IVF: the two week wait (2WW)

You have just had your embryo transfer, taken a home pregnancy test and told which day to do the test now what?

Well the first day or two you are likely just recovering from the procedure. You may feel tired, bloated and have some abdominal discomfort similar to period pain. You may also suffer from mild to severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

You can use a hot water bottle to help with the pain but remember not too hot and not directly in contact with the skin.

You can take baths but not too hot. Sometimes it is recommended to resist the use of bubble bath during the next two weeks. Some research suggests that bubble bath can irritate your already delicate vagina and cause thrush or another form of infection.

Common questions:

I’m so bloated / Am I pregnant already?

It is normal to feel the size of a house and look about 5 months pregnant during the two week wait. You can thank good old progesterone for that.

You can drink herbal teas like peppermint to help combat the bloat. It is recommended to up your intake of water as this can help flush out any trapped fluids / constipation.

I’ve got terrible pain / discomfort in one or both my ovaries.

You’ve been through a lot the last few days and weeks. The stimulation medication will have left your ovaries slightly larger than normal (think tennis balls). This can cause discomfort and or pain on one or both ovaries. This symptom shouldn’t be ignored entirely as it could be mild OHSS. Sometimes (but it is rare) OHSS can be severe and lead to serious illness or death. Mild OHSS should resolve itself within 7-10 days (or by your next period if you are not pregnant)

If you are experiencing severe pain and any of the following seek medical attention:

  • rapid weight gain 15 – 20kg (33-44 pounds) within about 5-10 days
  • severe abdominal pain
  • severe or persistent nausea and vomiting
  • blood clots in one or both legs
  • decrease in urination
  • shortness of breath
  • tight or enlarged abdomen.

You can self-help with mild OHSS by increasing your fluid intake preferably with electrolytes. Rest as much as possible and increase your daily protein (at least an extra 60grams).

I have sore boobs / itching nipples

Once again our friend progesterone and the HCG trigger show injection are to blame. This may feel like a very very early sign of pregnancy which is driving you mad. Whatever you do refrain from doing you home pregnancy test. You could get a false positive due to the trigger shot days before.

I feel so sick is this normal

Remember you’ve been through a lot the last couple of days / weeks. You are likely to feel nauseated from the hormones you are still using. That combined with nervous excited can leave a nauseous butterfly sensation in your stomach. Try to eat little but often and plain foods if easier like toast. Also it is worth noting that early pregnancy can cause a decrease on your immune system making you susceptical to germs, coughs and colds.

It’s been a week and I feel like I’m about to have my period

Early pregnancy and your period have a lot in common with each other. Try not to focus too much on the cramping sensations just yet. It could be implantation which usually occurs about day 9. Implantation can cause bleeding (but not everyone gets this). It is usually brown in colour. Some ladies have a little spot of blood in their pants and others a little bit more. Bleeding can last a couple of hours to a day or so. If the flow has increased and / or you are starting to fill a pad every couple of hours unfortunately it is likely your period has arrived. Still wait until test day just to confirm.

Try not to focus on the implantation bleeding if you haven’t had any and your on day 10-12. Not everyone gets this.

I feel pregnant already should I do my test early?

You should only do your test on the day that the clinic told you. This is because they have worked out approximately 14 days after transfer is when the artificial trigger shot of HCG should be out of your system. If you have fallen pregnant your ovaries will take over the production of HCG and this is what is picked up on a urine home pregnancy test.

Can I go on holiday during my two week wait?

Yes, why not. You may feel a tad uncomfortable first couple of days after the transfer. Whether you want to go abroad for a week or just have a long weekend away with your significant other anywhere where the two of you can focus on one another is nice.

Can I have sex during two week wait?

Yes, however if it is uncomfortable hold off for a bit until you feel ready.

Is it true I should only use the first pee of the day for my test?

Yes and no. If you are pregnant the test will say so regardless of when you pee on the stick. It is true that the concentration of the pregnancy hormone HCG is slightly higher in your first urine of the day.

Help the line is really pale does this mean it’s negative?

No. Some tests are much more sensitive than others. If you can see the additional line regardless or dark or pale you are likely to be pregnant.

Some ladies rush out and get brands such as clear blue with digital indicator. These tests are the same as the cheaper versions but actually say pregnant or not pregnant.

My test was positive now what?

Congratulations you are pregnant. Now you need to ring the clinic. You will be asked to pop in. You will be given your maternity file notes and additional progesterone if required. You will likely be booked a viability scan for around week 7.

My test was negative

Unfortunately for some this can happen. You will still need to phone your clinic and let them know the outcome. You will still need to take your progesterone until advised when to stop.

I feel alone and ignored by my clinic

Now that you are in the two week wait you are left in natures hands. You have likely had daily contact with your clinic over the last few weeks and now feel abandoned. It is true that you don’t really speak to the clinic but the nurses are available to answer any queries you may have.

There are several support groups on social media available from Facebook to instagram. You may enjoy the silence and peace or you may wish to speak to ladies in a similar situation.

Katherine xo

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IVF: embryo transfer

Whether you have had a fresh cycle or frozen cycle the procedures are very similar.

Progesterone

You will have likely started using progesterone pessaries with the first one inserted just after egg collection. The pessaries are normally recommended for rectal insertion until after the embryo transfer. This is due to them leaving a waxy residue which can make embryo transfer difficult if this is in the vagina.

The progesterone is provided to help keep your endometrium (uterus lining).

The procedure

You will speak with your embryologist prior to going down to theatre to discuss the quality and quantity of embryos for transfer. It is recommended for one embryo to be transferred regardless of age to minimise the chances of a multiple pregnancy. (Read here for more information of choosing number of embryos)

You will arrive at the clinic once again and escorted to a cubicle with your partner in attendance. You will require a half full bladder for this procedure and depending on the length of wait can become uncomfortable.

You will walk down to theatre (or wheeled depending on the clinic). You will remove your dressing gown and pop onto the bed. You will be asked to lay down and place legs into the stirrups. Your bottom half will be covered with sheets and your abdomen temporary exposed whilst they pop some lubricant on for the ultrasound scanner. Your bladder will be checked at this stage to make sure it is full. The full bladder helps with embryo transfer. You will feel some slight discomfort from the pressure applied.

Your partner is able to attend theatre with you and they will sit just next to your head and hopefully hold your hand throughout.

The embryologist will repeat several times the process and ask you to confirm your full name and date of birth a couple of times throughout.

You will be shown your embryo(s) on a television screen just before transfer.

Will it hurt?

Yes, it could hurt depending on your personal threshold of pain. For most women the procedure is like a very uncomfortable invasive smear for others its sharp or dulling ache in the lower abdomen.

You won’t be given any medication or sedative prior to embryo transfer.

The transfer

You you have a practice transfer using saline solution before the actual insertion of the embryo(s). This is to check that the tubes are clear. Once you have confirmed your details and seen your embryo(s) on the screen the transfer will begin. You won’t actually feel them insert the embryo(s) as it is so tiny.

Afterwards the tube and vagina clamp will be removed. Don’t feel ashamed if at this stage you feel like you’ve just relieved your bladder all over the bed. It is actually the residual saline flush escaping.

You will be helped off the bed and shown an ultrasound of your uterus before and after the embryo transfer. This may look like a little flash of light on a dark background. You will probably be thinking of nothing other than going to the toilet at this stage so probably I’d your head and go ‘oh yeah, wow’ it’s not that your ungrateful but you are likely uncomfortable from needing a wee so badly.

You will pop back into your cubicle and asked to rest for a little while. Have a drink some biscuits pop to the loo again and the. You will be allowed to return home (or to work).

You will need to continue taking your progesterone pessaries and can start vagina insertion if rectal had caused discomfort from constipation.

You are now on your official two week wait (2WW).

Katherine xo

IVF: egg retrieval process

You’ve done your stimulation injections and now you’re going onto the next step but what it is?

Up to 48 hours before your procedure you will self-inject with HCG hormone to help release your eggs.

You will arrive at the clinic about an hour before your allotted time slot. Change into a theatre gown and have a cannula fitted and left to wait. You will hopefully have a partner there for support. Your partner (if applicable) will provide a sperm sample whilst you are in theatre, this will be cleaned and combined with your eggs for fertilisation latter in the day.

You will likely walk down to theatre and be asked to remove your dressing gown and lay on the bed. The anesthetist will inject several items through your cannula one is a saline solution to flush and make sure your vein is ok. You will be given anti-sickness medication and some sedative. The sedative is designed to help you relax and doesn’t take away any pain. For some ladies the sedative can make you groggy or fall fall asleep but not everyone is lucky to experience this.

Will there be pain?

Yes, you could experience pain or mild discomfort this is very much dependent upon your personal pain threshold.

You will be given some sedative which is designed to help relax you and is not actually pain relief. If you experience some significant discomfort you may be topped up.

What will it feel like?

The procedure itself starts of feeling like a very invasive smear test. The consultant will use long medical needles to extract your eggs from their follicles. These are inserted into the vagina and up to your ovaries guided by ultrasound. The first needle may take you by surprise and can be uncomfortable or painful. Depending on the number of follicles (which would have been stated during your intravaginal ultrasounds days before) will depend on how many times the needle is inserted. Remember if you have follicles on both ovaries the procedure is repeated on both sides.

If you are not great with pain please speak with your consultant before the procedure. You will find it better to try and relax during the procedure. The more relaxed you can try and make yourself the less tense your uterus will be. You could be in theatre for up to 20 or so minutes.

What happens after?

Your stomach will be wiped down from the petroleum jelly used for the ultrasound. You will then be wheeled round to your cubicle to your awaiting anxious partner. You will be helped from the bed into a reclining chair / bed (depends on your clinic). You will be given a couple of blankets to keep warm and left to rest for a little while.

You may fall asleep which is a normal side effect from the sedation. You will likely feel cramping from the procedure which ranges from mild to severe menstrual type cramps. You can take some paracetamol for this later if not already provided some. Some ladies are given a small dose of codeine with paracetamol. Again the combination depends on the clinic.

Once you’ve rested a little while you will be asked to drink and eat something as well as go to the toilet. Only when you are able to do these will the cannula be removed and you will be able to go home. Before you finally go home the embroyogist will speak with you to remind you how many eggs they were able to collect and let you know the next step.

Some ladies are able to go back to work but it is recommended that the day if egg collection you are able to go home and rest. You will likely feel sore and uncomfortable – a bit like the build up to Aunt Flow (AF) arrival. You can use a hot water bottle on your stomach just make sure it’s not too hot or making direct contact with the skin.

The following days afterwards

You should be able to resume normal duties the next day albeit using some mild form of pain relief like paracetamol.

You should receive a phone call from the embryologist (usually between 9-10am) the next morning to let you know how many eggs fertilised over night.

You will then receive regular telephone calls to give you an idea of how your embryos are developing. The embryologist will inform you or the days they will call and then next steps. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask them.

Some outcomes are not as positive as others so you will need to be prepared for all types of answers which include:

  • Unfertilised eggs
  • Low quality of eggs fertilised
  • All eggs fertilised
  • All eggs fertilised to move straight to freeze cycle
  • Embryos not developing as well as should or stop cell division altogether
  • Embryos develop well and cell division is in line with expectations.
  • Embryos forming to day 3 / 4 morula
  • Embryos left to progress to day 5 blastocyst

Should you progress to the next stage you will need to prepare for embryo transfer. Read the next article on IVF: Embryo transfer

Katherine xo

IVF: The real story about what it’s like to go through IVF

I’m not going to sugar coat this as I want you to know as many facts as possible. Everything listed is based on both my personal experience and that of friends who have also undergone IVF. There is a lot to cover so I will split this up into sections.

What is IVF?

In-Vito Fertilisation (IVF) is a form of assistive conception used by couples with fertility problems. You will also soon discover its a procedure full of abbreviations and lots of medication.

IVF is a long wonder process and definitely not for the faint hearted. It takes some research and thinking before deciding to commit. Definitely don’t jump in with both feet especially if you are self-finding.

Just waiting to get to the start of the treatment programme involves a lot of paperwork and that is before you’ve even spoke to an IVF nurse or consultant. You will find this part of the process the most frustrating. Sometimes you sit in that waiting room for an eternity (especially if they are running behind schedule) listening to other people children running around wondering if it will be worth it only to find that that says appointment was to tell you you’ve been accepted for the programme and now need to complete some more paperwork.

Should I tell people that I am having IVF

This is an entirely personal choice and no one can tell you the right or wrong answer. My advise would be to think carefully about who you do tell. It’s amazing how many people suddenly have a friend of a friend who went through the same thing and they know how you’re feeling.

It is a terribly lonely experience if you do not have someone to talk to even just about how you’re feeling. You don’t need to share all the details and if like me you are going through the procedure with your husband don’t always rely on them to support you. Some men just can’t handle seeing their wives in pain and try to distract themselves in work. It’s not that they don’t care it’s just they don’t know what to do and that helpless feeling makes them vulnerable.

Meeting the nursing team

That first meeting with the IVF nurse is a bombardment of information and tests. First up is some blood tests (get use to this because you have plenty more to come over the duration of your programme). You will then have an intravaginal ultrasound. This is a painless procedure and again plenty more of these to come.

Finally, you will collect a massive bag full of medication, needles and a yellow sharps bin. Hopefully the nurse has shown you how to do the injections. Which are in the stomach. If not a quick easy guide can be found below

 injections

Depending on whether you are in short protocol or long protocol will determine the exact timings of the below however both generally follow a similar process.

You will likely have been requested to take the contraceptive pill for a month or two. This is too help control your menstrual cycle and hopefully activate a period if you have irregular ones.

Step 1a: Scan 1 (pre-stims)

So you’ve had you’re medication for a few days whilst waiting for your period to start. It is he only time your probably glad to see AF.

Once it arrives you call the IVF nurses who book you in for scan number one. Yes, you will be scanned internally whilst still on your period. I dreaded this part I thought blood would go everywhere but it honestly doesn’t.

Little tip: pop a pad in your panties just before you go in for your scan so when you pop your panties back on there’s little risk of staining your clothes. Also note you cannot use a tampon until after the scan.

Step 1b: Stimulation (Stims)

So this is the part you’ve been dreading. Self injection to help stimulate your ovaries into producing more follicles than normal.

You will have been told when to start your medication and given a handy checklist of types and dates when to take. Depending on which programme (short or long protocol) will depend on the medication and timings. You will have regular blood tests followed by scans when your hormones reach the right level. The scans again are internal and this is to check that the lining of your womb is forming and that the follicles on your ovaries are maturing.

Once ready you will be given the date for egg retrieval. You should prepare yourself for visits to the hospital every other day for blood tests.

This is a very tiring part of the process and it is worth checking if you can purchase a monthly parking pass it will save a lot of money for your trips over the coming weeks.

Step 2: Egg Retrieval / Collection (ER/EC)

Approximately 48-hours prior to your procedure you will need to self-inject with the HCG hormone. This basically gets your eggs ready for release without releasing them into your Fallopian tubes. The exact timing depends on the time of your procedure and will be written down for you.

On the day of your procedure you and your partner (unless using donor sperm) will attend the IVF ward. You will be given a hospital gown and popped into a nice private cubicle. This will be your home for the next few hours. At this point you will be so hungry (and nauseous) as you’ve been nil by mouth for the last 12 hours.

Your partner is in attendance as they provide a sperm specimen whilst you’re in theatre. Also it’s nice to have someone to talk too before and after the procedure.

The procedure itself is done under sedation. You will be awake the entire time! You will likely feel most or all of the procedure but not at the pain levels without sedation. I won’t lie though even with the sedation it hurts like hell and you will feel every needle jab.

You will be taken into theatre and asked to climb onto the bed and place legs in the stirrups. You will then lay back and the anesthetist will inject you with some anti-sickness medication, pain relief and a sedative. You will have had your cannula inserted in the private cubicle before you attend theatre.

Once all meds and ECG pads have been placed on your chest and blood pressure finger clamp it’s time to begin. You will be covered up with only your lady parts on full display to the consultant (a bit like a smear). You will be clamped open and then all the uncomfortable parts begin. Small needles are used to extract the follicles (hopefully containing mature eggs) these are inserted into the vagina and through to your ovary. They do one at at time and depending on the number of follicles depends on how many insertions they do e.g. Could be 30 on one side and only 5 on the other. At this point focus on something on the ceiling and breath.

Afterwards you may become drowsy or even fall asleep, this is normal. You will be left to recuperate in your little your cubicle. You will be asked to rest until ready to eat and drink something then you will be allowed home. Despite them telling you how many eggs were collected you will forget so you will be reminded of how many eggs were collected before you depart.

Step 3: Fertilisation and Embryo Culture

Your eggs will have been mixed with your partners (or donor) sperm shortly after the procedure. One of the lovely embryologists will give you a call the next day to tell you whether any fertilised. This is an awful wait hoping, praying something worked. If you got fertilisation you will be kept up to date during the next couple of days and advised when / if you will have embryo transfer and on what day. Normally you receive your calls around 9am but definitely before lunch time. You feel like a child at Christmas waiting and waiting with the day feeling like a whole year.

Step 4: Embryo transfer (ET)

Take your partner for moral support and you also won’t feel up to driving to the hospital and back home again either. The procedure itself is once again done in theatre but this time no sedation. The procedure is quite uncomfortable more like a more invasive smear test but with a full bladder thrown into the mix. Try to focus on your breathing I found starring at the ceiling and counting in my head 1-2-3 as I inhaled and 3-2-1 as I exhaled. It didn’t take the pain away just make me refocus slightly to relax. The more tense you are the harder it is for the procedure to be done. Plus, you have a fullish bladder so you’ll want to think of anything but what’s happening down below.

You will be asked to confirm your name several times and even get to see your little embryo (embaby) on the screen before it is inserted. Afterwards you may feel like you’ve just emptied your entire bladder on the theatre bed but it’s the fluid flush that was inserted before the embryo transfer to check there are no blockages.

At the end you may even get a scan copy although you won’t be able to see much. At this point the nurse was talking and all I could think about was trying not to leave a huge puddle on the floor. Oh and I forgot to mention the consultant will also insert (rectally) your first progesterone pessary before you sit up.

The two week wait (2WW)

This is the period of time between embryo transfer and been able to take a pregnancy test. It’s one of the longest two weeks of your life. It’s also the first time you have no support from the IVF clinic – you’re on your own.

The first week is usually the quickest but most uncomfortable because you might still have some bloating from the hormones. You will also still be using the progesterone pessaries (or injections). You will be googling EVERYTHING and anything IVF related. Early pregnancy symptoms etc. Nothing online will be 100% and will even plant ideas in your head that cause more worry than necessary. In this first week you may feel exhausted from the recent procedure and maybe have OHSS.

From my personal experience the second week was the worse. I googled implantation bleeding, why am I so ill after embryo transfer, why am I still bloated etc etc. I even googled things like early early pregnancy symptoms to see if I had any. This really doesn’t help because you become obsessed.

Here is a short list of the uncomfortable and bizarre things that happen during the 2WW:

  • Bloating;
  • Constipation from the fabulous progesterone pessaries;
  • Feeling tired;
  • Sore boobs and itchy nipples (yes this is a thing);
  • Headaches;
  • Convinced taste buds have changed already
  • Convinced sense of smell has enhanced
  • Feeling unwell (cough, sore throat, etc)
  • Implantation bleeding at about day 9 (doesn’t happen to everyone)
  • Overwhelming desire to test early. You really shouldn’t test early as you may get a false positive due to the trigger shot (HCG). If you can’t wait 2 days before you test date is usually ok but better to wait until that full 14 days has past since your trigger shot.
  • Metallic taste in mouth (again could be in your head)
  • Desire to hit someone due to frustration of not knowing
  • Desire to ignore the world because you’re fed up of waiting and not knowing anything.

As you can see some are common early pregnancy symptoms and some are just typical after a medical procedure. Either way remember the pregnancy feelings are due to your longing desire to be a mum, the HCG trigger shot and all the other hormones still circulating your body.

I had a terrible chest infection and generally felt awful. I couldn’t wait for test day so tested two days early and then again on test day. Reason for the early test was because I was convinced it hadn’t worked and was desperate for some relief from my chest infection. As you maybe aware from my other posts my test was a big fat positive (BFP).

If you get a BFN (negative) try not to worry. It will be very very emotional and you will try to blame yourself but sometimes the embryo just wasn’t viable. Still ring the ivf nurses because they will guide you through the next steps. It’s important to remember positive or negative don’t stop your progesterone pessaries (or injections) until you are told to do so.

If you are going through this procedure right now I wish you all the very best and have my fingers crossed for your BFP result 😊

 Katherine xo

Read next:

BFP: welcome to the first trimester of pregnancy

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PCOS: My story – our IVF journey

Since February 2016 we have been up and down the emotional roller-coaster that is life. We have slowly come to terms with infertility but that still doesn’t mean it hurts any less. I still feel utterly useless as a woman.

Between February and November 2016 we had to attend the hospital for multiple meetings and tests. Most of the meetings were pointless exercises of reviewing the paperwork which was posted to us for completion.  In the June we were given a start date for October but it was literally too short notice especially as they wanted us to attend an appointment 3 days after the letter was issued which was actually a date we were on holiday.

Finally, on Tuesday 25th November we attended what we thought was the start of the process hospital appointment. Unfortunately, for us our consultant was running an hour and a half behind schedule. The weather outside was dreadful so we were left with no option but to sit in the waiting room. Thankfully the TV was on just a shame it was something to do with buying rubbish from other people and trying to sell it for a profit at auction. Ah well I suppose one mans rubbish is another’s treasure…

Anyway after a long stressful wait that seemed like an eternity we finally met our consultant for the IVF. When you’ve had your first IVF clinic appointment you would have left feeling deflated and a bag full of more paperwork. Honestly after an hour a half wait to be told by the consultant you’ve been accepted for IVF was both happy and sad news. After that hour and a half we started inventing snippets of what we thought our meeting would go like. We thought we would leave with some dates to not on the calendar and know exactly what was happening.

So what did our appointment go like I hear you ask. Well we were escorted into the consultants office where we took a seat. We were presented with lots of paperwork and told that we would be asked questions that we have already answered. The responses were typed into the computer. After half an hour of going through the same questions and answers about past medical procedures, periods etc we were told yes you are eligible for IVF. The consultant then went through more paperwork telling us the procedure we would go through (a very short summary) anti-sickness tablets, daily injections, scans, small operation procedures etc. Once again we left the hospital with a bag of paperwork and anxiety. The only difference this time was a prescription for the contraceptive pill.

January 2017, nearly a year after been told I couldn’t have children I was now sat at the IVF clinic upstairs in James Cook University Hospital. I had been taking the contraceptive pill for nearly 2 months (seems a bit weird taking anti-baby meds to have a baby). Apparently this is to help control your natural cycle or in my case control an artificial version of it.

I had seen a lovely nurse and been given quite a lot of information to absorb between now and February including a bag full of bizarre named medication and lots and lots of needles plus a sharps bin. It looks like I am finally starting the IVF journey.

 IVF: the journey so far (weeks one, two and three)

It was Wednesday 22nd February. I had officially been using Menopur for the past 18 nights and Cetrotide for 4 mornings. I was taking 2 powder vials of Menopur to one solution for the first 7 days and then onto 4 powders to one solution.

On Monday 20th I went for a scan to see how things were progressing and the follicles were still quite small. So I was asked to continue the Menopur and have another scan and blood tests on the Wednesday. Well Monday morning driving back from the hospital was a rather emotional affair. For some unknown reason the tears started to roll down my face stinging my eyes. I just felt utterly useless as a woman. I just kept repeating the nurses words over in my head and para-phrasing the bits my downside wanted to hear. What the nurse actually said;  “Looks like we’re a week behind. The follicles are not big enough yet so we need to keep you on the Menopur a bit longer. We will see how it goes on Wednesday and make a decision then” versus what my head heard “you’re useless and your body doesn’t work give up and go home stop wasting everyone’s time”.

I woke up  on the Wednesday feeling a little hopeful and in high spirits. I got to the hospital early for my bloods had a lovely chat with Alison about all things Beagle related. Popped down to the x-ray department for scan number 3, again all went well. Heard the numbers and thought oh these have grown a lot since Monday. 21, 17, 16 then there was a few 14, 12, 10. Feeling a little better than Monday I leapt through the corridor back to reproductive medicine. Sat my ass on the seat in the waiting room waiting to see the nurse. My name was called whoop lets put the game face on. So I sat waiting for the nurse to come back, which she does quite promptly carrying an A4 sheet and my scan. Inside I’m feeling happy as this looks promising. On the sheet of paper it says egg collection Friday. As you can imagine at this point my insides are swimming in a sea of nervous excitement. Even more so when the nurse goes through the next stage and when to stop eating etc.

Then bam she throws in the curve ball that pretty much shites all over my parade. “I’m not sure if we should call this plan A or B. Your follicles are still pretty small, but Mondays bloods were good so we will have to see how your bloods are today”. With that I’m out the hospital and on my way home via Sainsbury’s to get one of those hideous passport ID photos taken for my IVF file. Later that afternoon about 15:30 the mobile rings – the call. Bad news, no procedure on Friday the consultant wants me to continue the Menopur and Cetrotide for another two days.

Friday arrives; blood test number (no idea as I’ve lost count) and scan number (a lot). The nurse was happy with the follicle sizes and number so now the scary and exciting part of the process. The trigger shot! I  left the clinic with yet more medication and paperwork this time I did’t have to inject Menopur and Cetrotide on both days but I did have to inject the trigger shot (HCG) on Saturday evening which was approximately 36 hours before my procedure. Getting real now, only downfall is I wasn’t allowed to eat anything from midnight on Sunday but to be honest I was so nervous about what was to come that I probably wouldn’t have been able to eat anyway.

Egg Collection Day

It is Monday 08:30am, the weekend has been and gone and I am now sat in the IVF clinic with my husband. We were both so nervous about the coming hours. He had to pop off and do his business in a sample jar whilst I went into theatre and have some eggs extracted. I’m not going to lie it hurt like hell even with a double dose of sedative. That stuff is useless; its not pain relief it’s just designed to make you less aware but I was very very aware of everything and every needle.

Afterwards I returned to the cubicle to see an anxious husband waiting for me. I was left with him for an hour (I actually fell asleep during this time). We were then brought a cup of tea and some biscuits and once I had popped to the loo and collected some more medication we were able to go home. It was about 1pm by the time we got out of the hospital. I didn’t go back to work as I had booked the day off as annual leave and so glad I did because I just felt uncomfortably bloated and exhausted.

The day after the egg collection felt like weeks. 09:30 am I got a call from the embryologist 5 out of 13 of our lovely eggs had fertilised. Over the next couple of days I received daily calls to let me know the condition of my little eggs. Thursday’s call was to inform me that we were going to have embryo transfer first thing on the Friday.

Transfer Day

Doesn’t sound as exciting as football transfer day but when you’re at this stage in the IVF process it feels so much more exciting! This time there was no nil by mouth rule as there is no sedative given for this procedure. Hubby was allowed into the theatre with me. We got to see our little bean on the screen before it was artificially inseminated (another really uncomfortable and painful procedure). We once again had a duty cup of tea and biscuits and sent home with yep you guessed it more medication.

The two week wait

OMG what an horrendous and tortuousness period of time. That first week I was soooo uncomfortable, bloated and in pain. It felt like my ovaries were going to burst out of my abdomen at any minute. I tried to pre-occupy myself with work and TV and actually ended up watching the whole box set of call the midwife. Not a programme I would really recommend to anyone wanting a baby but it didn’t really affect me. Towards the end of the first week and beginning of the second week I started to feel really unwell. I developed a chest infection. I was coughing constantly and felt like an 80-odd year old woman when I tried to walk up the stairs.  My test date was for the Friday (17th March) but by Wednesday I felt so ill that I couldn’t resist I just needed to know if it worked or not. If it hadn’t I could take some night nurse or anything just to feel better.

Taking the test

EEEKKKKKKK it says positive! For the first time in over 5 year freaking years i have a pregnancy test in my hand that says positive. Shit! I can’t take any night nurse, or anything other than paracetomol. I was so happy but so sad at the same time. At least I was off work (on the sick) I just literally stayed in bed for the next 5 days. I did take the test again on my official test day and it was still positive so I phoned the parents to tell them the good news that the cycle had worked first time.

7-8 week Viability Scan

The first week of April was the longest week of our lives. I had developed a stomach bug over the previous weekend and beginning of the week (thanks to the husband for bringing home the germs). So far I had not experienced any morning sickness just this nasty bug. Unfortunately, on the Monday I started to bleed. I have never cried so much in my life and had a feeling of utter helpfulness. I rang the early pregnancy unit but because our viability scan was for the Thursday we weren’t offered an appointment any sooner. That three day wait was longer than the whole two week wait put together. 15:00 Thursday James cook ultrasound department we sat waiting desperately hoping our little miracle was still arrive.  We had a student sonographer in the room and I explained that I had had a bleed and we were worried so the fully trained technician did our scan. She popped the probe on my stomach moved it around a few times then exhaled and said oh can’t see much. Our hearts descended to the depths of no return. quickly she looked at us and said there’s something but hard to see could you pop to the loo and we will do an internal scan instead. Quick toilet trip and I’m back on the bed. Probe goes in and within seconds she says with a smile there’s a heartbeat. Joy sprung to my heart I looked over to my husband and he grabbed my hand. The sonographer started talking saying there was measurements and stuff that needed to be taken. By this point I was on cloud 9 she could have spent the next hour taking measurements we had a heartbeat!

Now we are classed as officially pregnant with our first child however, we held onto that news for another 3 weeks until our 12 week scan. We then told the parents again but with a scan photo and then also told our nearest and dearest.

 Katherine xo

Further reading: IVF: The real story about what it’s like to go through IVF

PCOS: My story from diagnosis to IVF

Background

Me and my husband were married in 2012 and since the wedding decided to try for a baby. My symptoms seemed to be exasperated by the fact I was no longer taking contraception. Before conceiving I had been on various forms of contraception since the age of 16. I had started early because of my terrible terrible acne and the doctor thought that the contraception pill might help (it didn’t). To be honest the doctor could have probably diagnosed me way back then but because a lot of the symptoms of PCOS seem ‘similar’ to puberty it is usually dismissed.

Between the ages of 18 and 21 I was using a contraception called the implant. The first was amazing zero visits from aunt flow for a whole 3 years. The second implant was evil! Within 6 months I had gone from a slender size 8-10 to a 14. I was really struggling with the weight so I went to the clinic and was prescribed a wonderful pill called Yasmin. Although it doesn’t actually make you lose weight it doesn’t contribute to weight gain so your weight loss feels easier. I shrank to a size 11 within 9 months. Unfortunately, at the time of wanting to get a repeat prescription I was suffering from a terrible headache (long day at work) nevertheless the nurse refused to prescribe Yasmin again saying it could cause blood clots and headaches are first sign. So with 6 months until my wedding and freaking out about my wedding dress I was on some other random progesterone only pill. The weight crept up but thankfully not too much so my dress still fit. As soon as the wedding arrived I took myself straight off the pill and we began our baby journey.

Diagnosis Stage

It had been a little over 16 months since we started for a baby and the visits from aunt flow seemed to be non-existent. Lets just say I was a woman possessed and Boots owe me shares in their pregnancy tests for the amount I bought. Little did I know during this time that my life was about to change.

It all started back in November 2013 I was sat on the train to London and got this awful feeling in my left side. As it was Monday morning I just simply put it down to rushing around in the morning and possibly having a tad too much to drink over the weekend. By lunchtime I was starting to feel really unwell. I was delivering some training to my colleagues and I just felt awful. My side was really hurting to the point of needing pain relief (something stronger than the paracetamol I had in my bag). I rattled my way through the training and hopped on an earlier train. I literally felt like I was going to be sick every time I felt a pang of pain. My skin was turning white and I just generally felt unwell. My husband picked up at the train station later that evening and noticed how white I looked.

On the Tuesday morning I was sat in the doctors surgery rolled over hugging my left side. It felt as though someone had stabbed me and was twisting the knife. The pain started to spread from my left side across my lower abdomen. The doctor was concerned that it may be an appendicitis but been one of the small minority whose appendix is located on their left. I was sent home and informed to phone 999 if the pain worsened  in the next couple of hours and if not return to the GP surgery first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, the pain was still bad but not enough to go to hospital. The doctor still wasn’t happy and I was sent to the hospital anyway for a scan. I had both an ultrasound scan on my kidneys to rule out kidney stones than my first of many internal ultrasound scans. The internal scan showed a large cyst on my right ovary – yep you read that right my right ovary not left where the pain was. 4 days after the pain had started and the scans my GP referred me to a specialist. I was one of the lucky ones who was referred straight away to gynecology. My consultant was lovely he gave me a butt load of prescription medication for the pain and booked me into surgery for the March. OMG surgery – I have never ever had surgery, I was proper panicking. What the hell do I expect. I quickly took to google searching endless subjects on laparoscopy and cyst removal. I found lots of forums with some not very helpful commentaries on their experiences. I even googled things like can I die from a general anesthetic. My husband kept telling me to calm down but it didn’t help. In the run up to my surgery I was dreading the visit from Aunt Flo. If she appeared on the morning of my surgery it would have to be postponed. Thankfully she didn’t appear until after surgery 🙂

Dermoid cyst removal and Fallopian tube dye test (hysterosalpingogram) surgery

It was a grim Wednesday morning in March 2014, I checked into the hospital in early morning wishing for it to be lunchtime. It wasn’t too bad to go without food because I had slept before hand so just didn’t really notice. However, 4 pm seemed to take forever and day to come around and my stomach was starting to grow. The pain was starting to creep back and sitting there wondering what to do. I popped down to the nurses station and asked if it is OK to take some pain relief. I had been sat in the waiting room with my husband and some music for several hours by now. He was clearly bored and had no idea what to do with himself. When my time came I had to say goodbye to my anxious hubby and get changed into a pair of gorgeous paper pants and butt exposing gown oh and don’t forget the hospital socks. I had read up previously to take a dressing gown with me and so glad I did because you then have to sit in a unisex waiting room with other people dressed in these fashion statement pieces.

It was a horrid wait, bizarre thoughts started going through my mind. Finally my name was then called and I walked with a nurse to the operating theatre.  Once again I was told what was going to happen (the theatre prep and then recovery – they don’t tell you the exact details of your surgery).  When I was in the prep room I was laid on a theatre bed surrounded by gizmos and gadgets. The first of my jabs occurred now – the cannula. This will be your friend (and enemy) for the next few hours. You are giving anti-sickness drugs and then the general anesthetic. I had never had one before, didn’t know what to expect and was freaking out. When I got mine it was in the left hand. It started of feeling like my hand was starting to tingle / burn it was a weird feeling, this then travelled up my arm and I was wondering shit is this normal oh no I don’t know, OMG what the….

…The next thing I recall was speaking to a nurse in the recovery ward. Yep, you try to fight something but before you know it you’re out for the count, had surgery and waking up. The nurse was talking away to me and I had no idea where the hell I was or what she was saying. They are asking you how much pain you are in from a scale of 1 to 10, 10 been the worse. I was then aware that there was an oxygen mask on my face and my throat was so incredibly dry. Dry like you’d been out on the drink all night and someone poured sand down your throat.

I was moved into the recovery ward and left alone with my thoughts. I was wondering how my stomach looked from the surgery and whether my husband knew I was out, oh and wondering what time it was. The nurse came round and asked if I was OK and if I would like something to drink and eat. Never opt for a sandwich – my god it was excruciating to eat. It’s like swallowing pine needless. Bread and dry achy throats do not go. You need to eat and drink (and keep it down) plus go to the loo before you can be discharged.

The first toilet trip (sorry this is a bit graphic but it might help you ladies who have never had this experience). Well it’s the first time you can lift your gown and have a look at your stomach. You’re expecting bandages galore and all you’ve got is three white dressing pads. One on your belly button where the gas was inserted to inflate your tummy. Another one / two (depending on your surgery). when you remove the dressing in a couple of days you discover tiny cuts held together with two or three stitches. A lot of fuss for a little mark. Oh yeah the toilet forgot this bit. Well after you’ve checked yourself out in the mirror you go for your first pee. Shit it’s a horror movie down there, like the first day of a heavy period. ITS NORMAL. Please remember to take your own sanitary towels – don’t do what I did and have to ask for a hospital issue one. Oh my lord those things are hideous, it’s like sticking a nappy in your knickers, there huge and bulky. I wasn’t told that you bled so much afterwards so it didn’t occur to me that I needed sanitary towels in my bag.

Once I’d done this I found myself acting like a child who’s just potty trained for the first time “I’ve been to the loo” I found myself saying to the nurse (oh lordy what she must have thought). You feel such a tit saying it but you can’t help it it’s like verbal diarrhea and you feel proud you went to the toilet the first time after surgery.

Discharged and on my way home.

So I had been to the toilet had something to eat and begging the nurse to remove the evil cannula. Your hand probably hurts more than your stomach right now and all you want is to go home and sit in front of the TV. My hubby was sat impatiently waiting to see me in the waiting room – thankfully the nurse had rang him when I got out of surgery.

The nurse took me and the hubby into a side room. We were told the first 24 hours where really important. No excessive movement and that includes making a cup of tea. I was told to keep on top of the pain medication for at least the first 4 days. Remembering to take before the onset of pain. If the pain arrives its harder to shake. Unfortunately, the issued pain relief isn’t great – paracetamol and if you’re lucky some ibuprofen and codeine.

Driving home, I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about, I felt great but it was all just an illusion which I  came to release within the next 24 hours. We stopped for a Chinese takeaway on the way home. I was starving and wanted something with flavour that wasn’t go to rip my throat apart. The first mouthful was like a little slice of heaven. I was sat on my sofa with a takeaway, hubby and crappy midweek evening TV. 11 pm came around and I was ready for bed.  Laid in bed, eyes wide open listening to hubby snoring away. Why can’t I sleep? 8am phone alarm sounds – time to take some meds. Oh shit I left them downstairs. OMG what is this horrible feeling in my stomach? – why does my hand hurt? POW, the anesthetic has fully worn off and the realization I had surgery the day before has sunk in. I now feel very aware of the tightness in my stomach and that my eyes are desperate to close.

The recovery period is very very different for each and every person having surgery. Our pain thresholds are different and for some the recovery can be days and others weeks. I was off work for a little under 6 weeks. I was desperately bored and sick of sudoku puzzle books. UK Day time TV is horrendous and there’s only so many movies you can watch in a day.

During your recovery you learn how to get up and down the stairs differently. It takes a little longer but one step at a time seems to help with the pain. Showers are better than baths when it comes to keeping clean and fresh. Supermarket stick on dressing pads are cheaper than boots. There’s no such thing as black stitches it’s just blood and once you are able to clean the area properly you’ll see that. Oh and what’s the most vital thing you learn whilst recovering? That stitches are not your friend. After a couple of weeks you’re sat looking at these things wondering when they will dissolve.  They are starting to feel really uncomfortable and you will start considering removing them yourself. You also realise that your belly button piercing is a curse. It irritates your scar and after a while of not wearing it you just having a crazy little hole at the top of you belly button.

On the plus side that hideous dermoid cyst was partially removed. Unfortunately for me they could remove it entirely due to the position it was in on my ovary. So they drained it and lasered it so it couldn’t reform. If they attempted to remove it they could have damaged my ovary and that would have had to have been removed. The tube dye test was all clear no blockages. Hopefully this will be the start of my PCOS symptoms dying back a little and maybe just maybe we might be able to conceive.

January 2015 I was in agony again and still no sign of a baby that we had been trying for since 2012. My consultant booked me in for surgery number two. This time I was going to have Laparoscopic Ovarian drilling (LOD) and then take Clomifene (Clomid).

Fertility treatment surgery number two: Laparoscopic Ovarian Drilling (LOD)

Nearly a year to the date of the first round of surgery I was back in the theatre waiting room. There where some differences to this surgery from last year. Firstly, I was at a different hospital, secondly, I had a morning appointment and not afternoon. The waiting room at Darlington is smaller and feels a little impersonal. Hubby wasn’t allowed to wait with me so had to go home leaving me by myself. To my surprise I was called first and taken straight to the ward. The nurse handed me a clear box along with surgery stockings and a fabulous gown and paper pants. Like last time, I got changed and put place my items in the clear box instead of a locker.

This time I put my mobile into my dressing gown pocket. Unlike last time I wasn’t prepared to sit in the waiting room bored. I didn’t get chance to text I was called down to the surgery prep area. I was left alone, with another two ladies in this area with nurses and I’m sat on a bench alone. Three times I was asked if I had seen someone and three times I said yes the nurse said she’d be coming back. 20 minutes had passed, the two ladies I came down with had disappeared and I was starting to feel like I was forgotten or not doing something right. My nerves started to take over and I was scared. Thankfully, a nurse appeared smiling with a hair net for me. We went into the prep room and I once again laid on a theatre bed. The process was a little different from the first time. The cannula didn’t seem to want to go into my hand properly so it went in the side nearer my thumb on my right hand. That hurt!

Next thing I know I’m on a ward with a nurse talking to me. I was coughing away because I couldn’t seem to catch my breath properly with the face mask on. My throat was dry once again and the lights above my head where so bright. I really didn’t feel with it this time around. I was laid on the bed in the ward drifting in and out of sleep. I vaguely recall my consultant speaking to me and several nurses appearing. I have no idea how long I had been laid there.

A lady was brought into the ward and I remember she was last on the list for surgery at 4 pm. Gosh it must be at least 6 pm by now, I’ve been here for at least 6 hours. I can hear the nurses in the corridor talking about me and saying that there isn’t room on the ward and that room would have to be made. Shit, I’m not staying in hospital overnight! I mustered up what little strength I had and begged for something to eat and drink. I wanted to go home I didn’t care if I had to lie to myself I’m not staying overnight. I got helped from the bed to allow myself to go to toilet and get changed. I was alone for what felt like an hour. About 8:30 pm I was with the discharge nurse who told me the tablets I was prescribed by my consultant were not available from the hospital because the pharmacy was closed. So handed a prescription to get at my local pharmacy the next day. The prescription was for Metformin and Clomid. I was also told that my consultant had formally diagnosed me with PCOS and wanted me to be reminded before I went home because he wasn’t sure I had heard him during his visit earlier in the afternoon.

I was at home recovering for a very long time. It was June by the time I got back to work. It wasn’t so much the pain but the mental drain from the surgery. I should point out that I don’t have a desk job. I travel a lot and work strange hours and that’s why I was signed off a lot longer. Thankfully, I had friends who came to visit and take me out for the day even if it was only to the shops. Not been able to drive for 8 weeks was torture – worse than daytime TV.  I actually subscribed to Amazon prime just to be able to watch movies and box sets that I wanted.

The surgery was a success at least. My cycles had returned to a normal 31 days instead of between 77 and 345 days. The Clomid was helping me ovulate. Once you start taking Clomid the first three cycles you need to have blood tests taken to check your hormone levels.

6 months later in November 2015 my body just stopped working again. Some women ovarian drilling can last a little over a year but for the majority like me not very long. You are told at the beginning that it is only a temporary fix but you are just so relieved when it works you forget all that.

February 2016 I was back with my consultant again after booking the date in December. (I just wanted Christmas and new year out the way). I was told by my consultant that because After 6 cycles I still haven’t conceived I probably wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally and definitely not without medical intervention. I was absolutely crushed and felt useless as a woman. I couldn’t give the man I love children and this really screwed with me for months afterwards. Fortunately we both qualified for the IVF wait list so my consultant wrote off to start the beginning of our IVF journey.

Summary

Admitting having PCOS and it been the reason for my infertility to myself is OK but telling others I have it is embarrassing. I don’t know why but I can’t bring myself to tell people that this is what I have. By people I mean family and close friends. It’s hard because I feel like a total failure as a woman. Not been able to conceive naturally – heck I would have been sectioned in some asylum if I had lived only a 100 years ago. This syndrome sits on my personal medical shelf along with endometriosis, migraines, infertility and now depression. Shit, I’m a walking time bomb and if you shake me I’d probably rattle from the medication I have to take. Obviously I have come to terms with PCOS but it is still a bit of a taboo and that is because people don’t know what it is despite been very common.

I hope you enjoyed reading and if you want to continue reading my story head over to the article IVF: Our journey

Katherine xo