The Infertility Process

Embryo Transfer #1

After 3 egg retrievals and all the stimulating hormones, we were very much looking forward to our first embryo transfer.  We scheduled the date: Tuesday, January 16, 2018. We got our medication calendar and while I had to take more hormones via patches and injections, they weren’t meant to stimulate follicle production and so I didn’t have quite the emotional rollercoaster.

I had my baseline ultrasound in mid-December 2017 and was given the all clear to start low-dose Lupron injections in my stomach.  Lupron shots for about 3 1/2 weeks before the transfer.

I also started Estrogen patches about 2 weeks before the transfer.  Unfortunately, my skin reacts to the patches (because of course it would) and I had to rotate them around finding a place that didn’t have reddened, inflamed skin.  Sometimes, the patches would just cause itchiness but sometimes, I developed blisters which were a special treat. I talked to my doctor about the skin reactions I was having and he said that the alternative was another shot which can be more unpleasant than the reactions I was having with the patches.  So, we stayed with the patches, itchiness, inflamed skin and blisters. (I still have faint scars on my stomach from all the blisters.)

After the ultrasound for the lining check, we were told everything looked good to start progesterone.  So, five days before the transfer, we started progesterone shots. I say “we” – Andrew gave them to me.  These were intramuscular (IM) injections in my buttocks (they told us not to use any other sites because it would be too painful Image result for embarrassed emoji).   I tried to explain to Andrew the best I could of how to give an IM shot and then I tried to find videos. YouTube is great for so many things but in this instance, it let me down big time.  There were so many BAD videos out there and not very many that showed how to give an IM injection in the butt. Needless to say, the first injection was super stressful for both of us BUT Andrew did amazing!

For an extra (and pretty hefty) fee, the acupuncturist was allowed to come to the clinic and perform acupuncture before and after the transfer.  Studies have shown that acupuncture performed around the time of the transfer helps with implantation.

I woke up that morning and started drinking water like crazy.  Having a full bladder pushes the uterus up so it is easier to view on an ultrasound.  It’s one thing to have a full bladder but it is quite another to have to keep your bladder full for a couple of hours.  They were running behind and so the dilemma was do I urinate to relieve myself of the discomfort but run the risk that my bladder doesn’t refill quickly enough for my turn or just lay there with a super full bladder.  It was suggested to me to only partially empty my bladder and they gave me tricks but all of it sounded like super powers I did not possess.

Before it can be our turn, the doctor came in to have us sign consents.  The embryologist then came in to have us sign his consents and to discuss the embryos he chose.  He discussed the grading of the embryos prior to freezing and how they look now as they are thawing.  He even gave us photos of the embryos (likely the only pictures Andrew and I will ever have of US).

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It was finally our turn.  So, here’s how it went down.  The nurse comes in and checks my bladder via abdominal ultrasound (which wasn’t really necessary because I could’ve told her that my bladder was plenty full but I realize they have to check themselves).  The doctor comes in and uses a speculum to pass a small tube through the cervix into the uterus while the nurse is holding the ultrasound probe so everything can be visualized. Once everything is in place, the nurse puts the probe down and makes a call to the embryology department to let them know we are ready.  She comes back and picks up the probe again to get the uterus in view on ultrasound. The embryologist and someone else, walks in with the embryos and they do a safety check making sure the name on the straw holding the embryos matches mine (which is greatly appreciated).

Let me pause right here for a second.   I am not a super private person nor am I super shy when it comes to medical exams.  AND after all the vaginal ultrasounds and speculums and faces near my nether regions, I have, up to this point, become accustomed to being very exposed.  This moment of this experience took it to another level. I had Andrew and 5 essential strangers (the doctor, the nurse, a medical student, and 2 embryologists) in the room with me in stirrups and a catheter coming out of my vagina.  Even though everyone had a purpose, I have to say that it was extremely uncomfortable (maybe even more so than the full bladder).

Moving on.  

So, the doctor injects the embryos and watches on the ultrasound to view what looked like tiny bubbles as the fluid holding the embryos enters my uterus.  The straw is handed back to the embryologist who takes it back to his lab to see via microscope that the embryos are no longer in the straw and, therefore, in my uterus.  During the wait, I stay in position in the stirrups and the catheter and the ultrasound until the phone call comes that it is all clear.

At this point, I get to go pee. I know this is so silly but I was kinda proud I didn’t pee on myself when I half ran to the bathroom.

I had the 2nd round of acupuncture and then Andrew and I headed home.  

Then it was the wait…10 whole days.  Because I did not use HCG for this process, I only had to wait 10 days to do a pregnancy test – not 14 days (but it didn’t make the waiting any easier).  They told me not to do a home test (yea, right!) but if I did one, it might be negative because it was so early. They also reminded me for the 1000th time to not stop the estrogen patches or the progesterone until they told me. I guess people have gotten a negative home test, stopped their medications only to find out from the blood test they are actually pregnant.  

To be continued….

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