain’t cheap makin’ babies, that’s for sure. On the last day of our holiday I experienced the most severe cramping I ever had before and had to go in to see a doctor, who of course wouldn’t/couldn’t believe that it could possibly be related to menstrual cramps. (It was).

Upon returning home, I immediately made an appointment with my doctor who confirmed that my endometriosis had flared up, and was the source of my pain. She thought I should get a second opinion. Also, she thought it was wise to first take care of my pain and only then continue with the treatments. After preparing for it emotionally for a month, we felt disappointed and very unsure: the second opinion could mean being put in line for surgery…which would effectively force us to take a break from treatments until the following summer!

Luckily for me, pregnancy (if possible!) is actually a great temporary cure for endometriosis. Without the hormonal fluctuation of the menstrual cycle, the endometriosis chills out, dries up and can greatly be diminished. Our second opinion doctor showed us the green light, and two days later we are purchasing hundreds and hundreds of Euros worth of injectible hormones. (Thanks to the health care system, I only pay a small fee for ALL prescription drugs for the remainder of the year!).

On the second day of menstruation I took the first shot: Elonva to stimulate follicle growth. Five days later began five consecutive days of injections of Orgalutran to keep me from ovulating. On the last two days, I additionally injected Puregon to boost the rest of the follicles. On the 6th day at precisely 10pm I injected a full dose of Pregnyl to release the eggs for the harvesting on Monday. Three days into the Orgalutran injections I had had an ultrasound, where they discovered about 15 follicles. To ensure the maximum amount of mature follicles, the doctor calculated their growth rate and debated whether or not there would be enough on Friday–eventually she decided on Monday.

I had anticipated extreme discomfort and swelling to the point of being unable to work. Instead, the only side effects from being a pin cushion seemed some minor mood swings and a significant increase in sexual appetite (insatiable!). Not so bad 🙂

On Monday, after being a nervous wreck all weekend we arrive at the clinic in the morning. I’d taken a few days off work since I was expecting some soreness and my wonderful partner had taken that Monday off work completely to be with me. After a little bit of waiting we were called into the “resting room” where they prepared a cannula in my hand for the medication. And then they called me in! I climbed on to the exam table and immediately I was prodded and poked and washed. I was injected with a sedative and pain killers… and they administered a local anesthetic to the vaginal wall. Soon the sedative started to have effect… as they began the ultrasound and the harvesting from my right ovary. Unfortunately the machine got stuck and the sedative and pain killer started to wear off… so when they resumed I felt very distinct pain. But soon they gave me more things to calm me down and the rest of the procedure went quickly and painlessly. All in all it took about 20 minutes.

While I was blissfully unaware of what was happening, they managed to extract 14 follicles, of which 7 had an ovum. They immediately took them to get fertilized and I went in to recover.

I can only say that I was positively surprised at how easy and painless this whole procedure was! To any of my readers about to go through this: It’s really not so bad!

A few days rest at home and three days later we returned (yesterday) for the implantation! Of the seven ovum, five had split from the nucleus and were unusable, but two were prime 8-celled little embryos! Because I’m not very tall, they only implanted one.  The procedure was comparable to an insemination: A quick stretch and a wash and catheter in, catheter out–look at the little embryo on the ultrasound screen…And now we have a picture of this light blob in my uterus.. possibly the very first picture of our future baby!

Until I get to take a pregnancy test, I’m inserting a progesterone tablet three times daily to support implantation…and injecting a few shots of Pregnyl over the next week to support my short cycle.

So all that’s left to do is WAIT.

I’d appreciate your support!