Our IVF (ICSI) Journey From Start to Finish

When I first started blogging it was a way for me to share our IVF journey. You see when you embark upon IVF, the only people you can really talk to about it is your partner, that’s if you have one, or others who are going through IVF.

These are the people who truly understand exactly what you’re going through. At the start of our journey, I was lucky to find an online fertility forum called Fertility Friends. This forum is broken down into various threads so that you can find others who are having the same type of IVF as you. What’s even more impressive is that you can also find others who live near you, or who are also attending the same clinic as you.

During our IVF journey, this forum was so valuable to my husband and I. I enjoyed sharing our experiences, talking to people in the chatroom and learning about what others had gone through. It wasn’t all upbeat though. My heart ached on numerous occasions when I heard that others cycles had failed, or that their pregnancies had ended all too soon.

I kept an online diary on this forum throughout our entire IVF journey, but when I became pregnant with our twins, I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to continue writing on the forum. That’s why I started blogging. I’d be able to share our IVF journey, and other peoples too, but I could also write about our twin pregnancy. I hoped that in sharing our journey, we could help others going through IVF too.

It’s been a little while since I’ve actually written about IVF. I’ve written many posts about various parts of our IVF journey, but never one that told our story from beginning to end. So here it is!

Our IVF Journey

My husband had a vasectomy long before I met him, and he already had three children with his ex-wife. Because he’d had a vasectomy, we knew that our only option to have children together was IVF.

We looked online at our options. We wouldn’t be eligible for free NHS treatment, so we started looking at local IVF clinics. That’s when we found CRGW, (Centre for Reproduction and Gynaecology Wales). The hadn’t been open long so they didn’t have any results as of yet, but after attending an open evening, my husband and I knew that we wanted CRGW to help us on our journey to have children together.

April 14th, 2011

My husband and I went to an open evening at CRGW. All of the staff were friendly, and made us both feel at home. We were shown around the clinic, and listened to the staff talk about what treatments they offered.

We soon discovered that the type of IVF we’d need is called ICSI, (Intractyoplasmic Sperm Injection). This is where one single sperm is injected into one egg. The number of eggs you produce depends on how well your body responds to the fertility drugs. As mentioned earlier, my husband has had a vasectomy so he would need to have a procedure called Surgical Sperm Retrieval (SSR), more about this later.

May 25th, 2011

After the opening evening came our first consultation.

The consultant explained to us what SSR would involved. We were given the option of a vasectomy reversal, but were advised against this because of the amount of time that had passed since my husbands vasectomy, which meant the likelihood of a reversal being successful was low.

We learnt that there are two types of SSR. TESA and PESA. My husband would have PESA. This is where sperm is collected from inside the scrotum using a syringe and fine needle.

During the consultation, I had an internal scan, just to check for any problems. This was a painless experience. After our consultant explained everything to us, we booked my husband in for his SSR.

June 4th, 2011

Things are moving pretty quickly now. The consultant showed my husband and I into a private room, and then explained what would happen during the surgical sperm retrieval. My husband would change into a gown, and then be taken into the operating room where the consultant would carry out the procedure.

Around an hour later, my husband was wheeled back into the room. He was a little weary from the anaesthetic, but otherwise fine.

A little while later, our consultant told us that they’d retrieved seven vials of sperm which was enough for three to four, possibly even five cycles of IVF if needed. The embryologist told us that the quality was very good, and that they’d now freeze the sperm until ready for use.

June 7th, 2011

We had a treatment planning appointment today. A nurse explained to my husband and I what drugs I’d be on, and she showed me how administer the injections on myself. We also had some blood taken for tests.

June 10th, 2011

My fertility drugs arrived today which meant that in five days time we’d start ‘down regulating‘. This is the process essentially turns off the ovaries so that ovulation and egg maturation can be controlled during treatment.

The day of my first injection arrived, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. In the end, my husband had to do it for me. I felt a slight sting afterwards, and the injection site was a bit red and itchy, but aside from that, all went well!

We were to continue our daily injections, and then the next step was to have a baseline scan. This is to check the lining of my womb is thin enough and that my ovaries had stopped working.

A few days into my daily injections, I started to experience some side effects. I had cramp like feelings in my stomach and fuzzy visions, plus I felt myself getting really tired, so much so that I’d usually fall asleep on the sofa most nights!

July 4th, 2011

The baseline scan went well, and were told that we could start the next set of injections that night. These injections would stimulate my ovaries to produce eggs.

I was booked in for regular scans every few days to keep an eye on things. By the time our fourth scan came round, I was feeling achy, uncomfortable and bloated. Our nurse told us that we had 9 follicles on my right side, the biggest of which was 19mm, and the rest were between 12-15mm. On the left side, we had 16 follicles, the biggest was 17mm, and there were about 4 or five at this size.

The nurse explained that I’d probably been feeling a bit unwell because my ovaries were slightly touching one another! The nurse checked with our consultant to decide when egg collection should be, and it was confirmed for July 18th. With this news, our nurse explained that we’d need to do a HCG injection at 11.30pm Saturday 16th July.

July 18th, 2011

The day of egg collection finally arrived, and I was feeling very nervous. As I lay on the table with my feet in stirrups, the nurse injected with me a general anaesthetic before the doctor inserted a speculum and long fine needle.

I have to be honest and admit that the anaesthetic didn’t even touch the sides. I found egg collection very painful. I actually cried throughout the whole procedure.

When I got home, I went to bed with a hot water bottle. Although it was painful, I’d go through it all again.

We were told that they’d managed to collect 17 eggs.

Our embryologist told us that 11 of them were mature enough to be injected with my husbands sperm. The embryologist told us that he’d call us with an update the following day.

Finally, the embryologist called the following day, and told us that out of the 17 eggs collected, 11 were mature enough to be injected, and out of those 11, 9 had fertilised normally. Yay!

The embryologist said that after we left yesterday, as well as the 11 mature eggs, 3 of the 6 immature eggs went on to mature. As a result of this, he decided to inject these eggs as well. This meant we now had 12 fertilised eggs. He told us that he was keeping an eye on the 3 he injected after the initial 9, as ideally he wants to transfer 2 of the 9 mature eggs. He also advised us that normally he would expect a fertilisation rate of 60-70%, so we had done better than that, which was excellent.

The embryologist went on to inform us that he would check our embryos again tomorrow, around midday, when they should ideally be 2-4 cells. This would allow him to have a better idea of the quality of our embryos, which meant he would get a good indication of whether they would transfer them on Thursday or Saturday. Either a 3 or a 5 day transfer. A 5 day transfer (blastocyst) would be better, as the eggs would be more mature.

My husband and I had previously discussed how many embryos we would like to have transferred and we decided on two.

July 20th, 2011

The embryologist told us that our embryos were beautiful and that the 9 which fertilised first were now all 4 cells (which is fab as he wanted them to be between 2-4 cells). He also went on to advise that the other 3 embryos which were injected later, had all fertilised. One was a 2 cell, one was a 4 cell and one was a 5 cell. So, the embryologist said it was looking likely that we would have embryo transfer on Saturday, but he would call us in the morning to confirm.

July 21st, 2011

The embryologist called and let us know that he expected embryos at this stage (day 3) to be 8 cells. Out of the 9 embryos, two were 7 cells and five were 8 cells. One was an 11 cell and one was a 12 cell. Out of the other three, that fertilised later, one was a 4 cell, one was a 7 cell and one was an 8 cell.

Everything was looking good. Too good to be true? We didn’t want to get our hopes up. The embryologist said that he wanted to go to blast, meaning he wanted to take our embryos to day 5.

What if none of them made it?

He went on to explain that the criteria for a day 3 transfer would be that he could pick out 3 embryo’s. He went on to explain that it was difficult to pick any out today as they were all the same quality. He also advised that with a day 5 transfer, it meant that there would be less to freeze but on a positive note, he could select the best ones. He said 40% of embryos stop growing at day 3, so there is a chance that we could end up with no embryos but, out of the hundreds and thousands of patients he has treated, the ones he took to day 5 all made it.

July 23rd, 2011

Today is the day of our embryo transfer, and our embryologist told us that 9 of our embryos had made it to blastocysts.

He told us that they grade embryos 1-5. 5 being the best and they give them letter grades as well. ‘A’ being the best. (Please note that different clinics have different grading systems). My husband and I had our minds set on having two embryos transferred. I know this is not for everyone but we understood all that it entailed.

The embryologist told us that one of the embryos he would be transferring back was a grade 4AA and the other was a 3AA, so they were both good quality. He then went on to explain to us that two of the seven embryos left would definitely be frozen. One was a 3AA and the other was a 3AB. He would call us tomorrow to confirm if any others would be frozen.

What he said next made my husband and I cry….

“I’d be very surprised if you don’t get pregnant”

This totally caught us off guard and opened up the flood gates!

Embryo Transfer

My husband came in the room with me and held my hand throughout. The embryologist put a ‘live stream’, so to speak of our embryo’s on the TV screen in the operating room, so we could see them before they were transferred. My husband took a picture of them (right).

The transfer didn’t hurt at all. I was amazed when the consultant did an ultrasound scan as I lay on the table and we were able to see our embryo’s inside me! I cannot explain how emotional we felt. I couldn’t stop crying.

So much hope, longing and rightly or wrongly desperation that this would work.

The consultant gave us a scan picture of our embryos.

After the transfer, the consultant told us that our official test date (OTD) would be August 5th 2011. She did however, also say that we could test on day 10 (August 2nd 2011).

We were officially PUPO (Pregnant until Proven Otherwise) and we were now on the dreaded two week wait (2ww/tww).

August 2nd, 2011

The Two Week Wait

I remember my husband and I saying that we would wait until our official test date, August 5th 2011, to do our pregnancy test. Even though our consultant had said we could test on the 2nd, we were adamant to stick it out until the 5th.

My husband and I caved, and on August 2nd at 5.30am I found myself awake and desperate to test! I woke my husband, much to his delight! I grabbed a pregnancy test, wandered into the bathroom and, well, you know, I peed!

Before I even had a chance to pull up my pants, my husband came in, walked straight past me and picked up the pregnancy test!

My husband said “We’re pregnant!”

Climbing back into bed, we hugged, we cried, we laughed and then we cried some more!

Was it true? Were we actually pregnant or had it all been a dream?

No doubt about it though, two very strong positive lines! They appeared so quickly!

I couldn’t go back to sleep! I didn’t know what to do with myself! I was tired but I couldn’t sleep!

We were over the moon, on cloud 9, you name it we were feeling it!

Could there really be a baby growing inside me? A tiny little human being?!

Today

As it happened, there were actually two little human beings growing inside me! Twins! Our girls will be seven years old next year. I won’t go on to talk about their birth story in this post, as this post is long enough! However, if you would like to read our birth story, you can do so here.

 

One thought on “Our IVF (ICSI) Journey From Start to Finish

  1. Lovely honesty here, I would be really nervy about that first injection too. It’s wonderful, and should be normal, how much of the process you did together. IVF takes a massive emotional and physical toll, so it matters you have unwavering support!

    I liked your thoughtful point about changing platform once pregnant, it must have been hard but is the kindest thing to do when others are still trying.

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