The InVitro Experience Part #2

To understand this article, read this article first. I ended with the line ” Retrieval Day…To be continued 21 January 2019.” I miscarried that night and was rushed to the ER where they confirmed I had miscarried. Needless to say, I was too disheartened at the time to write the article.

Stage #3a – Retrieval

Since January 2019, I have undergone three retrievals and can attest that, for the most part, they are almost all the same.

On retrieval day, you have to fast. It is a minor surgery. We arrived at 6:00AM the first time, 9:30 the second time, and 10:00 the third time. When checking in, we are escorted to a private sitting room. The partner (if you have a male partner), is escorted into a private booth where he collects a semen sample, which will be used to fertilize the eggs.

I was taken into the bathroom where I was weighed in and told to change into a bathrobe they provided. This is because odors like perfumes, colognes, deodorants, and lotions will kill embryos. I recommend showering before retrieval (morning of) and do not use any products aside from soap and shampoos.

After I changed into a robe, they escorted me to an OR. There, I am hooked into an IV. An embryologist comes in and talks to me about our plan. My plan is to always have the embryos aged to 5-days and frozen when they are blastocysts and are no longer embryos. A fresh or frozen 3-day embryo has a 30% chance of implant. A 5-day embryo (called a blastocyst) has an 88% chance of implant. See the difference? This is just one big numbers game, and, in IVF, every stat matters.

I told the embryologist that my husband and I want the embryos aged to day 5 and then frozen. Next, a phlebotomist comes in and draws my blood. The doctor comes in and greets you. Every time I was asked how many follicles I have. This is a pointless question because no matter what you’ve been told, no matter what you think, it’s wrong. During the last week, the nurse has been able to see and track follicles on my ovaries (each follicle contains one egg…usually).

Side Note: What is a follicle? The eggs are inside the ovary. When a woman is “ovulating” a follicle…think of it as an egg sac, forms on the outside of the ovary. An egg rises to the top and enters the follicle/egg sac. Inside the follicle, is the egg. In a natural pregnancy, the follicle releases the egg, which is picked up — yes. Picked up by the Fallopian tube and taken down to the uterus. The follicle stays on the ovary and begins to secrete progesterone. If the egg is fertilized, the follicle acts like the placenta until the placenta can take over in the second trimester of pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilized, the follicle dissolves, the progesterone secretion stops, and the uterine lining begins to shed.

So how did this all measure up from IVF cycle to cycle?

Cycle #1 – December 2018 and January 2019

  • Follicles Tracked: 5 = 3 on my right ovary. 2 on my left ovary
  • Eggs Retrieved: 8
  • Actual Mature Eggs: 3
  • Eggs Fertilized: 3
  • Final Embryo Count: 2
  • Meds: Gonal (HgH) and HcG

Cycle #2 – March 2019 and April 2019

  • Follicles Tracked: 4 = 4 on my right ovary. 0 on my left ovary
  • Eggs Retrieved: 4
  • Actual Mature Eggs: 2
  • Eggs Fertilized: 2
  • Final Embryo Count: 2
  • Meds: Gonal (HgH) and Menopur

Cycle #3 – June 2019 and July 2019

  • Follicles Tracked: 4 = 2 on my right. 2 on my left.
  • Eggs Retrieved: 5
  • Actual Mature Eggs: 2
  • Eggs Fertilized: 2
  • Final Embryo Count: 2
  • Meds: Omnitrope (HgH), DHEA, Gonal (HgH) and HcG

As you see, how many follicles you have and how many eggs they retrieve means nothing. 50% of what they retrieve can’t be used.

Here is my favorite part. The anesthetist comes in, sedates you, and you sleep. It is the best sleep ever. I woke up, and the doctor greeted me to tell me how many eggs he collected…which is also irrelevant because they can only fertilize mature eggs. Now here we begin the next stage of stress.

Stage #3b – Embryo Freezing

Who will fertilize and who will survive?

I went home, and the next day, the embryologist called to tell me how many eggs they fertilized. Here, the experience grossly changed from cycle to cycle.

Cycle #1 – December 2018 and January 2019

We told them we wanted a 5-day old frozen transfer. This boosted our 30% chance of implantation up to 88%. The clinic obliged. They called us on Day #1 to say they fertilized 3 mature eggs. On Day #5, they called us to say one of the eggs didn’t make it to Day 5, but they did freeze 2 blastocysts. This completed the first cycle.

  • Egg Quality: Good.
  • Meds Used: Gonal (HgH) and HcG
  • Results: I was confirmed pregnant within 3 days after transfer.
  • Total Waiting Period: 3 to 5 days
  • Stress: None to Low

Cycle #2 – March 2019 and April 2019

My husband and I had planned on another frozen transfer. After I woke from the anesthesia, the doctor was there to tell me he strongly recommended a fresh transfer as he only collected 4 eggs. I talked to my husband a few minutes later, and we decided to take the doctor’s advice. We received a call the next day (Counted as Day #1), from the embryologist to say they successfully fertilized 2 of the 4 eggs. This completed the second cycle.

Two days later, we were back at the clinic for a fresh transfer. We were sent home and told to wait for 2 to 3 weeks before a pregnancy test could be done. This two week period is so dreadful it has a name: The Two Week Wait. Google it. It’s hell on earth.

Over the next two weeks, I was told by the doctor, without any blood work being drawn, that I had started menopause. I was told by a nurse, without any tests, that I had an ectopic pregnancy. Hm. By the way. I have no Fallopian tubes…I CAN’T have an ectopic pregnancy. The doctor prescribed a medication for an off-label use that is renowned for it’s 90% miscarriage rate. Should I call an attorney? My husband and I are looking into it.

  • Egg Quality: Good. One embryo was labelled “Perfect”
  • Meds: Low Dose Omnitrope (HgH) and DHEA, Gonal (HgH) and HcG
  • Results: Failed. The fertilized embryos did not implant, however they were secreting low levels of HcG into my system resulting in a false pregnancy test.
  • Totaling Waiting Period: 14 to 21 days
  • Stress: Dangeroulsy High to Clinical levels.

Cycle #3 – June 2019 and July 2019

My husband and I made it clear we wanted a frozen 5-day transfer. The next day, Day #1, the embryologist called to say they had injected two eggs with sperm. One egg had fertilized. They were still waiting on the second egg to fertilize. On Day #3, the embryologist called to say that the second egg did, in fact, fertilize, and they froze 2 three-day embryos.

Wait! What?

I told them I wanted a 5-day embryo transfer. The embryologist told me the policy had JUST changed and, unless, I had 4 or more mature eggs to fertilize, the clinic’s policy required they freeze the eggs on day 3.

But they are my eggs! Legally, my husband and I hold 100% custody! And why wasn’t I told of this sooner? Did they have the legal right to go against my instructions on my eggs? I don’t know.

  • Egg Quality: Excellent
  • Meds: Full Dose Omnitrope (HgH) and DHEA, Gonal (HgH) and HcG
  • Results: Unknown as of Day #10
  • Totaling Waiting Period: 11 to 13 days
  • Stress: Low

Read about the InVitro Experience as it happens

The InVitro Experience Part #3 Continues

About the Author: Angela