Saturday 29 March 2014

What It's Like To Have IVF

{Quick warning - this post contains pictures of needles, so if you're squeamish, you might want to skip this!}

Well, the first thing to say is that the answer to the blog post title is (although it's a terrible cliche), it is exactly like this...

Rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach

The second thing to mention (the bad news part) is that despite everything being 'textbook', my IVF treatment back in February didn't actually work. We found out at the beginning of March; it's funny really that the whole treatment process is full of scans and monitoring but at the end of the two week wait, you find out whether you're pregnant or not the same way as almost every other woman - a little stick with either one or two lines on it.

The third bit of news however (the good news part) is this...

Mystery Bag
If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen the pic above which I posted last Wednesday as my 100 Happy Days pic. The big (or possibly not so big really) mystery is that the bag contained a fresh set of drugs and by the time you're all reading this, I'll already be 4 days into my second IVF treatment cycle - yay!
Not that that's something most people would be happy about but we did wonder whether we might have to wait a few months before trying again so being told we could start whenever we were ready (and on the correct day of course) was absolutely fabulous news!

So back to the original title - what is it like to have IVF?

It's heart-wrenching.
It's amazing.
It's completely up and down.
And every other emotion you can imagine along the way.
You'll lose count of the amount of people who've seen your bits.
You'll hang on each and every word the nurses and consultant say.
You'll learn more about the human body and biology than you ever wanted to know.
You'll end up with IVF being almost all you can think about.
You'll swing from huge amounts of optimism to huge amounts of negativity.
And after all that, you still might end up empty handed.

I'll try and summarise the science-y bit...

First of all, there's a few different routes (called protocols) that get you to the same end result and every single fertility clinic seems to operate with their own ideas and methods.

My protocol was called the Long Protocol (designed for women who don't ovulate naturally like myself - 50% of our problem is me, I have PCOS). This protocol involves several stages:

1. Take a tablet once a day to induce a period so your body is completely fresh, so to speak - for me this drug was Provera.
2. At the same time take another drug to switch off the pituary gland in your brain. This is what produces all the hormones in your body so switching that off put you into a menopausal state (called the Down-Regulation Stage) - my drug was Suprecur which involved a delightful nasal spray four times a day.
3. After about 2-3 weeks of sniffing, you get scanned by the nurses at the clinic to make sure everything in your body is quiet and switched off.
4. Then comes the lovely stage called Stimulating where you inject yourself each morning for about 10-14 days with a FSH (follicle stimulating hormome) drug which does exactly what it says on the can. My drug was called Gonal-F and the idea literally is to try and get your ovaries to produce several follicles which hopefully then each contain an egg.

IVF treatment drugs

During the time you're injecting you'll be scanned by the nurses to see how everything's responding and when there's several follicles of a particular size, you inject yourself one last time with what's called a HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin) drug - mine was called Ovitrelle. This matures your follicles so they're (hopefully) ready to release an egg and 36 hours later you're on your back, sedated (although I was completely out cold) so the consultant can stick a needle up your chuff and drain each follicle in turn. Oh and while you've got your legs in the air, the other half has to sheepishly 'do his thang' with a few mags and a small container...

Ovitrelle HCG injection

Then while the embryologists are weaving their magic, it's an incredibly tense waiting game to see if: a) any of the follicles actually contained eggs; b) the eggs were actually any good; c) the wrigglies were actually any good; d) the eggs and wrigglies actually got their game on and fertilised overnight; e) they actually start dividing properly; f) they actually keep dividing properly each day and g) there's actually one embryo good enough to stick back up there two, three or five days later.

And if you're still winning the game as far as G (and if you're still reading, give yourself a huge pat on the back) then you're sent on your merry way to try and resist peeing on a stick every day for the next two weeks.

It. Is. Mental.

And I'm doing it all over again.

What the...?
Well, yes there is only a 30-40% chance of it working each time and yes, (in our local authority at least) it does cost a flipping fortune after the first go but for a few fleeting moments you allow yourself to imagine just what it would all be like if it actually worked. And then you realise that all the medication, all the injections, all the undignified legs-in-stirrups-with-three-people-staring-up-there moments; all of that and more will be so worth it in the long run.

PS. I'd like to just say as well, a huge huge thank you to everyone who wished me and Andrew good luck and kind words, it really did (and still does) mean a lot to us. If I could give each one of you a hug, I would!
I hope you'll all join us along the way for another round of treatment; I will keep the amount of IVF chatter to a minimum on here but if you have any questions or want to know more, feel free to ask away.

PPS. I'm sure you all already know this, but I am in no way a medical professional. These are just my own thoughts and opinions relating to the treatment I received on my IVF journey.


  1. Oh bugger. I'm so sorry to hear that, Louisa and Andrew. But I'm on board for another rollercoaster few weeks of drugs and jabs with my fingers firmly crossed. (And for once, someone is taking more medicine than me. I'll get out the bunting!)

    1. Thanks Angela, it's definitely a rollercoaster although this time round it's one I've already been on and know all the ups and downs! I'm hoping that'll make it all a lot easier :-) xx

  2. Wow, I didn't realise so much went into IVF, I hope it works out for you guys :) I read in the free ASDA magazine I picked up at the checkouts the other day, that you can now get IVF drugs from ASDA pharmacy for not-for-profit prices, I think it said there was a saving of around £800 per cycle (?), you might have already heard of it as you have IVF on your mind at the moment!

    1. Thanks Sooz! I did read about the IVF drugs at Asda, it's definitely something to investigate! :-) x

  3. I'm sorry that you didn't have good news this time, but I, like Angela, have my fingers firmly crossed for you again.

    As someone who has no particular interest in IVF, I actually find it quite interesting reading about everything that goes into it. Talk about it on your blog as much as you like!

    1. Aww thanks Jane, I did wonder if I was beginning to bore people about it but it's part of my life so it would be weird not to mention it at all! Plus I do think there's far too much shame and secrecy about it in society - one in six women will need some kind of help and I feel quite proud in a way to say I've been through it and survived :-) x

  4. I'm keeping everything crossed that this round works perfectly! Thank you for sharing- it's really interesting to hear exactly what you and many others are going through xxx

    1. Thank you so much Katie, it means a lot to both of us that all you lovely ladies are rooting for it to work! xxx

  5. So sorry no joy the first time Louisa, it sounds like the most invasively insane process but like you say, all worth it if you get the success you deserve. I'll cross all of everything for you and maybe do a little swimmers dance for you!
    M x

    1. Hah, yep a little swimmers dance would be fab! (although I'm not sure what that would look like :-$). There's so many times in the whole process that you just think "wtf?" but if you just keep focussing on the end result, it's quite suprising what you can do! We're not giving up without a fight, as they say! :-) xx

  6. I'm so sorry it didn't work out this first time. Like the others I'm keeping everything crossed and hope it's going to work this time round!

    1. Thank you Saskia, it's so lovely to think that there's lots of you out there with all your bits crossed for us! :-) xx


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...