Here are a few technical details of an average IVF cycle including details of what my cycle looked like. Depending on your situation, your doctor will figure out the best way to prepare and stimulate your body for IVF. I was on what is known as the "long Lupron" protocol. Here is a sample calendar of what the month of July looked like for us, except I was on birth control pills, too (which is not reflected on the sample calendar).
I started birth control pills at the end of June. Then I was put on injections of Lupron; a drug that gives you hot flashes and simultaneously makes you pissed off at the whole entire world. That was buckets of fun for everyone I came in contact with for a couple of weeks. Sorry, guys.
During July, my ovaries were stimulated with yet more daily injections of some *very* expensive meds. As in, I'm pretty sure L and I financed our pharmacist's grandson's first semester of college. Or maybe we paid part of the grumpy pharmacy tech's salary? It's possible. Then there were a lot of monitoring appointments, an egg retrieval (you're knocked out for that), and finally an egg transfer (you aren't knocked out for that, but they give you 10 mg of my BFF, valium. Oh valium, one day I will write a love song about you.)
For me, the most taxing part of this process was the egg retrieval. My body was also completely exhausted for days. My ovaries were sore, and my entire digestive system was out of whack. Everything I read said that the egg retrieval is a breeze. Maybe that is why I found it tougher than I expected? I also had a lot of eggs, so that may have also played a role in my short-term misery. I assumed I would feel loopy and tired when I woke up. Instead, I was in extreme pain, dizzy, and nauseous. I was in more pain than I was when I woke up from my laparoscopy. It took me a handful of days to feel back to normal. I guess I should not have been so naive, given that doctors rarely quote recovery times correctly. Oh well.
After the eggs were retrieved, fertilization occurred, and we waited around for a few days for everything to develop. Generally, they transfer the embryos back within a time frame of three or five days after the egg retrieval. There is a whole science regarding three day transfers versus five day transfers. Again, the transfer date depends on the situation. We were given instructions to expect a five day transfer. Luckily, we had something to transfer, but this was the point in our IVF cycle where I started to become really worried. More on that later.
The egg transfer was quite easy. It helped tremendously that I was high as a kite (see valium comment above). Everything was in slow motion, and I totally forgot to ask the list of questions I had prepared for my doctor. Dammit. But again, I felt like a million bucks, so I guess it worked out just fine. We got a picture of our two beautiful blastocysts. (Here's a definition of what a blastocyst is. Yeah, I didn't have a clue what it was, either.) Seeing their picture was the most amazing part of this experience.
Then we were told to wait. We were officially in the IVF version of the "two week wait", which turned out to be 10 days after our egg transfer. After that time period, I had to report back to my doctor's office for the infamous beta pregnancy test.
In a nutshell, this is what happens during an average IVF cycle. See, not so bad, right? I have skipped a lot of little details in between, but tried to touch on most of the major ones. For me, dealing with the emotional part was much harder than dealing with the physical part. However, I have heard stories where IVF does NOT go smoothly, and the physical effects are terrible. A lot of it depends on how your body reacts to the drugs.
NEXT UP, I'll talk about that heavy emotional stuff I hinted to last week.
Again, feel free to comment, share stories, or ask questions about IVF.