IVF counselling

On July 3rd we went to Oxford fertility clinic for a 1 hour counselling session. I wasn’t sure I would come out a positive Penelope, but it was worth a try!
We were invited into a private room with our counseller, I can’t remember her name but we’ll just call her Sue.
She was really friendly and welcoming, kind of a must when you’re a counseller I suppose. She went on to ask us why we were here and what she could do for us.
I was like “ummmm, well our 2nd IVF cycle has just failed and we’re feeling negative so we were advised by our fertility specialist to come and see you because we’re told we need to think positive.” We went on to explain everything that had happened within our 2 cycles and got onto the DNA fragmentation thing and how we were really disappointed that we hadn’t been told this before starting our 2nd cycle, seeing as we’ve now been advised to do a whole fresh cycle and discard our remaining embryo. If we were told about this then it would have saved wasting a cycle when they knew it would fail. Sue explained that the way we were feeling, which was negative, was completely normal after what’s happened and said she didn’t have much to work on with us because the way we were feeling was a good way of protecting ourselves, as she said if you feel positive that it will work, then it doesn’t, the heartache will be worse because you weren’t prepared for that to happen. Whereas if you’re already expecting it not to work, then you’re not as disappointed when you find out that you didn’t get the outcome you wanted. However, she did say that we could speak to an embryologist to get some answers about the DNA fragmentation!

Will and I sat and had a coffee whilst Sue went to find an embryologist for us to talk to. We were looking through an ‘Access Fertility’ leaflet, intrigued about the pricing of treatment should we ever need to pay. And although any treatment is extremely expensive, they actually do some fairly good deals! Ones where you can pay around £16,000 (incase being infertile isn’t enough of a strain, you have to pay thousands for something that for the majority of people is free) but you get 2 years UNLIMITED cycles and if you don’t have a baby within those 2 years you get a FULL refund! I know it’s a LOT of money, but you get it all back if you don’t have a baby! And if you do have a baby, you’ll be in debt for a lifetime but it’ll be SO worth it!

A grade blastocyst

ANYWAY…
An embyologist comes in and we explain the situation, that we were told by the guy in the lab that Wills sperm was highly fragmented and therefore we should discard our remaining embryo, start Will on antioxident therapy for 3 months, have his sperm surgically removed and start a whole fresh cycle using the PICSI method.
She said that there was clearly some miscommunication going on, as there was nothing on our notes stating that we had this conversation with anybody in the clinic, also the advise from the guy in the lab was wrong. She couldn’t answer why we weren’t told about this before and why we had to call for the results.
I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible…
So the embryologist explained that 55% of Will’s sperms were fragmented, meaning that 45% of his sperm were not. Although over half in considered ‘high’, there are still just under half that are ok. Our 3 embryo’s that made it to blastocyst were grade A, perfect quality embryos. So there would be no reason to discard the remaining embryo as it still has potential to give us a baby. She also said that they would usually only recommend the PICSI method when the quality of the embryos are poor.
She told us that so long as we still have a good quality embryo to use, then the NHS would not fund us for a fresh cycle. So the embryo that is frozen is the one we have to use for our final cycle.

Well in a way, we felt reassured. To hear that 45% of Will’s sperm was still ok made us feel so much better! Hopefully our last embryo was made with a good sperm!
At least we knew what we were doing now, and all our questions were answered.
We really hope that our last embryo will work!

DNA fragmentation test results…

The day after our negative pregnancy test result, it suddeny dawned on me and Will that we never had his results for the DNA fragmentation test on his sperm. We both assumed that no news is good news so we weren’t worried, but decided to phone Oxford fertility and just confirm that everything was fine. Seeing as now we’ve had 2 failed cycles and couldn’t work out what could be going wrong.

Will had a call back from one of the spermologists, I know that’s not a term, but I don’t know what he’s called, who went on to tell him that he had some bad news.

Will’s results showed that the majority of his sperms DNA was framgented, which leaves us at high risk for IVF failure and miscarriage.
He advised that we discard our 1 remaining embryo, for Will to go on antioxident therapy to help decrease the amount of fragmented sperms, and do a fresh cycle using a new method called PICSI. It’s basically the same as ICSI where the sperm is injected into the egg, but with PICSI, they first place the sperm into a dish with hyaluronan enzyme, which acts like a magnet to attract the strongest healthiest sperm. This enzyme allows for the sperm to bind to this layer, and by the sperm binding to it allows the lab to have more than just a visual choice of selection. Sperm that binds to the hyaluronan show improved DNA integrity and fewer DNA mistakes than those that do not bind. So of course they would choose these sperms to fertilise our eggs. He also recommended have Wills sperm surgically removed, as this can also reduce the risk of fragmented sperms.
Wow. What a lot to take in right?
We wasn’t expecting there to be anything wrong, seeing as we weren’t contacted!

So we then phoned the clinic, who suggested we speak to our fertility specialist at our follow up appointment about future treatment plans.
She also strongly advised that we attend a counselling session, as we were quite negative about the whole situation. Especially after finding out we’d been left in the dark about Will’s DNA results!
So we decided to take the counselling session, we got 1 hour free with our funding.
Maybe it would make us somehow feel more positive about the whole situation.
We shall see……

Official test day!

June 24th, our official test day! God we were sooo nervous to test this time. I hadn’t done an early test so had no idea what to expect. We just wished for 2 clear lines on the pregnancy test! I felt as though it would be positive, I couldn’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be pregnant, so I was somewhat expecting the test to be positive. Which just made my anxiety worse because I knew I could be setting myself up for heartache!

Will woke me up around 5:30am, and as soon as I opened my eyes I could feel my heart beginning to race from the nerves.
Pregnancy test done, and we waited for 3 minutes.
Nothing. We thought it might take a while like the last one did, so we kept checking every couple of minutes, but the test remained negative. A very bright, clear negative.

I cried a little, and Will cuddled me. I don’t know how he stays so strong through it all!
But actually, I think we took it really well this time. Better than expected, especially as I was secretly expecting to be pregnant! We just reassured each other and had the mindset of maybe we’ll get it third time lucky.
Of course it was a really upsetting day for us, we felt so deflated and just couldn’t understand what could have gone wrong this time.
I began to think of things that may have caused our failure,
maybe that day I slipped down the stairs caused implantation to fail?
Maybe I was worrying too much?
What if it’s just my body rejecting the embryo?

Back to the 2ww

This time around I was feeling much more relaxed! I had the mindset of, what will be will be and there is nothing I can say or do that can change what the outcome will be. We just need to wait and see, and I didn’t want to feel anxious and stressed throughout the whole 2 week wait (actually 11 days) like I did last time.
So I did really well without researching anything online, which REALLY helped! Inevitably, I was still having thoughts like I wonder if I’m pregnant, I’m having cramps! Is this a good sign? Are frozen embryo transfers more likely to be successful? But I did feel like I was thinking about it much less than last time. That is until we got to around 8 days post transfer…

I couldn’t resist! I began googling and felt just as I did the first time around. Really anxious and nervous and I desperately wanted to test early and put myself out of my misery! I didn’t, but I really wanted to!

I wasn’t really having any symptoms as such either. I know they say not to take any notice of symptoms you might have as the medications can cause you to experience pregnancy symptoms without being pregnant, but you just can’t help but symptom spot when you’re in the 2ww! It’s impossible not to notice when you have cramping and then begin wondering what the embryo is up to, and if the cramps are a result of the embryo getting snug!
The 2ww is definitely the hardest part for me mentally! I feel like I can deal with anything as long as I know what’s going on. But when you have no idea, I just feel like I’m all over the place and just don’t know what to think.

Embryo transfer no.2

June 13th came around and we were sat waiting to be called through to have a frozen embryo transfered.
It was much easier for me to have a full bladder this time without the pain from stimulating and egg collection, however I think I was a bit toooooo keen on having a full bladder because I was bursting!

They called us through, I got naked from the waist down and hopped on the bed. The fertility nurse began using the ultrasound scanner on my lower stomach to find my uterus, just the pressure of the scanner made me feel like I might wet myself!
The other fertility nurse who would be transferring the embryo inserted the speculum and began transforming my vagina into a cave, which is SO uncomfortable when you’re bladder is full! I really had to concentrate not to wee!
As she began passing the catheter through my cervix into my uterus, the nurse scanning my said how full my bladder looked and was showing me and Will the trickles on the screen where it was still filling up! How I was still holding it is a miracle!

Anyway, the catheter was now in my uterus and they brought through our little embie baby! Then we watched on the screen as the fluid which contained the embryo, popped out of the catheter and was in my womb!
COME ON LITTLE FROSTY EMBIE!!!

Our post embryo transfer selfie!

Internal scans and my side effects to medications.

May 31st we went for an internal scan to measure the lining of my womb.
The scan showed I was measuring just under the required 8mm at 7.6mm, so they decided to double my dose of oestrogen tablets from 6mg a day to 12mg and booked another scan for June 7th.

Those oestrogen tablets made me feel like absolute shite! From the day after starting my increased dose, I was feeling permanently sick. Like hot and sweaty, might throw up right now kind of sick. I wasn’t actually sick, but I felt absolutely awful. I found it really hard to eat anything because I just felt like I wanted to be sick. The only thing I managed to munch on every now and again was marmite cashew nuts!

We had our 2nd internal scan on June 7th to measure the lining of my womb again, which showed I was now ready for embryo transfer!
Now to start those nasty pessaries again!
Embryo transfer was booked for June 13th!

Starting our 2nd cycle

On May 23rd, my third period finally arrived. A week late but never mind!
Which means we start treatment again! Little bit different this time around, as I have some frozen embryo’s I don’t need to stimulate again. So on day 2 of my period, I start on injections. These are similar to the nasal sprays, they stop me from producing the hormone to ovulate. I had to do 1 injection a day for 7 days, along with 1 oestrogen tablet 3x a day to thicken the lining of my womb ready for a possible pregnancy. We had a scan booked for May 31st to measure the lining of my womb. It needs to be at least 8mm to have embryo transfer.

Injections!

These injections weren’t as easy as the one’s we had for stimulating. These ones came with a little bottle of powder and some liquid inside the syringe and you had to inject the liquid into the bottle, swill it around until the powder has fully dissolved, draw it back up into the syringe and tap out any air bubbles before injecting. Also the needles on these injections were about 3/4 of an inch long, and you had to inject these into the bottom of your stomach as you do with stimulating. However these ones were a little painful, I think because the needle was much longer and slightly thicker than the ones we used for stimulating!

In the meantime…

Over the next 2 months we took time to just relax and go back to enjoying life a little.
It’s not until you stop and take a breath that you realise just how stressed and fixated you’ve been! I forgot what it was like to not think about IVF!
When the clinic told us we needed to have 3 periods before we could start our next cycle, we thought it would really drag, as we just wanted to get on with it and go again. But actually, it was soooo nice to have a break and enjoy each other and just, well forget. As much as we both desperately want a baby, more than anything, it was lovely to not stress about it for a little while.

Went on beautiful dog walks, the perks of living in the Cotswolds!
Visited the International Birds of Prey centre!
And Will went through a mini mid-life crisis and decided he wanted to be a Charles Bronson look alike.
As amusing as it was for me, he thought it looked great which was quite concerning!

Follow up appointment and what will happen next…

I had my period, we were down in the dumps for a few days, then we picked ourselves back up. We still had 2 more cycles funded, and 2 embryos frozen. Which meant that I probably wouldn’t need to stimulate again (YES!). So we tried to remain positive and looked forward to our next cycle. After all, we were incredibly lucky to have these cycles funded to us (it’s postcode lottery when it comes to funding for IVF, which is just so unfair! I mean, who asks for infertility???).

So March 15th we celebrated Will’s 31st birthday and enjoyed a meal out with family.
It was so nice to just forget about IVF for a while and feel like somewhat ‘normal’ people again.

Will’s birthday meal

March 27th came around and we had our follow up appointment with our fertility specialist.
We spoke about the cycle and she went on to tell me that I responded very well to treatment and that she thought it was just really unlucky that it didn’t happen for us this time. Our plan for the next cycle was to have a medicated frozen transfer, this was because my periods were very occaisionally irregular and so they decided this would be the best treatment option for me.

Now all we had to do was wait until my 3rd period since the pregnancy loss. So 2 more periods to go until our next cycle…

Bad luck found us…

Over the next 2 days I continued spotting, but tried not to worry too much about it and just tried to feel happy that we were pregnant! After all, I didn’t have any cramping or anything. Everything else felt just fine.

2 days after our positive pregnancy test, I was on a 12 hour shift in the care home I was working in at the time. I was still spotting through out the day, but I started to feel some cramping. So I got onto Dr Google and felt reassured after reading cramping and spotting is very common in early pregnancy. But obviously I still felt nervous, so I rang the clinic and spoke to a fertility nurse who advised me to take another pregnancy test tomorrow morning to make sure I wasn’t losing the pregnancy.

When I got home that night, I wasn’t feeling very confident at all. I spoke to Will about how I was feeling, and of course he was really supportive and told me we would be fine whatever happens.
I just had that gut feeling that it wasn’t going to be this time.

As the night went on, the cramping got worse and the spotting got heavier but still not ‘full flow’. We went to bed with our fingers and toes crossed hoping that we would wake up in the morning and everything would be fine and our pregnancy test would still come out positive.

Morning came around, and I knew what the result of that pregnancy test would be. My spotting was much more like my period now. I knew it was bad news.
I took the pregnancy test, and me and Will were waiting anxiously for the results. Those 3 minutes felt like years!
And there it was, negative 😦
We were expecting it, but that didn’t make it any easier to come to terms with. We were gutted. We rang the clinic to let them know the result of the pregnancy test, I was then advised to stop taking the pessaries (the only thing I was looking forward to after all this) and they would book us a follow up appointment to discuss further cycles.
Today was a really sad day for us.