Last week I told you about getting qualified for the Ivy Study, that provided a discounted IVF cycle at the Houston Fertility Specialists Clinic. My doctor was Dr. Dunn. He was great but I mostly met with the study nurse. I called her Mrs. Jackie. At this clinic they charged $2500 plus about $500 for medication to participate in an IVF cycle in the Ivy study. If the first cycle did not work, you could participate a second or even third time, each for an additional $2500. This was a whole lot cheaper than paying out of pocket for a traditional round of IVF that could cost around $10,000 without insurance coverage like myself.
WARNING– I am not a doctor or specialist. I am only sharing what I was told, understood, or read about in the easiest way to explain it to my readers. I may incorrectly use terminology or not completely understand something about IVF, but again, I am not trained in this in any way.
Starting My IVF Cycle & Tommies Sperm Results
After my sono-hystogram and day 3 blood work and ultrasound, I was on my way with my very first IVF cycle. I had been given a timeline and prescriptions for my medications. I was excited and nervous at the same time. This was it. We were really trying to make Tommie’s dream of having a biological child come true. When I met with Dr. Dunn he told me that he looked over the testing results from the previous clinic. He said that Tommie’s sperm count testing detected low morphology and low motility. This means that a large percent of his sperm were deformed (morphology) and had a lack of forward progression (motility). He would have had a hard time getting me pregnant if I had just went ahead and had my tubes untied. But Dr Dunn said not to worry. The Ivy Study included Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) at no extra charge. This meant that a healthy sperm would be injected into each mature egg that was retrieved from me instead of allowing the sperm to penetrate the eggs naturally. I was fine with that solution. I felt is was a better guaranteed way of fertilization anyways.
My FSH Test Results
I was also called a few days into my cycle by Mrs. Jackie. She told me that my FSH levels were unusually high. The exact number was 14.7. I was worried that it was too high for the study, but she assured me it was not too high for the study. The cut off was 15. High FSH meant that I could respond slowly, not at all, or even have bad egg quality. It is also a sign of diminished ovarian reserve. I was very worried about this. In my previous FSH test it was 7.4, which was right on point and close to perfect. This made me a bit nervous, but I prayed everything would be ok. Besides, I didn’t want to pay for something that was not going to work. But we proceeded anyways.
Starting the IVF Drugs & Shutting My Body Down
The Ivy Study dictated how my IVF cycle would go. I would first be on birth control for 25 days, excluding the white pills. By doing this, they would control my ovulation. At the end of taking the birth control pills, I would start Lupron. Lupron puts your body in medical menopause. They did this so they could control the egg growth and release date. I had to administer Lupron to myself in a shot. I can’t say I ever got used to sticking myself, but I can say it never really hurt or bleed.
During the last few days of Lupron, I had to start giving myself a shot of the study drug. I was randomized for Afolia stimulation medication, which is equivalent to Gonal-F. So at this point I was giving myself a shot in the morning and a shot in the evening. I was also making frequent trips to the clinic in Houston for ultrasounds. The Afolia pretty much makes you hyper produce follicles. In a normal month you grow a few follicles and only release 1-2 mature eggs for fertilization. During fertility treatments, you are given medicine that makes you produce many eggs, but instead of your body releasing them, the medications allow the doctor to time the release so he can retrieve them at just the right time.
At first, my follicles grew slowly. This was expected with the high FSH levels. My Afolia dosage was increased to an odd number which made me have to give the proper dosage out of 2 different syringe pens each evening. What a pain! But it did the trick. I think it was about 14 days later when I was told that my follicles were the right size to be triggered. When triggered the eggs in each follicle mature, and prepare to be released, but instead, during the release window, the doctor extracts each egg and everything else happens in the lab. My trigger shot was Orvidrel. I had to take it at a certain time because my appointment was scheduled for 34-36 hours later.
Time To Trigger!
Taking Lupron made me exhausted. I could barely stay awake past 8pm each night. I was supposed to take my trigger shot at 9:30pm. I had done everything perfect up to this point but because of the Lupron, I passed out and woke up at 12:30 that night. I jumped up, ran and gave myself the trigger shot and messaged my study nurse immediately. I forgot my trigger shot! Luckily, Mrs. Jackie called me in the morning to let me know they would just push my egg retrieval back a few hours to match the time I took the shot. I was so relieved, but still upset with myself for passing out.
This was it, game time. Tommie and I were nervous, but excited about what a successful IVF cycle meant to us.
Next week we will get into the nerve wrecking part of this whole IVF journey. I don’t want to write a book in one day. But I hope any of my experience helps others.