Official test day!

So I’m not going to beat around the bush, I did an early test around 9 days after transfer. I couldn’t take the torture of waiting anymore, and I’d read online that after 9 days there would be enough HCG in your system for a home pregnancy test to pick up. What ultimately made me test early was that I’d been spotting for the past 3 days, and read that this could be implantation bleeding. So instead of allowing myself to believe I was pregnant when I might not be at all, I decided to just do a test and put myself out of my misery, if it was negative then I could relax a little and stop looking into every symptom.
So whilst Will was at work, I nervously took a FRER test (first response early recognition) as they’re meant to be the most sensitive at detecting HCG. And I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, there was 2 pink lines!!! It was VERY faint, but obviously there! I was SO exctied and shaking like a leaf! I rang Will whilst he was at work and we were both elated!
However, I was still a bit nervous because of the spotting. But that test gave me sooooo much hope!

Anyway, I continued to test up until our official test day – all being faint positives.
So on test day, we woke up around 6am and used the test provided by the clinic. As usual, we sat staring at the test for the full 3 minutes that you have to wait.
Nothing. There was only 1 line.
We were devastated. After the faint positives we had, everything looked great.
I spent the next half hour sobbing in bed, whilst Will lay next to me being the strong one as usual. Comforting me and telling me everything would be okay (how lucky am I to have someone like him?)

Our SUPER faint positive ft Will’s hairy leg haha

He then got up to go to the bathroom and had another look at the test, which had now turned POSITIVE.
WHAT?!
IS THIS SOME SORT OF JOKE???
Now we were both SO confused, however the line was SUPER faint, so we weren’t filled with confidence just yet.
Will shoved some clothes on and drove round the corner to tesco express and bought 2 clearblue pregnancy tests.
They were both positive! We could not believe it!
We rang the clinic when they opened and told the fertility nurse the result of our pregnancy test. She congratulated us, but I explained I was concerned as I was still having some spotting and the lines were very very faint. She reassured me and said a positive test means you’re pregnant, no matter how faint and as long as I’m not bleeding heavily then not to worry and that we were 4 weeks and 2 days pregnant!!
To write those words in my diary, “4 weeks 2 days pregnant” it was the best feeling ever. We tried really hard not to get too excited too soon as we knew there was still plenty of room for things to go wrong, but it’s so hard not to get excited. It’s all we wished for after all!

The 2 week wait…

Another from our scrapbook

It wasn’t actually 2 weeks, it was 11 days. But oh my god, this was by far THE hardest part of the whole process!
Throughout the whole 11 days, every spare second I had, I would be researching. Signs and symptoms of pregnancy, what to expect after embryo transfer, what is the success rate of embryo transfer, if I sneeze will it disturb the embryo, foods to eat/avoid after embryo transfer, the list goes on. I read every online forum I could find where others had shared their IVF experiences and pregnancy symptoms.

Things like this helped keep me occupied during the 2ww haha!

Here’s a piece of advise from me… If you’re ever unfortunate enough to have to struggle with infertility and go through IVF (I truly hope you never have to)
DO. NOT. RESEARCH!
I can’t stress enough just how anxious this made me feel, and I was doing it all to myself! From the second I woke til I eventually fell asleep at night, my mind was a whirlwind of ‘what if’s’. Going from being utterly convinced it would work this time and that I was definitely pregnant to being in tears because I’d now convinced myself I’m never going to have children and I would live the rest of my life in misery in a matter of minutes (if you couldn’t tell, I’m quite a dramatic person).
And it’s surprising just how much of an impact other peoples stories you read influences you into believing ‘well, it happened to them so it will happen to me’ whether the stories had a positive outcome or not.

These 11 days were probably the longest and most anxious me and Will have ever lived!

Embryo transfer!!!

February 22nd, we arrived at Oxford Fertility Clinic at around 9am.
For embryo transfer you need to have a full bladder, which I found SO difficult. Mainly because I was still very sore from egg collection (egg collection was only 4 days prior to embryo transfer!) and having a full bladder just added to the extra pressure down there and made it really uncomfortable. Also, after having egg collection the follicles where your eggs once were fill back up with fluid – so you’re sore from being jabbed numerous times through your vaginal walls, plus bloating causing added discomfort because you still feel like you’re full of eggs (just call me mother hen) aaaand a full bladder. It’s just not a great, or comfortable combination!
Oh yeah, and progesterone pessaries….absolutely vile things! But I wont go into detail and put you off your tea.

So in pain and desperate to pee, we’re called through for transfer! The embryologist tells us that we have 3 blastocysts (embryos that have made it to day 5 and cells are beginning to divide and multiply) so we are having 1 blastocyst transferred with 2 suitable for freezing.

THE TRANSFER
This is the part where all dignity goes out of the window. And discomfort get worse!
Naked from the waist down (apart from my socks of course) I was lay on the bed with my feet up in stirrups. I had one lady stood at my side with an ultrasound scanner trying to get a good view of my uterus and putting IMMENSE pressure on my tender stomach and full bladder (like, she was using 2 hands!). Then the lady with the unlucky job of being face to face with my vagina (literally, she raised the bed so they were at eye level) put in a speculum and opened me up until everything she said echoed, then threaded a catheter through my cervix into my uterus. Sounds delightful doesn’t it?
So let me just break it down for you – still sore from egg collection + fluid filled follicles and bloating + full bladder + lady pressing FIRM on my bladder to see my uterus with ultrasound + speculum splitting me in 2 + catheter through uterus causing cramps = an absolutely glorious experience!!!

The best part that made it all worth it though, was watching the fluid that contains your embryo pop out of the catheter into your uterus. Makes everything feel real, like that might actually grow into your very own baby!

Fertilising my eggs using the ICSI method

For those who don’t know what ICSI is, it stands for Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection. It’s a different method of fertilisation used when the quality of sperm is poor and would be unlikely to fertilise the egg alone due to the sperms not swimming properly. So instead of the standard IVF method, which is where they put the sperm and egg together and let the sperm fertilise the egg naturally, they choose a single, strong looking sperm and inject it directly into the egg. This is of course the method we needed to use to give us the best chance of fertilisation. Embryo transfer was booked for February 22nd.

The day after egg collection, we had a phonecall from the clinic to say that 10 out of 18 eggs were successfully fertilised, we now had embryos!
A couple days later, they called to update us on our embryos. We had 3 embryo’s which were doing really well, the rest weren’t doing so well and we were told the wouldn’t be suitable for transfer and so they were discarded. But hey, we had 3 really good embryos, so things were still very positive!
Read my next post for my experience with embryo transfer 🙂

DNA fragmentation testing

I was supposed to mention this in my previous post but completely forgot!
On the day of egg collection, we were asked if we would like to have Will’s sperm sent off to test for DNA fragmentation. They were offering this to us for free due to Will’s low sperm count and poor motility, so of course we said yes!
The test is to screen the sperms for any fragmented DNA, which basically means to test them for any abnormal genetic material, which may cause IVF failure or miscarriage.

We didn’t even know this was a thing! We just thought sperm was sperm, and as long as you had some that’s all that matters. In our case, they just weren’t very good at swimming to the right place!

Egg collection!

So, I cannot even begin to tell you just how nervous I was for egg collection! (I worry about anything and everything and nothing) For the procedure, they use sedative drugs to ensure you don’t feel any pain and don’t remember anything.
I have luckily never had an operation or been sedated ever before, so I was soo scared because I just didnt know what to expect. Also, the way in which your eggs are collected doesn’t sound too pleasant! They basically use an ultrasound probe, like they do with internal scans, and through that they insert a needle through the vaginal walls to collect the eggs! Sounds quite painful to me! Anyway, we’ll go into that in a sec…

The trigger shot

On February 16th, we were instructed to do our trigger injection (to mature my eggs ready for fertilisation) at precisely 20:25, along with a final sniff of nasal spray.
We were booked in for egg collection on February 18th at 9:25 at Oxford fertility clinic.

So that morning, they done all their checks to make sure I’m fit and healthy, aside from being a nervous wreck! They took me into theatre, which was a VERY clinical and scary room! I got onto the bed, wearing just a hospital gown and my socks (my feet get cold!) and was instructed to put my legs up into the stirrups, where they were strapped into place so I couldn’t move them. At the bottom of the bed they had a hatch in the wall which opened and an embryologist poked her head in to check all my details, not sure what view she had, probably not the prettiest but never mind.
So the anesthetist came in and I told him straight away that I was really nervous. He made me feel at ease straight away! He was really kind and bubbly and just made me feel really relaxed! Whilst chatting to me he put a cannula into my arm and injected the sedative, which I didnt know he’d done! A few seconds later everything started to go blurry and I remember turning to him saying “my eyes have gone funny, is that normal?” and he said “oh yeah!” and that was it! That’s all I can remember until I woke up!

Loving the coffee and biscuits!

I woke up in our own private side room, with Will stood at the bottom of the bed staring at me as if I was something out of a horror movie. My eyes were blood shot and watering like crazy!
Because I was still heavily sedated I found it really hard to move, so all my movements were a bit ‘grudge’ like! They bought me in a much needed coffee and some biscuits, and by the time I’d had that I had come around fully and was actually able to hold a conversation without forgetting what I’d said every 0.25 seconds!

Our dog Blue looking after me

They told us they had collected a total of 18 eggs! They said they would keep us updated over the next few days in regards to fertilisation.
So we were sent home and I was told to rest up as I would probably feel a bit sore, which I did! Just to try and repostion myself in bed was really painful in my lower stomach, and I didn’t dare cough or sneeze!
But it’s not like this for everyone! I know some people who have had egg collection and gone back to work the same day without experiencing any pain at all!

The dreaded injections!

Our first injection, with Will’s help of course!
Excuse the terrible quality, he’s not the best at taking pictures!

So after 3 weeks of nasal sprays, on February 5th, I had an internal scan (you’ll have MANY of these if you are/will ever go through IVF) to check that my ovaries were, how they would describe “nice and quiet” meaning they were not producing any eggs. The fertility specialist was happy that my ovaries were quiet and so we were told we were ready for the next stage of our treatment…
INJECTIONS!

On February 7th we done our first injection!
I was sooo nervous to do the injections, but actually, I barely felt anything! I think it’s just the fact that you have to inject yourself is what’s scary. Plus it’s not exactly enjoyable, but I definitely thought it would be much worse than it was. Also, I still had to continue with the nasal sprays, but my dose was reduced from 2 sniffs 4 times a day to 1 sniff 4 times a day. And thank God, my nightmares stopped!

8 days later, on February 13th I had an internal scan to see what my ovaries were doing and how well I was responding to treatment. The past few days I was starting to feel a bit of discomfort on my lower left side, I told our fertility specialist this, assuming it was something to do with my ovaries being stimulated. She told us that she wasn’t expecting to see much on the scan, this was just a simple check up to see how I was responding to the treatment. So we were not to worry if the scan didn’t really show anything.
So she went on to scan me and found my left ovary was producing some eggs, also the right side but not as many. She went on to book me another scan in 2 days to check on them and to make sure I wasn’t over-stimulating.

February 15th I had another internal scan to have a look at my ovaries. My pain on my lower left side was really uncomfortable now! I found it really painful to bend in certain positions, like putting socks on. It sort of felt like a stitch that never went away.
They told me my left ovary was very full, which explained the pain. They explained that in a normal menstrual cycle, a woman would produce only one egg, with the follicle (the bag of fluid the egg is in) measuring roughly 2cm. So for me, it was like having a small bunch of grapes on my left ovary! They counted around 10 follicles just on my left ovary and around 6 on my right. Though the ones on my right were quite small and so most like weren’t maturing well.
Nonetheless, the clinic was happy with the amount and quality of follicles I had and so booked me in for egg collection.
You can read my experience on egg collection on my next post 🙂

Treatment begins with nasal sprays…

Here’s a little peak of the scrapbook I was talking about in my previous post.

On January 16th 2019, we started treatment!
So I started on a nasal spray called Buserelin, which was to switch off my ovaries and stop them from producing any eggs. I had to have 2 sniffs 4 times a day for 3 weeks, which was actually quite hard to keep up with at first. 4 times a day really felt like a lot, you have one dose and before you know it, it’s time to have your next dose!

The nasal sprays didn’t have many side effects for me from what I can remember, other that awful nightmares! You know them reeeeaaally vivid nightmares where you wake up out of breath and if your heart beats any faster you’ll go into cardiac arrest?
Yeah, they were really horrible! I actually began to dread going to bed because I knew I would have nightmares all night. But they did stop once my dose was reduced. You can read about the next stage on my next post :).

From referral to starting treatment

In July 2018, we had our first consultation with a fertility specialist to discuss our fertility issues and a treatment plan. However, we had both quit smoking and were using an e-cig to help kick the habit (I would have really struggled without that e-cig!). We were honest about using an e-cig with our fertility specialist, but this meant we had to do a 6 month no smoking course! So we ditched the e-cigs straight away and had to meet up with this lady every month in our local sainsburys cafe and breathe into a machine which measures the amount of carbon dioxide in our breath to prove that we were non-smokers, which of course we passed each time!

So 5 months later in December, they invited us back for another consultation to prepare for treatment!!! This was so exciting, it felt like we were really going to have a baby soon!
We were told that we would get 3 cycles free on the NHS (thank the lord for the NHS!)
3 cycles is actually really generous we thought! Especially seeing as depending on where you are from in the UK determines how many cycles you get on the NHS, if you are from Oxford you only get 1 cycle!

Anyway, for Christmas that year Will bought me the coolest Christmas present ever! A hp sprocket, which is kind of like a polaroid, but rather than it being a camera its like a mini portable printer which you connect to from your phone through bluetooth and can print mini photos. Also you can peel the back off and stick the picture to anything! Which gave me the idea to start a scrapbook of our IVF journey and fill it in as we go along, with mini pictures of us together and what we’re doing at that point in our lives, and obviously what we’re going through treatment wise.
Imagine when our child can look back at our scrapbook and realise just what a miracle they really are!

A bit about me and why I am going through IVF

So, first off I will start by saying this is my first attempt at creating a blog! So i’m a bit all over the place at the moment because i don’t really know what i’m doing, and definitely winging it! So apologies if it all looks a bit messy!

My name is Steph, i’m 23 years old currently living in Gloucestershire, UK.
I don’t really have any hobbies as such, I just LOVE animals!!! In particular cats, you can see three of my beautiful babies on the right. But I really do love all animals. And cheese.

So, what we’re really here to talk about is why am I going through IVF?! And probably a question you’re all asking is, why so young?
Well, 2 years ago when me and my partner Will, age 31, decided we wanted to have children in the near future, I came off the pill and thought it wouldn’t be long before I fell pregnant and everything would be perfect and we would live happily ever after. Well obviously that wasn’t the case. We werent actually trying for long at all before we made an appointment with our GP, and that is because Will knew he had a very low sperm count and was concerned that we would not be able to conceive without assistance.

So the GP tries to expain to us that we need to have been trying for 2 years before we would get referred to fertility specialists. But Will being Will, (he’s an EXTREMELY impatient person, he wants everything done there and then!) managed to get them to refer him for a semen analysis, and also test my fertility to rule out any other possible cause of infertility. We had actually only been trying for 6 months at this stage, which I know is no time at all, however we were soon informed that the chances of us conceiving naturally were very, very slim!

Photo by sergio souza on Pexels.com

So Will had a semen analysis test, which came back showing he has very low count. The average sperm count is anywhere from 15-200 million sperm per ml. Will’s sperm count is only at 2.2 millions, which is considered very low. Tests also showed that the motility of his sperm was very poor, meaning that they aren’t very good swimmers either!
In the midst of this, I had lots and lots of blood tests to check my hormone levels. Luckily, all of my results came back normal, which was a relief! However due to Will’s semen analysis results, our GP agreed to do an early referral to a fertility specialist.