michael and i first started seeing a fertility doctor back in april of 2020. after running a lot of different tests, trying IUI + other fertility treatments, they suggested IVF in june or july of 2020. we were all set and ready to go and had our calendar and were about to order the meds. the nurse did a phone call with me to basically walk through the ENTIRE process of ivf start to finish and EVERYTHING it entailed. i started bawling on that phone call. we hung up and i thought to myself “there’s no way i can do this. i can’t do this.” but i felt like i had no choice because, we wanted another kid, and i knew michael also really wanted that.
i took time to really pray about it and still just felt like ‘i can’t do this. i’m not ready.’ and i remember going for a walk with michael, with shiloh in the stroller, telling him my honest feelings. he was completely understanding and supportive and told me ‘if you don’t want to do this, we don’t have to do this.’ so…we decided not to do ivf back in july of 2020. that’s when i decided i wanted to do EVERYTHING we possibly could to try and get pregnant naturally. for michael to do everything he could to improve sperm quality / count etc and for me to meet with a dietician who specializes in women’s hormone health to get my hormones in a healthy and balanced place.
now, 4 embryo transfers + 2 rounds of ivf later…i look back to that girl in july of 2020 who was so terrified of ivf and want to tell her “you can do this”. don’t get me wrong, i’m SO glad we waited and did not move forward when i wasn’t ready. but part of the reason i was so scared was just fear of the unknown. all of the shots and appointments and medications etc sounded so daunting and scary to me and i thought there’s no way i can put myself through that. and now as i sit here almost 3 years later, 14 weeks pregnant with our new baby…i can say to myself “yes, you can do this. and it will be so worth it.”
so that’s basically the longest introduction EVER to this blog post i want to share with you today. if you’re in a place where ivf might be in your future and you feel terrified or feel like you’re not strong enough…i want to be that friend for you that tells you “it’s not easy. it’s so hard. but you CAN do it and it will be worth it. and here is WHY you can do it and everything you can expect.” part of my fear + anxiety around ivf like i said was just fear of the unknown so today i want to break down my exact experience with ivf – the good, the bad, the ugly. everyone’s experience is TOTALLY different so take this with a grain of salt. but when we were considering ivf i really appreciated hearing other people’s journey + experience with it so today i’m going to share mine with you.
we did our first round of IVF with a doctor, starting in October 2021. we got 6 embryos from this round of ivf, and did 3 embryo transfers with this doctor (he transferred 2 embryos at a time). all 3 times, i got pregnant, and all 3 times, i miscarried. SO after that (and a lot of prayer / consideration / conversations etc) we decided to switch doctors and get a second opinion on ivf, the protocol etc.
to be honest, my experience working with this second doctor was night and day different than the first doctor. so, in an effort to keep this blog post shorter than 100 pages, i’m going to share my ivf experience working with the second doctor (since that’s who we’ve had success with anyway!).
so we started our second round of ivf in september of 2022. the first part of the ivf process you have to go through is the egg retrieval and IMO this is the most challenging part of ivf. i was doing multiple shots a day during this “stimulation” phase – you are stimulating your ovaries to produce lots of follicles! you also go in to see your doctor every few days for a vaginal ultrasound so they can monitor how you are progressing. how many follicles you have, how big are they etc. they are monitoring you for anywhere from 7-14 days (ish) and then once it looks like you have a decent amount of mature follicles, they schedule the egg retrieval.
i think the stimulation phase is challenging because you’re doing a lot of shots and towards the end of these 7-14 days…i felt so uncomfortable because i had SO many follicles. so i was insanely bloated and uncomfortable. it’s a good problem to have because that means they’ll probably get a decent amount of eggs, but it’s still not fun! i legit looked 4 months pregnant during this time.
once you have a few follicles that look mature, the doctor schedules your egg retrieval. you do an hcg trigger shot the night before to ‘trigger’ your follicles to release the eggs. during the procedure they actually put you under (with anesthesia) to go in and retrieve the eggs. so, it’s painless ha you’re asleep and don’t feel a thing.
after the egg retrieval i was insanely bloated and uncomfortable for about a week, but this varies from person to person. i’ve talked to friends who said they felt totally fine the next day so it really depends on the person and also how many eggs they retrieved. i was fortunate with both egg retrievals to have made a LOT of eggs! which also means you are more bloated and uncomfortable haha.
after the egg retrieval, the embryologist takes your husband’s sperm sample to make the embryos. they update you every few days on how many eggs fertilized and then ultimately…how many make it to day 5. so you can start off with maybe 12 eggs that fertilized but then only 4 make it to day 5. (these are just random numbers).
for the time being i’m keeping our exact numbers private. we were fortunately to have retrieved a lot of eggs and have a decent amount of embryos as well which we are so thankful for. and just praying about what the next steps will be for our family after this.
after you know how many embryos you have, you can either do a fresh embryo transfer or a frozen transfer. with this round of ivf, our doctor suggested doing genetic testing on the embryos since i had 3 miscarriages in a row. she thinks my previous miscarriages were maybe due to the embryos not being viable embryos. so, we did genetic testing on our embryos, and therefore did a frozen embryo transfer a month or two later, vs doing a fresh transfer just days after the egg retrieval. (in our previous round of ivf, we did a fresh embryo transfer just a few days after egg retrieval. which i felt like was really hard on my body).
so this round, we did egg retrieval in september or october, and then we did genetic testing on the embryos, and did a frozen embryo transfer right after thanksgiving. in this waiting period you aren’t on any medication really. leading up to the embryo transfer, you start estrogen and progesterone meds, and then i’m also on a blood thinner called lovenox – it’s a shot i do in my belly every night. (another contributing factor to my repeated losses is a blood clotting issue that i have, which lovenox is supposed to help with). so, leading up to the embryo transfer i was taking an estrogen pill, wearing estrogen patches, doing a progesterone shot in my butt, and then lovenox shot in my belly. it sounds like a lot but it honestly didn’t feel that hard / i felt used to it at this point.
the embryo transfer is also a pretty quick + painless process (and truly feels so special). i wasn’t on any meds for this, they don’t put you under…they just wheeled me into the OR, transferred our embryo, and that was that! on a scale of 1-10 i’d say the discomfort level was maybe a 4 or 5. just feels a little crampy. but i really practiced deep breathing, meditation, prayer, and a mantra during the embryo transfer to try and stay as calm and relaxed as possible. it honestly felt like such a special experience.
after the embryo transfer, they usually have you lay there for a little while, and then you’re good to go home! my previous ivf doctor required 3 days of bedrest after an embryo transfer but i think that’s pretty rare. my current doctor didn’t require that – she said i could still go for walks, move around etc but to just take it easy for the next several days.
then, the waiting game – you wait 10 days to do your first hcg blood draw to find out if you’re pregnant or not. i always cheat and test early at home haha which i do not recommend. during these 10 days you’re still continuing all the meds – estrogen, progesterone, and then i was also on lovenox and a steroid, and taking baby aspirin daily. so, it’s a lot of medicine. and i definitely felt so hormonal and emotional and a little crazy!
after the 10 day wait you go in for an hcg blood draw which tells you whether or not you’re pregnant. my hcg numbers confirmed we were pregnant and i cannot explain my level of gratitude and happiness after that phone call. you then go in two days later to make sure your hcg numbers keep going up, and sometimes depending on the doctor they’ll have you come in a third time. this is to ensure it’s a viable + growing pregnancy!
after the pregnancy is confirmed…you just keep waiting until you can do your first sono usually around 6-8 weeks.
throughout the entire first trimester, you’re still on ivf meds – i was still doing progesterone shot in my butt, estrogen pills + patches, and then my lovenox shot in my belly. around 10 weeks you can stop the estrogen and progesterone because at that time, the placenta starts to take over and is producing those things for you which is so wild! i felt SO WEIRD not being on the estrogen and progesterone because i had gotten so use to it.
after 10 weeks – if everything looks good, usually your fertility doctor will release you to start seeing an OB. from there on out, it’s pretty much like any other normal pregnancy! i’m still doing lovenox shots in my belly every night but that’s not necessarily true for everyone who does IVF.
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okay believe it or not, that very long recap is a very HIGH level view of my experience with ivf and leaving out so many details haha. but i gotta say…overall, ivf is tough. it’s no walk in the park. it’s hard on your body, your emotions, your relationships. but it is SO DOABLE and if you keep in mind this is such a short amount of time in comparison to the rest of our lives we could potentially have with this child. remind yourself: i can do hard things. it wasn’t easy for me at all but it was so worth it and i’d 100% go through it again if i knew it meant i’d get a baby out of it. going into ivf can feel so scary because it’s a lot of meds and appointments and fear of the unknown. but take it one day at a time and it really is so doable and actually such an amazing experience that i’m thankful we had the opportunity to do.
PLEASE feel free to reach out if you have any other questions about ivf or my experience. i’d be so happy to help ease any concerns you have or answer any questions. so thankful for all of y’alls love and support throughout our journey!