The truth about IVF

I’m now 11dp5dt and everything is still very much the same as yesterday.  I haven’t tested today but not had any signs that it’s gone wrong yet and still holding out to test on 14dp5dt as my official test date.  It will then be another 2 week wait for the 7 weeks scan…it’s all waiting!  So I wanted to use this opportunity, whilst I’m in the midst of a cycle, to hopefully tell you some truths about IVF.

As I mentioned before, I got really scared when I heard we would have to do IVF as I had reacted quite badly to the pill and the morning after pill previously and had also heard some very scary stories about IVF.

  1. You know nothing about IVF until you go through it – this is my first truth!
    Before I started IVF I thought I knew what it was about, but I really didn’t! I hadn’t a clue.  I had heard stories from the media or acquaintances who has been through it and who said ‘you go mad’ on the drugs, or injecting yourself is just awful etc.  It made me SO scared before I started and could have easily put me off altogether to be honest.  But you will never understand the enormity of IVF until you do it, and also the many myths that accompany it.  Please don’t listen to anyone else, it’s not that bad.  Especially don’t read into everything on the internet as it seems only people with negative experiences ever write anything (and that’s what I’m trying to change!).
  2. IVF drugs are nothing like the pill or morning after pill
    I have realised there’s absolutely no correlation between not suiting the pill and IVF treatment or actually pregnancy hormones for that matter! I went on the pill when I was younger and on one that I took, actually felt quite suicidal.  I quickly came off that.  I also took the morning after pill a couple of times in my life and have had very bad anxiety attacks after each.  With this in mind, you can see why I was petrified of the IVF hormones!  Well, I have had absolutely no reaction to the hormones given to me in IVF.  The only reaction I’ve had was when I came off the hormones the first time as I think my body went into a bit of shock.  I have had friends who have reacted to the hormones with IVF but haven’t had reactions with the pill.  It’s all very odd.  Also, having no reaction to the hormones used in IVF does not mean you won’t react to pregnancy hormones judging by my mood today!
  3. Injections don’t hurt (unless they’re Clexane)
    I watched a really good film the other day called ‘One Last Shot’ on Netflix all about a couple’s journey with IVF.  It was brilliantly shot and really did show the truth about the experience of IVF.  The only thing that annoyed me was all the faces and noises pulled when the lady was doing her injections! THEY DON’T HURT! Stop making people scared of injecting themselves.  The needles used are small and you inject subcutaneously, so into fat basically!  The only exception to this is the progesterone injections they seem to do in America that we don’t do over here – they look hideous with a big needle and into muscle, and the Clexane injections I’m doing at the moment that are quite hard to get into the skin as the needle is bigger, it feels like a bee has stung you afterwards for about 5 mins and leaves some crappy bruises!
  4. You can still live a normal life
    I’ve managed to continue working whilst doing most of the IVF process.  I’ve continued to do yoga and get on with life basically whilst down regging and stimming.  The only time I’ve changed my life is post transfer where I usually take a few days off work, mainly because I find work stressful and frustrating – not a good combo for when you’re trying to be relaxed.  Actually this time, I went straight to a hen do after transfer and didn’t really rest except on the long train ride!
  5. Sometimes it doesn’t work!
    People don’t tell you this! When you start IVF it’s usually after a long time of trying to get pregnant without success, so you think IVF is the last resort and often the answer to your prayers.  Well it’s not always! I have a friend who’s IVF worked first time and that’s amazing, but I think she might be the only one I’ve heard of! Be prepared for a long journey.  I’m not trying to be pessimistic, but no one was realistic with me and it was hard and quite shocking to me when it didn’t work the first time.
  6. Sometimes it does…
    I still can’t get excited this time.  I keep thinking maybe I will once I get past my clinic’s official test date on Thursday (17th May), or maybe after the first scan, or maybe after the 12 week scan, or maybe at 20 weeks.  Who knows.  It’s so easy to cloud this whole experience with what ifs and thinking negatively.  I now need to teach myself how to be more positive!

The 4th Round…

I am well into the 4th round now and thought it only right to update you on what the plan is.

After our 3rd failed cycle, which ended in early miscarriage at 5 weeks, our very chilled out clinic didn’t really give many answers, until we asked to see a doctor to discuss things.  I was keen on just getting on with the next round immediately and transferring one of our frozen embryos in a natural cycle as we had done before.  A natural cycle means not being medicated at all, you track your ovulation and have the transfer 5 days later.  Although I was really sad about the previous one not working, when I was told I could just crack on with the next one immediately, it made the whole thing feel just a little bit better…but not for long.

So this clinic, who are so chilled out they’re almost horizontal, decided to whip into action.  Someone somewhere decided to have a look at our records and actually think there might be something to investigate here – who would have thought! Even though I’d asked for all of these investigations and other procedures to be investigated after round two, it was dismissed very quickly.  I was called up by a different nurse (don’t get my talking about the lack of consistency at our clinic too!) who said, actually the doctor has had a look at your history and records, and has suggested you have an endometrial scratch, a blood test to see if you have a clotting disorder and then go onto a natural frozen transfer cycle (FET).  I was naturally upset that these investigations would mean it would be pushed to another cycle but I do understand that investigations now need to be done.  It isn’t working otherwise!

However, we weren’t offered an appointment or even talked through the next steps which we thought was very disappointing.  I then had to call up to book in the scratch, which needs to be on a specific day, and they didn’t bother to call me to book in – all very odd! Especially when I was still feeling very emotional and actually made me cry every time I spoke to the clinic!  Anyway, I asked for an appointment with the doctor, and we were given one for the next week with the nice new doctor 🙂

He was the most proactive, well read, thoughtful doctor we have had who actually came up with a very good plan next.  It was like he gave more than 5 minutes to think about it!  It’s not like we’re paying huge amount for this treatment (we had our one free IVF treatment on the NHS so we’re into full payment).  I had also spoken to a friend’s sister who is Head Embryologist at a very good London clinic who gave me some advice as I was feeling particularly disillusioned with everything and just needed someone to corroborate some of my (extensive) research.

So the plan he came up with was:

  • Medicated FET – I’ve never been down-regged before and had always tried to avoid it, but I’m now at the stage where I just need to let the doctors take over a bit!
  • Endometrial Scratch – I’ve spoken about that in my previous blog!
  • Blood tests for clotting and immunological issues which can be treated from just before transfer if needed.
  • Put two embryos back in.

We also discussed the natural killer cells investigations – he felt that we didn’t need to do that at this stage so have decided not to do that, although I am feeling like I might ask whether I can just be treated for it anyway.  Not sure whether he’ll do that, but I am feeling at a bit of a loss at the moment, and want to do anything to make a pregnancy work.

I started the down regging with HRT last Sunday (8th April) and am now waiting for my period.  I will then call the clinic and I think they will do a baseline scan.  I then start the estrogen from the first Sunday after my period starts (which I think will be this Sunday).  They will scan me 12 days after starting the estrogen and then see whether I will be ready with another scan for transfer.  I think the transfer will either be 3rd May or 10th May at the moment.

So there we go.  Down regging is fine by the way, the injections are easier than others I’ve done and managed to get them done really quickly in the morning before work which is good – or maybe I’m just a bit of a pro now 4th cycle in!  But I haven’t gone ‘mad’ yet as all my IVF friends have told me they did! To be honest, I forget most of the time that I’m actually doing IVF.  This is a new type of normal I guess…

Chemical Pregnancy

I was planning to write every day but realised this is not a good idea with a very busy job!  I want to share what’s going on with this 4th IVF cycle, but also wanted to talk about some of the issues that I have come up against and see if anyone else has any tips/feels the same.

Although I wasn’t too affected emotionally by my first two cycles, it seems the last one has really hit me and it seems that a lot of people around me don’t really understand the enormity of the situation.  It may be my own fault that I have reacted well previously, so friends and family are slightly confused my be this time or it might be the fact that it seems very early miscarriage doesn’t warrant much of a reaction.

The term ‘chemical miscarriage’ means a pregnancy loss before the pregnancy can be seen on a scan – so can only be identified chemically by blood or urine test.  This usually occurs from 4 – 6 weeks pregnant and often happens when a positive test is seen and either slowly or very quickly (as in my case) goes to negative before you’re able to have a scan.  It’s a term that a lot of people are now campaigning about removing as it tends to play down the enormity of the experience of having one of these – the term ‘early miscarriage’ should certainly be put in place.

I’m not trying to play down or even try to compare this type of miscarriage with people losing babies much later.  I have a number of friends who have attended their 12 week scans and realised the baby has passed away, and I’ve had a couple of friends who have lost babies very late in pregnancy.  To be honest, having gone through my recent experience, I’m not quite sure how those friends have gotten through those times without just staying in bed and shutting out the world.  This experience has given me a lot appreciation to those who have been through any miscarriage.

I think the problem this time for me, and I can only speak for my own feelings, is that we were officially pregnant for a week and a half.  I know that’s not long and I know, especially in our situation, that you shouldn’t start to look to the future – but it’s human nature surely?  This was the furthest we had ever got with a pregnancy.  The others, as I previously explained, I had seen a very faint positive test, but this was massively different.

We got a positive that just kept getting darker and darker for a week and a half, and then it disappeared.  I didn’t even start bleeding for another 4 days, so I could have gone on until ‘5 weeks’ pregnant without knowing and start bleeding.  It was horrendous.   However, I think it was the reactions of certain friends and family members that really got me.  Stating things like ‘some people wouldn’t even know they’re pregnant at 5 weeks’ well I did as I’M DOING IVF.  ‘This is your way of life now and you need to get used to these things happening’ – that doesn’t make it better. It’s not just the actual words that have hurt me and made me feel like I’m not allowed to be sad, or I’m pathetic in some way for being sad, it’s actually some of the people that have been there every step of the way with me, through all cycles, that have just treated this like nothing has happened, not checked in to see if I’m ok, and actually been actively horrible in some cases!!

Anyway, I have been surprised at my own reaction, but think it might be the fact that I dared to dream (thank you Izzy Judd for a great title) and that this was a compounded reaction to three failed attempts.   I don’t expect people to understand, but I don’t expect their opinions either.

I think the term chemical pregnancy really undermines what happens to you and how someone should feel.  You still see the positive test, you still go to bed that night thinking ‘oh my god I’m pregnant’.  You still have to watch what you eat and what you do physically.  You start to get some symptoms, like bigger boobs and feeling very tired.  You still feel that inner elation and contentment that you are pregnant and a certain glow about the day.  And then it goes away.  It’s really screwed up.

I remember I just felt something had gone wrong, I ran to get more tests to check and everything was still positive and fine, but I just knew something wasn’t right.  I cried at my desk at work thinking, oh god I won’t be able to deal with this if it all goes wrong.  And it did.  But I’m out the other side now.

I don’t want this to be all doom and gloom but I did want to write this.  To anyone who is going through this right now – you do come out the other side.  Your hormones calm down, the tears do dry, you do end up laughing about something even without just a brave face, and trust be you do enjoy a little tipple to help! We sent ourselves away for Easter – it was actually something that I had booked when I was pregnant to try to distract ourselves before our first scan (which was meant to be this week).  However, we still enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fact I could now go in the hot tub on the beach, the pool and enjoy a prosecco here and wine with dinner!

In our room in the hotel there was this painting which initially made me angry, but then I thought how I would feel if it was there and I was pregnant.  Maybe I’ll visit there again and it will be going right instead and I’ll be really happy to see the painting!

My reason for being here…

I decided to start this blog to help others, help myself, hopefully find some cathartic healing in writing everything down! I have found solace in other people’s blogs and vlogs for years now, particularly on the subject of fertility and IVF, and now I’m becoming an old hand at this process, I was hoping to perhaps impart some wisdom, or just have a moan.

I’ve never written a blog before and not even sure anyone reads them!

Our story:  So we started trying to have a baby in December 2014.  We were naive and thought it would happen very quickly.  January came and went without anything happening, and I seem to remember being so angry and upset when I came on my period on my husband’s birthday in February.  We were both disillusioned then!

We did manage to get a positive in July 2015 when I was at a festival.  I remember being very emotional on the journey to this festival, my boobs were massive and hurting, and I thought finally, maybe, this has worked.  The next day I did a test in a portaloo and there it was, the other line! I was so excited.  I cancelled my surfing lesson that day and walked around the festival in this serene glow of pregnancy.  I chose to ignore the horrendous period pain I was experiencing!  The next day I came on and that was that.

Fast forward another year of burying our head in the sand and trying every remedy known to man, we finally decided to seek some help.  We went in for testing and were told in May 2016 that in no uncertain terms we would need IVF.

I have always been so scared of IVF – I think the media, TV, chinese whispers, blogs on the internet all lead to making IVF much bigger than it is.  As soon as I was told the only way I would make a baby would be through pumping myself full of drugs and hormones, I broke down.  I also hid from the truth for another year before actually starting on the IVF journey.

We did the research on the clinics, we visited open days and got all the holidays and festivals out of the way before dedicating our lives to this next stage of the process.  We got my 30th birthday out of the way too so I could drink for one last night, and started our first round in July 2017.

Round 1 – July 2017: We managed to get 6 eggs, 4 fertilised, 2 became blastocysts, had one put back and one in the freezer.  BFN.  Terrible day as you go through the first round thinking it will work.  This is the answer to our prayers! I actually knew it hadn’t worked way before my official test day.  I am not known for my patience and 4 days after our 5 day transfer, I started testing!  I didn’t see a thing.  Even my eyes couldn’t deceive my brain.  There was nothing there, nothing changed and I started bleeding exactly 2 weeks after my egg collection and 9 days past 5 day transfer (9dp5dt).  I’ll talk about things in more depth in other blogs, but the drugs were fine!

So we booked another holiday to get over it!

Round 2 – October 2017:  We decided to go for a natural frozen transfer (FET).  This meant no drugs at all.  I had to track my ovulation and when I ovulated I called the clinic and they booked me in for a transfer 5 days after.  It was a much calmer process.  Even though the drugs didn’t affect me, it is stress for your body and the egg collection really wasn’t great so this time round seemed much more…natural.  However natural IVF can be!  And from 5 days post transfer I started getting a positive line! A very faint but definitely there line.  However, it didn’t get darker and I knew as time went on, it was very unlikely to be good news.  2 weeks after my ovulation I started bleeding again.

So we decided to take some time off as I couldn’t cope emotionally to keep going through this disappointment.  It was nearly Christmas and we thought – let’s at least enjoy ourselves.  And we very much did! And then we went skiing because apparently holidays are the only remedy to an IVF broken heart.

Sorry this blog isn’t very joyous – I promise I’ll get better.  Just having to tell the back story!

We went to the clinic to get answers.  I asked:

  • Can we get an endometrial scratch?  You can but we wouldn’t bother.
  • Can I get tested for the natural killer cells?  No we don’t believe in that.
  • Can we use embryo glue?  No we don’t believe in that.
  • Can we put two embryos back?  Do you want twins?  Because you’re young and you’ll end up having them.

It was a really helpful visit as you can see.  They just blew us off and said we’ll have a baby it might just take a few goes.  No more investigation.

Round 3 – February 2018:  So I got christmas cheer and skiing out my system, I went back to being healthy and we decided to start treatment again in February.  It was a fresh cycle again and they jacked my drugs up and we managed 11 eggs this time, 7 fertilised and 3 blasts.  One was put back and two put in the freezer.

It was different this time – everyone had hope.  My friends and family all ‘had a good feeling’.  I had dreamed I was pregnant with twins – it was weird.  The first two times I knew it wasn’t going to work in my head – but this time I knew it would work.  I had all the same feelings I did the second time (I’ll go into that in another blog) and I tested 4 days after transfer and could immediately see a positive line.  I didn’t tell my husband as I wanted to see it get darker.  So the next day, 5dp5dt, I saw the faintest line again but very clear.  Much clearer than the first time.  I did another test later that day and it was clear as anything.  It was such a magical day – I sent a photo of the tests to close friends who knew and we all couldn’t believe how dark it was already.

The best day was 5 days after that on the Saturday.  I was pretty used to seeing positive tests and did one in the morning ( a first response).  I went back to sleep and when I woke up the line was the darkest I had ever seen.  I then dipped a digital in the same wee from the morning that I had saved (mmm) and it came up ‘pregnant 1-2’.  It was true! I was pregnant!!

We were very much trying not to get excited but we couldn’t help it.  I just wanted to get past my period day and then I could start believing it.  So the Monday was period day and I sailed through that.  I stopped testing as there wasn’t much point testing any more and I went on for 5 more glorious days…

My clinic had told me to wait until the Friday to do another test, make sure it’s all going ok, then ring them to book in a scan.  A SCAN! What?!  I don’t have those because I’m never pregnant – oh wait, yes I am!  However, on the Thursday I was at work and something odd happened.  I came out of a meeting and just felt odd – I couldn’t put my finger on it.  So I went to Boots to get some tests as I needed them for the next day anyway.  I went to the bank and all of a sudden felt a rush of something downstairs.  I panicked, ran out and ran all the way back to work.  It was the worst feeling – I was hyperventilating and crying.  I got into the loo and I couldn’t even look.  When I did, everything was fine, but I really scared myself.

So I decided to do a test and it was a lot lighter, but I just blamed that on the fact I held my wee for only an hour.  I then waited another 1,5 hours and did another digital and FRER – digital said 1-2 still and the frer was darker than before but nowhere near as dark as earlier in the week.  I figured it was the dilute wee that cause the lines and the digital not moving up in weeks.

The next morning I woke up at 5.30am to test.  I did a clear blue this time and another digital – I saw straight away – the clear blue barely showed a line and the digital was doing it’s usual time dance before showing the result.  It finally came up ‘not pregnant’.  What?  I couldn’t believe it.

I won’t go into the rest of this for now, but let’s just say I’ve had an awful week.

So that’s me – our story. We are now on the 4th round journey and will be updating this as much as I can along the way.  Thanks for reading if you’ve stumbled across this 🙂

K x