Linda wasn’t exactly happy with the treatment plan of the doctor, but after two years of trying naturally, tracking her cycle and even using Clomid, all with no result, doing IVF seemed like a way to speed the whole process up.
No matter how she tried to protect her heart, she still found herself already thinking about when she would hold the baby, the names she would call the baby, and more baby-related things. All the while, she hadn’t even started the cycle. That was how hopeful she was.
Heartbreakingly, that cycle didn’t work out for her. In fact, it made her doctor discover something else about her body and her response to stimulation drugs. She also learnt some painful lessons along the way.
Linda has gone on to have four children now; a singleton followed by a set of triplets. It was more than she had ever wanted, but absolutely welcome. It was great news to everyone who heard her story.
If truth be told, most TTC moms trying IVF for the first time are filled with hope that the procedure will do the trick. Some are blessed to have their baby dreams achieved on the first try, and some are not. Some have babies eventually via the procedure and, unfortunately, some never do, leading them to explore other ways to grow their families.
Linda shares some of her experience and the things she had to find out by herself:
IVF drugs have serious side effects:
On the day Linda was given her drugs, the doctor explained to her what each drug was supposed to do. The nurses showed her how to administer the injections, but no one told her there would be side effects.
They did not tell her that she was going to be drawing blood from her body, as she grappled with self-injecting, or she would have a nagging headache every single time she took her medication.
No one told her about OHSS, or that it could even possibly take her life. No one told her. All of these side effects, she had to find out by herself. An experience she could very well do without.
Stimulating medication can lead to blood clots. These drugs usually drain the oestrogen in a woman’s body, which in turn makes the liver increase production of compounds that can lead to blood clots.
The other risk IVF presents is OHSS, where a woman may notice feelings of fullness or bloating after starting her stimulation drugs.
This bloating can lead to complication, if the ovaries over-respond. Thankfully, doctors nowadays are able to avoid these complications by giving women prone to OHSS, lower doses of the drugs.
You may need a donor:
At 33 years of age, Linda had no idea a donor would be in her conception story, but it was there. During her first cycle, Linda produced so many eggs, thanks to over stimulation, but the eggs were not of good quality.
Fertilization was done, but the resulting embryos never survived. Given that she was dealing with OHSS, there was no way a transfer could be done, hence that cycle literally went to waste.
The subsequent cycle saw her hardly producing any eggs. In fact, her doctor had to cut short the cycle, as her follicles weren’t just responding.
They talked about her egg reserves. They talked about egg donors. They performed an Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) test, and the result showed her reserve was low.
In the end, she had to go the route of donor- assisted conception. It was a tough choice, but it was worth it in the end. Which brings us to the next point.
IVF is expensive:
It is one reason clinics doing promo cycles are so popular these days.
Linda had an estimate before she started, but as they went along, there were added costs. One was the cost of a donor and her drugs, which were not part of her original estimate. She had also planned for only one cycle, not the multiple cycles it took for her to get to “motherland”.
Other tests which were not planned for also came up.
While some were easily covered, others are a serious drain on their resources.
There are no guarantees:
While IVF and other fertility treatments can be the answer to many TTC women’s prayers, they are still no guarantees.
Linda found out later. It was a sad day, when she found out there was no embryo to transfer, or that she wasn’t producing enough eggs during her second cycle, or even the apprehension she felt during her donor cycle, which thankfully worked for out.
According to recent statistics from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, with women under 35, only about 40% of fertility assistance procedures result in live births.
For women between ages 35 and 37, the success rate drops to 31%. And from age 38 to 40, about 1 in 5 procedures are successful, and by ages 40 to 42, the odds are down to 11%.
For women older than 42, it’s a case of fewer than 5% of procedures result in live births. Dampening stats though, but there always the outliers. You might just be one of them.
You never really know how it works until you go through it:
Linda had theoretical knowledge of how IVF worked; stimulation-egg collection-fertilisation-transfer. It’s really that simple on paper, but it is way different when you’re going through it physically
With her successful cycle, her embryos were frozen before they were transferred at a later date. Something she didn’t really plan for.
In all, while there are standards to all IVF cycles, there are peculiarities to each woman’s IVF cycle, because the response is different.
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