IVF Journey Part 1
*I want to start by saying I am not a doctor. Anything you read below is my own journey and not intended to be any sort of medical advice. Additionally, everyones IVF journeys and journeys to conceive are different. Sometimes it takes multiple rounds, different action plans, and the worst case scenario - yields no results at all. Everyone's bodies are different, we all handle this physically and emotionally differently. If you have been struggling trying to conceive the below article could be a trigger for you so please proceed with caution.
I have always been into health and fitness, but about three years ago I really started to get serious about my health. I wanted to start a family soon, and decided I wanted my body to be in the best shape it could be both mentally and physically to support a growing baby.
I started with changing up my diet, then came the exercise, and then came switching out toxic products used in my home (post pandemic but recently gave in to adding back in Clorox) . I fell in love with the way I was feeling. I felt strong, vibrant, and overall super healthy.
After all of this I thought "getting pregnant" would be a done deal. My body was ready, we were ready to be parents, and I though I was in the best shape to carry a human. Unfortunately, Infertility does not care about this stuff, you can do all the prep you want, but sometimes you just have to face the inevitable and get the help you need to get what you want. I know this now, but at that time I thought I did everything I could. How did I get here? I was feeling shameful I couldn't get pregnant the "normal" way. Scared for what was to come, unprepared for this path, and just overall shocked.
I thought that once I got through this everything would be 1,2,3. I had no idea what IVF was, I thought how hard could making a baby in a lab be? However, this whole process to "get pregnant" for me took 7 months. For some it takes multiple cycles of medications and years of different courses of actions, and I am so inspired by the strength and willpower of these individuals and couples to carry on.
I went to my first consultation appointment on July 16th, 2019. (Both Aaron and I had to get tested in various ways). Once we figured out where the infertility issues were (which I will keep private) our doctor put together a plan for the egg retrieval. Again, sometimes its not as easy as taking a test and recognizing a source of where the problem lies. A lot of fertility is unexplained.
Our egg retrieval ended up happening in September 2019.
In the next few paragraphs I am going to breakdown the retrieval process. This process is also very similar if you are in the position of wanting to freeze your eggs (want to save some eggs for a rainy day ;) ). Again, everyone's bodies and journeys are different so if you are taking the IVF path for whatever reason, your journey could be similar or completely different then mine.
If you are freezing your eggs, or trying to make a baby (going for embryos) the first part of this process is pretty similar. Based on a number of factors in your body your doctor will put you on a treatment plan that consists of various hormones in the form of shots/pills to get your body ready to retrieve your eggs.
You cant just begin this process on whatever day you choose. (I was ready to get this show on the road so the waiting around was hard for me) On Day 1 of my cycle (menstrual period) I called into the doc office. Then day 2/3 of my cycle (when your period starts) I headed into the doctor office for blood work. The first go around I ended up pre-ovulating. Which meant I had to wait around another month again for my next menstrual cycle. This time I was put on birth control to have better control over that happening again. Then came submitting blood work results and other various test results to insurance for approval on cycle medications. . Dealing with insurance approval and cvs/walgreens for medications was the absolute worst part of the process, so brace yourself.
In my case since I was using birth control to time my cycle and prevent pre-ovulation I waited until I was mostly finished with the pack before coming in the office again for blood work and ultrasound to check to see if my body was ready to start the injection process. Once I got the go ahead it was about 12 days of injections. Two shots in the morning in the belly, and two shots in the belly at night. Our center gave us videos to watch and learn how to give yourself the injections. Some centers have you come in and teach you (so I have heard) but I thought the videos were easy enough to follow. I was lucky enough to have a partner who was willing to do them for me. Needles freak me out, but something you have to get over rather quickly while going through this (lots of shots, and lots of blood work). Along with the shots every day for 12 days I was also going into the doctors office for blood work and ultra sound every other day for what is called "monitoring hours". Monitoring hours are usually in the morning. Ours were 7am-8:30am. Being in the office at that time depending on the center there are usually a ton of women (and some men) in the waiting room. For me seeing all these women every morning here for the same thing put things into perspective. I was not alone, this isnt only happening to me/us. Tip of advice: Due to the frequent visits picking a center that is close to home will make your life a whole lot easier.
Depending on how your body is producing follicles and your blood work results, will decipher how many days you are taking injections, and how many different kinds of injections before adding in one more shot the "HCG" trigger shot.
Your office will call you and tell you the exact time you need to take the trigger shot. This made me sooo NERVOUS. Since it is super important to get the timing right on this one. I found it was best to prep the medication and prep the injection so once that clock hits "go time" you are ready to inject.
The morning after the Trigger shot I went into the office for blood work, but was told to have no medications on this day. I remember being so happy, a day with no shots to the belly was so exciting at this point. (Aaron was great at administering the shots for me but my belly was starting to look a tad beat up) After this doc appt I saw a nurse to prep us for the next days retrieval appointment.
A surprise to me was the retrieval is a small surgical procedure where you will need to be put to sleep for a very short amount of time. I had never had any type of surgery before. Never had been administered anesthesia, so I was pretty nervous come retrieval day mostly for that reason. Now, I wish i could be under anesthesia for every doctor appointment. Prepping for the procedure took longer than the actual procedure itself which was only about 30min. When I walked into the office on retrieval day l changed into my hospital gown, and headed into a prep room where I got administered an IV. Once I was good to go I was taken into the operating room for the procedure. I remember laying down and being so nervous and then I was asked my name and my birth date, and thats the last I remember (because I was out). I woke up in the recovery room with Aaron and my Mom there feeling like I had just taken the most amazing nap. The doctor came in shortly there after and let us know how many eggs were retrieved. This is a hard part for some. Just because you had this procedure done and you had plenty of follicles does not mean you will have eggs retrieved. Some come out of this process with retrieving 1 or none. That is something you just have to mentally prepare for.
After the retrieval process everyone recovers differently. Some are good to go the next day others take a few days to recover. In my case for about 3 days I felt very uncomfortable. Also my stomach at that point looked like I was 5 months pregnant. (That goes down).
Depending on your journey, if egg freezing the eggs you retrieve will be frozen and stored until ready to use. If going the baby making route the eggs retrieved will be injected with sperm in a lab following the retrieval. You then wait a few days for a phone call to let you know out of the eggs retrieved which ones were viable. My retrieval I believe was 19 eggs. Of the 19 eggs, 11 were viable. Of those 11 I now waited a few more days to see which ones reached whats called blastocyst stage. Of those 11, 7 ended up making it. So, you can see how if you are a women who decided to freeze her eggs for later use just because you have a ton of eggs retrieved doesn't mean they will all be viable to be transferred. At this stage you can choose to keep all of the viable embryos frozen and try for transfer, or you can take it one step further and test the embryos. Warning: Testing the embryos is expensive but was told it would up my chances for a more successful transfer so we chose the testing route. After two weeks of waiting we got the results that we had 4 healthy embryos. (I was over the moon!).
After this process I choose to take some time off from all the hormones before we planned for a transfer for one of the embryos. (The transfer process isnt a 1,2,3 deal either)
Now that we have a healthy baby boy growing in my belly, Part 2 of my journey will come a bit later. (The transfer process).
If you are going through infertility you are not alone. No story is the same, but if I can provide comfort or support in any way I am happy to do so.
Good luck on your journey whatever it may be. You are stronger than you think you are, I can promise you that ;).
Hi there, Im Stephi Paige!