Behind Closed Doors: IVF – The Lowdown

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This post isn’t going to be about the emotions of IVF as our journeys to this place are different.  Nor is it about the science, as I don’t really understand that (read this post to understand what IVF is doing that your body otherwise naturally does.) This is a post about the actual, the practical. I deliberately kept away from any conception blogs or forums but would have liked to know a little more, and thought there must be other women like me. Please remember that this is the practical for Spring/Summer 2012, our PCT in our large city with our unique bodies.

So after the trying, and the trying comes the dawning that this isn’t working and a joint visit to the GP in November. We’re sent to our local hospital for a ‘sample’ and blood tests. This comes back to our GP and we learn that there is a reason.  We have already talked about if one of our bodies is the reason it’s staying between us two, we’re a team and it doesn’t matter whose it is. Our GP then fills in a form that is signed by us and sent away, for some reason this all took a long time with our GP.

Early March a letter arrives from our nearest ACU (Assisted Conception Unit) with a detailed registration form to be filled in. By the end of March we’ve received a letter informing us about the Day 1-5 investigations. I have to telephone the ACU the first day of my next period. Period arrived on Easter Saturday, I ‘phoned and left a message, message replied to, appointment booked.  The man gives another sample and the woman another blood test and scan, hence why connected to your period. The scan experience is fine. You have a sheet to keep you decent and a penis shaped probe(?) is industrially lubricated, condom put over and industrially lubricated again. It’s a little bit of a cold shock but you’ve had sex so it’s fine. This scan is to check and count follicles. After this we make a direct appointment to have the results shared. Another great system we made our next appointment when there. In fact the whole communication when part of the ACU is amazing. Phones were always answered, queries responded to then and there, or else we were phoned back with the answer.

We return at the end of May (it could have been sooner but they were moving departments) to meet with the consultant. She shares the results and explains our options. Then and there we sign up for IVF. We have funding for July so that’s when it will all start. The consultant said that our case would go before a meeting to discuss our precise dosage, we should have asked when this meeting would be. It felt like there had been a long wait and so I ‘phoned, only to discover that the meeting was happening that week. We were then ‘phoned and given the number of a drug courier company to arrange our delivery, between 7 – 12.30 and if at 12.30 they hadn’t arrived to ‘phone up and find out why. One of our drugs had to be stored in a fridge and so it had to happen at home, and it all came in such a big box that I wouldn’t really want to have to carry it home. We also received a letter confirming this and our next appointment.

On the day of my first period in July, mine happened to be at the very end of July, I went back on the pill. I didn’t realise that I was meant to keep taking the folic acid tablets, no idea why but were told to. Our appointment was very early August  to explain the next step. We were only told how to do each part just before it started. This appointment was, for an injection, for some women they sniff the drug (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone), I think. We were able to practice giving the injections and ask and re-ask. There were also more forms to sign concerning what we wanted to happen to any eggs or embryos that aren’t used, if we died mid process etc. Thankfully we know each other’s views on organ donor so it was easy but I would have perhaps liked to know this would happen to discuss it together first. We made the appointment for our next scan.

Injections. If in this process you happen to have a birthday and are given a lovely make up bag that you don’t know what to do with, keep it somewhere accessible. If at the same birthday you are given some lovely smellies in a box keep this for storing your drugs discreetly without screaming ‘We’re on IVF’. The first drug is to ‘switch off’ my ovaries, so they can then control when my eggs would mature. These injections had to be taken within an hour of the same time each day. I injected myself, upper thigh or stomach but we made sure we were together when we did it. The side effects from the drug I took could be slight menopausal. I had slight hot flushes, nothing visible like some women who are going through the menopause have. My hot flushes were mainly in the night, I just wore layers and thankfully for us this all happened during the summer. I did collect a small collection of tiny bruises on my thighs.

At the end of August back to the ACU for another scan to check on this. My body had done what it was supposed to do (if it hadn’t it would have just been back a few days later to rescan) so we were then shown how to give the next drug, Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). I was really pleased we’d gone to this appointment together as there was mixing of powder and saline to do. For a few weeks I was giving myself two injections. We found a rhythm to this. I would inject the first one whilst my husband sat at the dressing table preparing the next one. When I started taking this one my minor hot flushes stopped. The side effects for this were I could feel bloated, I had slight ovary ache. We had a pre booked scan 10 days after starting this to check on my follicles, it’s now early September. This was led by the consultant who counted and measured how many follicles. They want a certain number of a certain size before egg collection happens. For me this entailed returning twice after the initial scan as they needed to be bigger. This felt like one of the ‘It could all end here’ moments. I left the final scan, a Friday, meeting with the nurse to explain the final injection, given a pain killer suppository and told I’d be called back between 2-4pm that day and told whether I’d be in on the Monday or Wednesday. I had to write down precise times for the final injection, husbands final ejaculation, when to have last eat and drink and what time to arrive.

On the Friday I’d taken the last FSH drug, Saturday at 9.45pm was the time for our last injection, human chorionic gonadotrophon (hCG) This was the pen that had been stored in the fridge. It felt quite momentous giving this one. It was very easy and felt just like the other ones, even though it was from a pen. This had to be given 36 hours before egg collection. Sunday a day of no drugs.

Monday – Egg Collection Day, ECD as we called it. Awake early no food or drink and time for the rectum suppository an hour before we left and off to the hospital. Arrival and husband is off to give his sample and we’re lead through into an inner sanctum. Blue shoe covers put on and shown to our bed. We were introduced to the embryologist and they witnessed us saying our names and dates of birth. At this point I was given some more pain killer and all I can tell you is about waking up and being walked back. I vaguely remember being told to breathe and my husband says that I did appear to be in pain from how I moved, but I remember and felt nothing. When I came round I wanted water and felt a slight pain in an ovary but absolutely nothing else. Eleven eggs were taken. We were given time to recover and then we left. We were told either taxi or car. In fact the taxi journey home was the worst part of the whole procedure. Back home for a nap and then a slow pottering afternoon. The only medication now to be taken is a progesterone pessary twice a day, to help prepare your womb lining for an embryo.

We’d been told that we’d receive a ‘phone call between 11-12am the next day, Tuesday about whether the eggs had fertilised. This was nerve wracking, another ‘It could all end here’ moment.  Our ‘phone call told us we had six fertilised embryos and were given a time on Thursday afternoon appointment, that may be changed to Saturday morning, if our embryos were strong and able to go to blastocyst culture. The longer they can wait the greater the chance of the strong embryos being implanted. Ie, on Thursday we had five but by Saturday three and so if transferred on Thursday it might have been the two that failed that were used.  In the end as our embryos were good we were to go in on to Saturday. So Saturday morning and a full bladder. Note a full bladder is a full bladder. I had to drink a jug of water in 20 minutes as the scan had showed I wasn’t full. We were talked through the number of embryos, my age and how many could be transferred. We made our decision with their support and it was all go. I was told this would feel like a smear test, and it did. It was all quite quick and the embryologist had to check that all the embryos had been transferred and we were off. A day of quiet, told what we could, couldn’t do. Reminded to continue the pessaries and then a final ‘Good Luck’.

As I press send to this post we’re waiting/hoping/wishing. I have no idea whether the embryos have embedded and sway back and forth to thinking ‘yay we’re pregnant’ or ‘no it’s not worked’ adding various possible sensations to prove one way or the other. The final step either my period may come or on the allotted day we take a pregnancy test. If it’s positive then we’ll be back to the ACU for another scan before informing our GP, and if not we’ll hold each other and be thankful that we had this opportunity and that we’re even closer than we were before.

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Health
13 interesting thoughts on this

13 Comments

  1. Posted November 12, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Good luck, Anon. Sending hope and love your way. xxx

  2. Posted November 12, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    I’m sitting at my desk tearing up over this, which is strange as I have no wishes currently to have a child, but the pain I feel reading this is quite overwhelming. I could never do this, hand on heart, NEVER.
    You are so strong, and I am sending all the best vibes and wishes imaginable.
    xxx

  3. Posted November 12, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Wow, just wow. I had absolutely no idea about the IVF process and just how all encompassing it is, this had me absolutely gripped from start until finish. I’ve got everything crossed for you both and wish you all the very best whatever the outcome. Thanks for sharing your story. xx

  4. Posted November 12, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    This kind of practical information is so hard to come by as so much of what is online in relation to any kind of baby related subject is (of course) so very personal. If I was going through IVF, this is the kind of post I would find so useful.

    Wishing you all the luck in the world x

  5. Becca
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Like everyone else, I wish you a gazillion lucky wishes your way.

    I know from friends having gone through it (or almost having gone through it – one realised she was pregnant the day she was supposed to start her injections) how all encompassing it can be and how nerve racking it can be waiting on tenterhooks to find out if the eggs have taken.

    I regularly panic that we’ve left it too late and we’ll not be able to have children without the help of IVF so these informative, yet completely and utterly heart wrenching, posts are invaluable. I’m so relieved that you aren’t doing this alone. Some of the friends I’ve had have kind of been “left to it” and its made it all the harder for them to go through.

    Please let us know how you both get on. Fingers toes arms and legs crossed for you x

  6. Hannah
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Sending you all the luck in the world – thank you so much for sharing xxx

  7. Claire
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    Amazing post, I never realised exactly what the IVF process entailed – thank you so much for sharing.

    Good luck to you both, you sound very strong and I’m sure the process (whatever the outcome) will make you an even stronger couple.

    xx

  8. Katielase
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    I totally agree, this kind of informative post is so rare and so brilliant to have out there. Understanding exactly how the process works is amazing to know, if it’s something you’re considering doing. Thank you for writing this, Anon, and sending you all the best wishes and luck in the world.

    K x

  9. Pickle
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    This is a brilliant post, best of luck anon.

    I’m impressed by the service it sounds like you got once you were in the system – the older I get the more I’m realising how brilliant the NHS can be when you need it.

  10. Cat B
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    Wishing you loads of luck anon. Keep positive as best you can and just think – ‘Pregnant until proven otherwise’. I went through IVF earlier this year and know just how tough it is. Like you, it brought my husband and I even closer together and I realised I had a strength I never knew I was capable of. I would have loved to have read such a comprehensive and well written account of the whole process

    Do let us know how you get on Cxx

  11. PiriyaP
    Posted November 13, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Thank you for this post, wishing you all the very best of luck in the world. x

  12. Posted November 14, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I am wishing, hoping and praying for you guys. We just started IUI, and the practicalities of the process are quite similar. Nevertheless stories like this are hard to find (which is why I think it is so important to share as much as possible). Our first cycle did not work, but we are hoping we will eventually get there.
    Hugs to you and may your baby come soon, I hear the success rates with IVF are very high .

  13. Lauren
    Posted November 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Good luck! we are awaiting investigations however the waiting list for IVF is over two years long so you are very lucky to have been through the process so quickly

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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