The physical process

Fertility treatment
Fertility and infertility

Dinah and Ben's IVF treatment lasted four years until Dinah finally gave birth to their daughter Tallulah in 2010. In listening to this podcast series please bear in mind that Dinah and Ben's experience is not universal, it is their story. This podcast series is not intended to replace or replicate medical advice.


The physical process

We produced 12 embryos that were viable for transfer and I had nine cycles to conceive my daughter and then afterwards, after she was born we did another cycle, a final cycle, so that’s 10 transfers altogether and five stimulated cycles.  So some cycles produce more embryos than just the one that’s implanted that are viable so they freeze them and then you can go back and do what they call a frozen embryo transfer which is a lot less invasive in terms that you don’t actually have to go through the stimulation process.  So those transfers in inverted commas are a little bit easier than perhaps the stimulated ones can be.  So I believe that the process depends on individual specialists and individual circumstances and you know, various variables like that and I think that things have probably changed a little bit perhaps since I went through my cycles but for me, a stimulated cycle involved taking the pill for two weeks or thereabouts and that was the irony of the whole situation, or one of the many ironies I guess is that you are trying to conceive and you’ve thrown away the pill and then they say “here’s the pill, take the pill” and you just think ‘that’s insane’ but that’s what they call the down regulation phase of the cycle if that’s the particular cycle that you are doing and so I took the pill for x amount of days and then I took a nasal spray which was spraying like the same type of thing that you do when you’ve got a cold or when you’ve got a sinus infection into your nose twice a day at a set time and basically my sort of layperson’s understanding of it is that inhibits all the hormones that produce ovulation.  So it sort of controls the cycle to sort of put you in a semi-menopausal type state I guess where you are not actually ovulating and that in itself I found to be extremely symptomatic. 

I was extremely symptomatic during that phase because of the way that the hormones affected your own natural balance of hormones.  So I found myself to be quite teary, quite angry, quite easily irritated.  I’m sure my husband will attest to that and yes, there is so much that you can blame on the hormones during that phase and then what happens once they’ve got to a point where your cycle is under control, then they give you an injection that you administer yourself and it’s in like a pen type format and you inject it into your stomach once a day at a certain time and with a certain dosage and that I actually found to have the least impact I guess on me emotionally and it’s funny because when you go along to the seminar at the start you know, they bring out the injection pen and all the women go - and the men go “oh God, I’m going to have to do that, it’s just going to be horrible” and the first cycle yeah, my husband did every injection for me because I just couldn’t face doing it myself and the second cycle he actually was away for a couple of nights for work and so I had to do it myself and then after that I was like “I’ve got this, I’m fine, I’m all over it”.  The injections, no problem and I could do it you know watching TV and just sitting there, yeah, it’s seven o’clock, right, bang, okay done.  You know it just becomes such an easy part of the process and I guess for me I felt like that was the positive part of the process.  Like the down regulation was the difficult part and then when I started injecting the hormone to build up the follicles to grow the eggs at least I felt like I was doing something positive towards producing an embryo. 

So I think emotionally that helped me to sort of get through that injection process and then you get to a point where you do some scans and blood tests and things and they check how many follicles you have and how mature they are.  Then you go through a procedure, we called it an egg harvest which I guess is a pretty layperson’s term for it but they essentially extract the eggs from the follicles and that’s done under a light general anaesthetic.  In terms of physical recovery from that, I actually found that quite tricky but I know I’ve spoken to women who haven’t had a problem with it and haven’t had any sort of side effects from it.  I found it quite tricky because I tended to react.  My follicles were very – there were lots of them and they were very large so I sort of felt like I had bloating in my lower stomach before I go in for the procedure and then after the procedure I feel like it was still sort of, you know, bloated I guess is the best way to sort of describe it and I know I had to buy some sort of baggy cardigans to cover up what I felt was this bloated stomach at the time which you know is another irony of the whole situation because what you want to be doing is buying cardigans to cover your pregnancy rather than covering the fact that you are trying to get pregnant. 

In our first cycle because we didn’t have any problems with my husband’s sperm, the problem lay in the fact that I had very tortuous tubes and that so that it was described to me that you know, when I do ovulate it’s very difficult for the sperm and the egg to meet up.  So I guess what they do is they take the eggs out and they bypass that whole process of coming down the fallopian tubes and meeting sperm so they pop the sperm and the eggs in a dish together and let them sort it out is the way that I sort of look at it and that’s what we did the first time and that yielded lots of embryos for us.

We were very lucky the first time and I think we ended up with five viable embryos from that process, which doesn’t sound like much and it didn’t sound like much to us at the time but as we learnt throughout the journey that was actually pretty damn successful.  The next time we did it we actually only ended up with one viable embryo and so then the third time we did the stimulated cycle it was suggested to us that we do a process called microinjection where they select the best looking sperm.  I’m not exactly sure how they do that and they actually inject it into the egg so that they are guaranteed of some sort of fertilisation rate.  They then chose the best looking one and I imagine they have quite detailed scientific criteria and they put the best looking one again I guess or the one that’s doing the right thing and you know doing what it should be doing if it was naturally occurring inside you or inside a woman’s uterus then they pick that one and so they pop that back in a very simple, easy procedure that’s pretty much like having a pap smear and it’s all pretty quick and easy and straightforward and you can hardly believe that it’s there and you know I mean the first thing that you think is if I go to the toilet afterwards am I going to pee it out by accident.  What’s holding it in there?  But I guess as I went through the process I got used to the fact that you know – I think the first time I did it I went home and lay on the couch with my legs up in the air for a good couple of hours just hoping that that would, you know, somehow make it stick and make sure that it wouldn’t fall out and walked around very carefully, you are careful not to jump or you know, not to run or do anything like that and then the second, third, fourth, fifth time I did it I went back to work so it was fine.

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