So, this has come about quicker than my other posts but I want to get the story of the first cycle complete.
My period started 21/02/2016 so I could start all the medications. I had the delivery around a week previous. Gonal F pens were stored in the fridge along with the trigger shot Ovitrelle. I had a cupboard full of needles and a sharps bin, suprecur and the pill. Yep, thats the craziest part of IVF, taking the pill and using contraception to ensure you don’t get pregnant when all you want is to get pregnant!
I started taking microgynon on day 2 of my cycle, 22/02/16. This was to create a cycle that fitted in with the steps the clinic wanted me to take. I had the daily calendar pinned up on the wall and ticked the steps off daily. Finally, day 37 of my IVF cycle arrived. I was still to carry on taking the pill daily, but at this time, injections started. Suprecur was a medication I had to draw myself out of the little vial – very scary – I remember panicking alot that I would do it wrong! Suprecur is used at phase 1 of IVF, the down regulation phase. This phase basically puts you into a menopausal state, side effects of the drugs are hot flushes and night sweats, mood changes and increased irritability, and vaginal dryness… I experienced every single one of these! This was a daily injection, and it had to be given between 6-8pm injected into my tummy.
Day 44, I took my last pill. Injections continued daily. It was strange being so strict with the timings, I remember feeling so restricted on what I could do, as I didn’t want to miss an injection or be late but felt super awkward about doing them out and about – carrying all the kit would raise alot of questions and virtually no one knew what we were going through. I was working until 8pm once a week at the time, so work did know my situation and I would have to trot off to the first aid room, do my injection and then trot back and carry on work as normal.
Day 51 of my IVF cycle, it was a trip to the clinic for the baseline scan. This was to check my womb lining and ovaries were ready for the next phase. They were looking perfect apparently, so we got the go ahead to start phase 2. This was the introduction of gonal F, a stimulation drug. This was a pre filled pen, I just had to dial it to the required dose, put the needle on and inject myself. Suprecur was to carry on which meant I was now on 2 injections a day… and running out of space that wasn’t feeling tender fast! Gonal F can cause reactions at injection site, headaches, nausea/vomiting, joint pain, abdominal pain/distension and in some cases ovarian hyperstimulation (ovaries go into overload and produce so many eggs you can become seriously unwell).
I thankfully didn’t have hyperstimulation (although what I experienced wasn’t good either – I will come on to that!). I definitely remember feeling quite poorly as my ovaries puffed themselves up to the size of oranges… OUCH!
I had 3 further scans at the clinic, the first was on day 7 of the gonal F, which is day 58 of the cycle (18/04/16 for a guide of how long the cycle has been going for). These scans check follicle growth within the ovaries to see that things are progressing and whether drug doses need changing. The second scan was on day 9 of gonal F and the final scan was on day 11 of gonal F. It was confirmed my ovaries had grown amazingly and everything was looking perfect. I had 2 final injections to do, 23/04/16. This was the final suprecur, and the all important trigger shot, Ovitrelle. This had to be taken at a very specific time to work with the time of egg collection. It’s a HCG based injection, which is what is detected in urine to tell you if you are pregnant or not.
24/04/16 was a weird day. No injections left to do, nothing, apart from keep fingers crossed tightly that our beautiful little eggs were maturing and growing ready for collection. My egg collection took place 25/04/16. I was awake but had some sedation and a local anaesthetic down there… James wasn’t with me during the procedure as he was off doing his special moment producing our sperm 😂 It was explained that as the eggs are collected (a catheter type thing with a needle is inserted down there and fed through to empty each follicle that has grown within both ovaries) these would go straight down the tube to the embryologists and they would shout through each time an egg appears. I had a good number of follicles on the left, around 10 I believe. An ultrasound scan showed our doctor exactly what he was doing and I could watch too. The procedure started, and it was quickly established my right ovary was completely hidden by an incredibly swollen right tube. This meant any follicles that had grown couldn’t be accessed.
The left ovary was clearly visible and looking good, lots of follicle holes showing. Our doctor started emptying them one by one. I was pretty fascinated watching them all empty. But then I realised. There hadn’t been anything said by the embryologist. My follicles were emptying, but no eggs.
All of a sudden, as we were reaching the final follicles, a shout came through “we have one!”. Then nothing. That was it. The procedure ended, all follicles drained on the left, and I was taken back to the ward area to recover. I was reunited with James. In typical Sam style, my blood pressure dropped and I felt incredibly weak and faint so had to be put on oxygen. I could hear other women being told their egg numbers before I had had my procedure, one had 15, another had 12… The doctor came and confirmed. We had one. All that effort, pain, fear, for one egg. I was gutted. I left the clinic feeling sore and completely deflated. I already knew our chances were looking slim – would this one egg even fertilise?
I felt numb for the rest of the day and night. That night, I had to start phase 4 of the IVF process, the luteal phase. I had to take the hormone progesterone called Crinone gel, which is given vaginally. I will tell you more about that in a moment… The next morning, we got the phone call from the clinic. Despite having one egg, it had fertilised! I burst into tears. We still had a chance. Ideally, once an egg is fertilised, it is grown for 5 days to blastocyst, which gives it the best chance of sticking in the womb and becoming a baby. I got the news that as we had only got one growing, there was no point waiting to see how it did. To give it the best chance at surviving, it was to come to me the next day. I went back to the clinic 27/4/16 for a day 2 transfer. Bladder full, I went through at 2:30pm for transfer, and had our embryo put back. For the first time in my life, I was officially considered pregnant until proven otherwise. It was the weirdest feeling in my life. And then began the 2 week wait for the pregnancy test.
It was only 2 weeks, but it felt like it was a decade. I had to take the crinone daily in the evening. Its an awful gel in an awkward applicator which is inserted down there. To ensure its spread and stays where it needs to be, I had to walk around for 20/30 minutes after the dose. It was horrible stuff, with wonderful side effects – constipation, headaches, nausea/vomiting, fluid retention, bloating (my god the bloating!!!) and breast tenderness. All of the above are also signs of pregnancy… talk about mind games!!
08/05/16 I started bleeding. Not just spotting, actual bleeding. It was a Sunday. I informed the clinic the following day but they advised me to continue the crinone gel and wait for my official test day. I took my pregnancy test 10/05/16. Negative. The same result I had always seen on a pregnancy test. I was absolutely gutted. We had nothing in reserve, so that was it. I stopped the crinone gel, and felt heartbroken. Our first NHS funded cycle was over.
My IVF cycle calendar: