IVF

When I started this blog I had every intention to provide more information about IVF. But when I really began thinking about it, I told Cody "I'm pretty sure if I start writing about IVF it'll convince me not to do it again." So I had to back off and not write about it for a while.

Well, here we are doing another round. The LAST round (for a very long time at least). So I figured I would take this opportunity to tell you about it as we go. Please remember this is only one example of IVF. There are so many versions of this process, with different varieties of medications, procedures, protocols, using donor eggs/sperm, surrogacy, etc. Since this is our 4th time around and we're all so dang sick of this, we're going ALL OUT with many of the "bells and whistles" you can add into an FET cycle. (Yay me.) Just so you know, I have no intention to convince anyone of anything, so I'm not going to cite articles or research, share statistics, or use much medical terminology. I may write something that's not 100% "medically sound" so if you're really interested or skeptical you can do some independent research on those types of things. This is mostly an attempt to describe our experience and give those who never enter this arena a chance to better understand what is actually involved in fertility treatments. I will write multiple posts, so this is really just an intro.

The Basics

The Menstrual Cycle: If you think about all you learned in school about a menstrual cycle, you have the first half which involves growing a follicle (which contains an egg) which hopefully you then ovulate, releasing that egg. Then the second half of the cycle involves fertilization (which requires specific timing), cells multiplying, and implantation into the uterine wall. Of course this explanation is a huge oversimplification...there is so much that can go wrong. Like really, how do people actually get pregnant as often as they do??...it's a miracle!

Here are three acronyms I might use frequently:
IVF=In Vitro Fertilization
IUI=Intra-uterine Insemination
FET=Frozen Embryo Transfer

IVF Fresh Cycle: So when doing a Fresh Cycle of actual IVF (which is different from IUI) you take hormones and medications to stimulate growth of as many follicles as possible (without hyperstimulation, a dangerous level of overstimulating the ovaries). Around the time of ovulation (which is closely monitored and ovulation is triggered) they take each egg out individually (OUCH!). They do this by poking a needle through the ovaries into each follicle to retrieve the egg inside. You're sedated at the time, but the aftermath can be painful. If you think about it, on any given cycle in your life you usually only get one (maybe two) follicles to mature...during the IVF process the numbers really range but you could easily have 15 follicles growing up to 16mm each... that's nuts. After the egg retrieval, I'm told you sometimes let your body heal for the rest of that cycle, freeze any embryos that make it, and do a frozen cycle the next month, but since Cody and I were part of a research study we continued to do an embryo transfer that same cycle. So after the eggs were fertilized through a process called ICSI (sperm injected by needle directly into egg) and left to grow for several days, we went back to have one of the embryos transferred back into the uterus. Then you wait too many days (about 1.5 weeks) while encouraged not to do anything slightly strenuous, and then go in for a blood pregnancy test.

IVF Frozen Cycle: For a frozen cycle (FET), you must have at least one embryo left that was fertilized during a fresh cycle. I've been told that technology surrounding the freezing of embryos is so advanced that the success rates of frozen vs. fresh cycles are somewhat comparable, if not more favorable to frozen cycles because your body isn't going through the trauma of the egg retrieval. For a frozen cycle, you don't want the first part of the menstrual cycle to happen (no growing follicles or ovulating). The whole process is focused on preparing the uterus for implantation. Since this is what Cody and I are doing now, you'll get more information on this process as we go.

IUI: This is a less invasive fertility treatment that many people start with before jumping into IVF. It's also less expensive. For this they may decide to let your body build up to ovulation mostly on your own, maybe they add clomid, maybe they add other medications to try to develop multiple (but not too many) follicles. They then trigger ovulation at a specific time (with a shot) and a day or two after that they inject the sperm into your uterus, but allow fertilization to occur on its own. You don't want more than a couple follicles to mature with IUI because you can't control how many eggs are then fertilized and implanted. With IVF you want as many follicles to mature as possible because they take them out of your body, fertilized them manually, and you then decide how many to transfer back into the uterus.

In case I didn't mention it with enough gusto, we are doing an FET cycle RIGHT NOW. We're already in the thick of it, so any prayers and/or positive thoughts you can send our way would be wonderful. It's difficult to share something we hold so close to our hearts with everyone we know in the moment because we don't know what the outcome will be, but I think it's really important to help others understand what this process is about so I will share as we go. We are humbly asking for patience in hearing about the outcome, and sensitivity about when to bring it up in public. We really truly appreciate all the kindness, excitement, and love we feel.

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