While every protocol for IVF is different there are some steps that are pretty much the same for everyone. If you’re just starting out here’s what you can expect;
- Initial consult with RE to discuss protocol
- Wait for start of period. You may already be taking estrogen/birth control pill.
- Vaginal Ultrasound to assess baseline
- Start injections
- Another Vaginal Ultrasound to see how you’re doing and to tweak meds if necessary
- More injections
- Another Ultrasound, maybe add in another shot to stop you ovulating.
- More injections until they finally tell you to do trigger shot.
- 36 hours after trigger shot you have your egg retrieval
- A day after egg retrieval you find out how many eggs fertilized
- Maybe a day 3 transfer, maybe a day 5 transfer. You might choose to freeze all or have embryos tested.
Here’s my experience...
When I started on the journey to have a child I remember naively saying that I wanted as little intervention as possible. I was against taking drugs. I said I would never do IVF.
Health insurance back then did not cover fertility treatment for single women. You had to be married. I was paying for everything out of pocket and none of it was cheap!!
In order to boost my chances I tried a couple of rounds of clomid. RE’s often like you to do a ‘clomid challenge’ to see how you respond to drugs. What clomid does is it makes your body produce extra follicles, which is where the eggs grow and mature. I responded well but didn’t achieve a pregnancy.
I threw out my no intervention and no drugs rule. I took out a loan and moved to IVF. I had found an RE that I liked. I went to a consultation where I asked 5000 questions and then waited to start my cycle. I remember being terrified but also confident that it would work.
IVF is not at all glamorous. You’re constantly undressing and having vaginal ultrasounds. It becomes so routine that when I was pregnant I once got undressed only to have the doctor tell me it wasn’t necessary anymore! (embarrassing!)
I had one last hurdle to overcome. I was terrified of needles! I wasn’t sure how I was going to find the courage to inject myself! The sheer volume of meds and equipment was terrifying.
I swear that first shot took me half an hour to prepare and inject. To my surprise it didn’t hurt in the slightest. I think the adrenaline and fear of doing it wrong makes you not even notice the needle going in.
About 10 days in I started feeling quite delicate. I used to say that my lady balls were swollen. I found myself being a little more cautious as I sat down and stood up. Imagine your ovaries as a golf ball and usually they have a little marble or two in them each month. Now imagine that you’ve put 6+ marbles in there. That golf ball is turning into a tennis ball… or maybe even bigger. That’s what I was feeling.. I couldn’t wait til retrieval day.
Once my follicles had reached their goal size I was brought in for my egg retrieval. It was a little scary (isn’t any surgery?) but over quickly. I felt a bit sore for a day or so after my first one but nothing major.
Then I waited to see how many had fertilized… then how many made it to day 3, then to day 5. I was lucky and was about to transfer one and freeze the rest. It didn’t take. Nor did any of the frozen ones.
There’s a lot more research now that points to frozen transfers being more successful. Taking a break gives your body a chance to get rid of all those nasty drugs and find its equilibrium. In hindsight I wonder if taking a break between tries might have brought my child to me more quickly…. I was on the train, month after month and I wasn’t going to give up until I got my baby! (Or went bankrupt.)
I did a second round of IVF and got even more good looking day 5 embryos. I did a fresh transfer which didn’t take. I did more Frozen transfers that failed.. and then I took a much needed break.
to be continued.