IVF part 1: the human pin cushion

We started IVF a little over two weeks ago. It was Mothers Day (the irony of this is was not lost on me). I sat nervously on the couch, dialled up 200 on the Puregon pen, screwed a needle into the end and just sat there. It’s not something that came naturally to me, stabbing yourself in your abdomen. Perhaps that is a good thing.

I think I administered the first injection a bit too fast, some residue was left on my skin. It left me feeling worried and anxious – what if I had just stuffed up our entire cycle, all on the first night?! I called my gynaecologist, he wasn’t bothered but wanted me to talk to the nurses the next day. It turns out that injecting yourself can take a bit of practice and patience.

In addition to injecting myself every evening with Puregon, to stimulate follicle (and hopefully egg) development, from day six of my cycle I also had to inject myself in the mornings with another drug called Orgalutran to prevent ovulation. Initially, the only real side effect was a heinous lump of uncomfortable breast tissue sprung up almost overnight. An ultrasound later and thankfully it was confirmed as drugs and hormones messing with me rather than anything too sinister. Probably could have done without that additional stress though.

My first scan and blood test was on the following Saturday. I went in with the expectation that we would see maybe five or so follicles. The gynaecologist used an ultrasound to start measuring the follicles she could see. “Sixteen” she’d call out to the nurse sitting at the computer. The nurse typed the measurement into the computer. “Fourteen”. “Ten”. “Ten”. “Fourteen” and so it went. I counted in my head with my heart in my mouth, “one, two, three, four, five, six…”

“OK”, said the gynaecologist, “now we’re going to move onto the other ovary”. The OTHER ovary? It seems obvious that this would be the case in hindsight, but at the time I thought that only one ovary would be producing follicles. I stopped counting after that, content that we must be on the right track.

My results showed that we had 22 follicles and I was scheduled to have another blood test and scan on the Monday morning. Things were definitely progressing, and fast. On the Monday, we went through the same follicle counting process as before. 26 follicles!! The nurses seemed nervous about the number of follicles and advised me that I would have to take an injection of Buserelin at 12.30am the following morning to “trigger” the ovulation process.

My egg collection was scheduled for 12.30pm on Wednesday, no food that morning, no water after 10.30am, bring your used needles, instruction after instruction after instruction. It was only day 10 of my cycle and it felt like I suddenly lost control over what was happening.