I had a total of six in vitro experiences; of the six, four failed.
Two of the failed attempts occurred in Canada where the medications I took were unable to multiply my number of eggs for retrieval so the clinician doctors did not perform in vitro and instead attempted artificial insemination. On both occasions they did not result in a pregnancy. Then I had two failed attempts in the states where they transferred only one frozen embryo each time. One resulted in a negative pregnancy test and the other a blighted ovum. With the blighted ovum, I thought I was pregnant and so did my body until I had an ultra sound performed at about 6 weeks pregnant, and found no heartbeat. The most devastating process of this discovery was that I was prescribed a pill that would abort the blighted ovum. I remember taking the pill while lying down because it was very painful; I started cramping and just crying. Glad those days are long ago and only in my past.
Although the results all varied, my in vitro experiences began in a similar fashion.
Once I was ready to begin a process, I contacted the fertility clinic. Prior to starting in vitro, the clinic performed some blood tests and checked my records. I had to have healthy results with a mammogram within the past year, a pap smear test within the past two years, and a hysteroscopy in the past six months. A hysteroscopy is when the doctor injected some red dye into my uterus then examined it. I remember getting this done at the clinic and once I had to get it done at the hospital. I think I had it performed at the hospital when my fertility specialist recommended it. With the hysteroscopy, I lay down similar to getting a pap smear and there was a monitor that showed me my uterus and all the veins or passages around it. Just prior to having the twins, they found three polyps growing in my uterus. I had day surgery where the doctor removed them prior to the in vitro procedure. I forgot all about this until I started writing this. One thing is certain, I did not dwell on all the negative setbacks I had to endure along the way. I also had to delay my in vitro process between Taylor and the twins because I had an overactive thyroid and it took about a year to get the levels normal.
Once everything checked okay, I began the medications to get my body ready for the in vitro procedure.
The fertility clinic nurses usually emailed me a calendar with each day indicating what medications and dosage to take as well as appointment dates. It was a great visual so if they did not send me this I would request it. The first medication I took was a birth control pill. Just one pill ingested each day for about a week or two. The birth control pill was used to regulate my period to align with the egg retrieval or embryo transfer date. As per the nurse’s instructions, I started injecting myself with a medication that overstimulated my production of estrogen which prevented menstruation and reduced my production of estrogen. This was a simple procedure where I just filled the needle to the prescribed dosage and then squeezed some area of fat around my love handle area and injected the medication. It wasn’t painful in my opinion (but I know some people have a hard time with needles in general). About twelve days after starting this injection I went to the fertility clinic where they took a blood test then an ultra sound to make sure my body was adhering to the medications. If all looked normal, I reduced the dosage of medications but continued with the daily injections.
I also started with estrogen patches that I replaced every other day.
They just look like square bandages and there were pictures showing where to place them in the package. I think it was just around my abdomen area or my upper buttocks and hip area. I started with one patch every other day but the dosage increased to four patches every other day.
Two weeks after the first ultra sound I went back to the clinic for another ultra sound.
If it showed that the patches and injections were working, then I got the green light to carry on to embryo transfer or egg retrieval date. I always received the green light at this point with all my six attempts. I continued with the estrogen patches and injections into my abdomen area. About five days after the ultra sound I stopped with the one injection medication and started the progesterone shots. I also continued replacing the estrogen patches every other day but the number of patches were reduced to two patches every other day.
The progesterone shots are not too pleasant to inject but I did get used to doing it.
I used to do it every morning. I used one needle to measure the dosage of medication then changed needles. The injection had to go into the muscle and I usually alternated from left to right muscles of my upper buttocks. The needle seemed long but it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. Once I injected the needle, I needed to make sure I didn’t hit a vein by pulling out the syringe a bit and making sure there was not blood in it. If I hit the muscle right, there was no blood. It was not fun when I struck blood because then I had to do it over again to be sure to inject into the muscle.
About six days after I started the progesterone injections I had the embryo transfer or they attempted the egg retrieval.
The egg retrieval process is similar to an ultra sound. The doctors have a monitor in front of you and you lay back and they examine your uterus. When they discovered only one egg in my uterus they informed me right away and then asked if I wanted to just inseminate the sperm they had prepared for the in vitro process. On both occasions I said yes. They took me to a different room and then they stick this very thin tube up and inseminate the sperm. I just lay there for a while then got dressed and went home to rest. What was supposed to occur was that I produced multiple eggs and they would have extracted them. They would then combine my eggs with the donor sperm they had ready for in vitro. I would then return 3 to 5 days after this and they would have inseminated the embryo.
Unfortunately, I only produced one egg on two attempts and the artificial insemination did not result in getting me pregnant.
I had to go to Seattle, Washington for the embryo transfers using donor sperm and egg. They requested I go there about three hours prior to the procedure to pick up a prescription and to verify my presence. The prescription was for some really strong pain killer (I think codeine) that I was to take an hour before the transfer. I was also required to drink a lot of water. The pill kind of made me nauseous and the vast amount of water I had to drink was not pleasant either. When I arrived for the transfer they brought me into a room that had a large monitor in front and a monitor beside a bed similar to one you would find in a doctor’s office. They first showed me a picture of an enlarged embryo they were about to inseminate in me. Then they place the very thin tube up to my uterus and place the embryo in there. They must have had a camera on the tube because they showed me the placement on the monitor as they were doing it. Once they inseminated the embryo, I just lay there for about a half hour then returned to my hotel and relaxed.
Prior to leaving, they gave me a picture of the embryo.
I continued with the estrogen patches replaced every other day and the daily progesterone shots for just over two and a half months after the transfer date. I found out if I was pregnant only ten days after the embryo transfer. I had a blood test that measured my pregnancy hormone levels (HCG levels). If I wasn’t pregnant I would not have any HCG in my blood. But if I did have a reading, after some time (days as advised by the fertility nurse), I had to do another blood test to recheck my HCG levels to be sure they were multiplying at a certain rate. When I had my blighted ovum I had an HCG level that was quite low. I got retested and it almost doubled but was still low. When I had Taylor my HCG levels were much higher and multiplied much more rapidly. When I was pregnant with my twins, Brian and Jean, my HCG levels were much higher than with Taylor and when I go rechecked, the numbers multiplied much more.
Because my HCG levels were so high, I knew prior to my ultra sound that I was possibly having twins.
About four weeks after I had my embryo transfer I had my first ultrasound at the fertility clinic. I could see my baby then babies’ heart beats at this appointment and the embryo(s) just looks like oval sack(s). About two months later, as per my fertility nurse’s advice, I was able to stop injections and patches. I was very happy when I could stop having to do daily injections.
After this point I was well into my pregnancies and I went to my family doctor who referred me to a gynecologist.
Thanks for listening and please join me on the next episode on “How were the pregnancies?”