I’m titling this preemptively because I’m assuming this one may be long, but I hope that doesn’t discourage you from reading on. It’s amazing how little people know about IVF. When I don’t feel like going into the nitty gritty, I usually say something like “oh you know, like a test tube baby.” First off, it’s more like a petri dish and secondly, this makes IVF sound so much simpler than it actually is. And as someone who has gone through it, I’m proud as hell of myself and should brag about how amazing my dedication to being a mom is.
IVF is not for the weak. Do you hate needles/shots/blood draws/invasive ultrasounds? You’ll get over that really quickly. There are many, many IVF protocols and drug combinations, so I will only be talking about the one I did, which is called the Antagonist Protocol with birth control. I’m not going to mess with the science of all of it, but basically you take the birth control to calm your ovaries down and prevent any follicles (which is where the egg comes from) from forming. That way, when you start the injections meant to make your ovaries grow as many eggs as possible, they all grow at close to the same rate. Then once your follicles get to a certain size, you introduce another shot to keep your body from ovulating all those eggs you’re working so hard to grow!
For me, I think the birth control was worse than the shots as far as symptoms are concerned. I hate birth control. It messes with my mood, my skin, gives me headaches, and I had hoped I would never need it again! I think most people on this protocol only take about 3 weeks worth, but mine got pushed a little longer because my doctor was on vacation and I wanted to wait for him.
I took my last birth control on a Tuesday, and started my injections on that following Sunday. For me, it helped me feel more relaxed and in control to try and have all my bases covered before starting stims. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel and wanted to be able to focus on relaxing and growing follicles. I spent the weekend prior to starting injections and majorly cleaned our house. I also made sure I had all my prescriptions (and there are a lot!) and medications ready to go. On top of the shots, you have a pretty decent pull regime going on at certain times of your cycle. It’s important to know what you’re taking and when. I know for awhile I was taking over 80 pills and vitamins a week!
My clinic also wanted me on a high sodium diet during and after stims to help prevent OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). This is caused by your ovaries working extra hard and causing a buildup of fluid that if left untreated, can lead to death. Your doctor should be keeping a close eye on you for this anyway, but anything you can do to prevent this is obviously a good idea! So prior to starting stims, I went to Sam’s Club and stocked up.
My nurse had instructed me to drink at least 32oz of Gatorade a day, so it was nice to have plenty and not have to worry about picking up more.
Onto the shots! Day 1 was obviously the worst. And the belly shots (for me anyway) honestly weren’t bad. I did them myself, because I can be a control freak and I’d just rather be the one stabbing myself in the belly!
Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday I was on two injections at night. Medicines called Menopur and Gonal-F. The Gonal-F came in a pen and was super easy to use and inject. The Menopur you had to mix but thankfully my husband did it for me. It helped him feel a little more involved. The Menopur burned a little, so I would just ice my stomach for a few minutes while we were getting everything ready. Wednesday was my first monitoring appointment! This is when they do an ultrasound to see how everything is going, do a blood check to check different hormone levels, and adjust your dosages if needed.
During this appointment, we added in a third shot that I’d do in the mornings. This was to prevent ovulation of my eggs early! Friday morning was my one and only little stim meltdown when I had a bubble in my Cetrotide (the shot to prevent ovulation) and I swear I wasted too much medicine trying to get that bubble out. I also turned one shot into 3, trying to get the bubble out. Turns out, it wouldn’t have been a big deal since it’s a subcutaneous shot and not going into a vein, but oh well. All was okay, but it took some convincing from my IVF nurse.
I responded quickly to stims and when we went in Sunday morning for another monitoring appt, we were told we would most likely be triggering that night for retrieval on Tuesday! The trigger shot provides your body with a final hormone to get your eggs ready to ovulate. Without the trigger, those eggs won’t be ready to retrieve. This shot goes in your booty, so my husband got the honors of this one! We had to do it at 9:00pm on the dot, which was a good thing, no time for hesitation! After that, we were done with shots until after retrieval!
I already wrote a small article on retrieval, so I’ll skip over that, but you can read all about it and my tips for retrieval here.
Egg retrieval recovery wasn’t too bad for me. I took the day off and the day after, too, which was the perfect amount of time. The trapped gas and constipation was the worst part for me. IVF is so glamorous. Unfortunately, as if egg retrieval surgery isn’t enough for one day, your PIO shots will also start that night if you’re doing a fresh transfer.
Progesterone in oil and yes, that whole needle has to go in your butt and hopefully you will need this every night for the next 8-10 weeks! Since your body isn’t becoming pregnant naturally, it takes some time for it to catch on and start producing progesterone naturally, and progesterone is needed to stay pregnant. My husband also had to do these for me and I think he hated it more than I did. They look worse than they are, usually. It seems to be hit or miss with no rhyme or reason. I plan to write another post just on these babies one day.
The day after egg retrieval, I received a call from our embryologists to let us know how many eggs fertilized. At our clinic they call you day 1 and day 3 with reports on how everything is growing. There are certain things they look for and a certain amount of times embryos should divide. We did our transfer on day 5, when they hit the blastocyst stage. We transferred one embaby and froze the others. ❤
I will continue the story of our transfer day in another blog post, so stay tuned!