Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Want a New Drug, Part I

If anyone out there is at all interested in knowing how it feels to be a pin cushion, I recommend starting IVF.

Seriously, readers. I've got needles in my arms, stomach or legs two, if not three, times every day.

I've gone back and forth on how to approach the inevitable fact that at some point, I'm going to undergo a retrieval and transfer and then everyone (myself included) is going to be anxiously awaiting the results. 

What I've decided to do is to space things out with enough time in between posts that we'll have some definitive news that I'm ready to announce (i.e. we're pregnant or, in the alternative, I turn out to be some creature from outer space that can't get pregnant, but I got amnesia when my space ship crash landed on Earth and as soon as I realized who I really was, I killed and ate Husband because I need the nutrients from his brain to survive a la some Twilight Zone episode.)

Hm actually that's more of a Tales from the Darkside episode. Maybe Brent Spiner could star in it as the suspicious doctor who discovers Husband's bones in his office garbage can!

But I digress.

So I'm going to write about my experience with the IVF process, one step at a time. Hopefully by the time I get through writing about the month-long process, we'll have news that I'm ready to share. Or alternatively I'll be putting out an APB for Brent Spiner's contact information so I can pitch him my script.

Stimulation is the first step in the process of IVF. It involves injecting medication designed to stimulate your ovaries and grow follicles on a daily basis. For both IUI and IVF, I used Follistim; however, for IVF I took super-doses of this medication. My final IUI cycle was at 75 iu. I started my IVF cycle at 200 iu. The increase in dose is designed to grow more follicles because the retrieval process is so invasive, the doctors want it to be worth my while.

The IUI shots were not a big deal. I'd trot into the bathroom, inject the medication, and two minutes later walk out, forgetting that I had even given myself the shot. Seriously, there were nights when I'd have to consult my checklist to see if I had injected my medication for the day.

Despite the low dose, I did experience some side effects: namely elevated moods and exhaustion. I'd get home from work and the idea of doing anything other than sitting on the couch watching Star Trek: The Next Generation all evening sounded exhausting. And even doing just that, I'd end up in bed by 9pm on most evenings. The moods I didn't notice so much as Husband did: my moods weren't erratic or unexplainable, they were just increased given the circumstances. For example, I'd get really happy about something that typically would just make me smile. Or I'd become furious over something that probably only deserved an eye roll. Kudos to Husband for putting up with me for the three months that I was dealing with these side effects.

With IVF, the quantity of the injection makes it a lot more difficult. Just injecting the medication is slightly painful because there's a lot more medication that is going into the same small amount of space in my leg. I have to go slow to allow the medication to dispense throughout my body. Then afterwards the injection site is irritated for several minutes. Then afterwards, I can feel (or at least I feel like I can feel) the medication working. It's not pain in my abdomen, but more of a tingling or popping sensation. Actually it's rather unpleasant and since these are evening injections, the aftermath keeps me up at night.

The shots themselves don't hurt. Prior to the first time, I was so anxious about the potential pain that I almost freaked out and couldn't do it. However, giving myself the shot doesn't hurt: the needle is so tiny, you can barely feel it. What is uncomfortable is the amount of medication being injected. So if you're worried about having to give yourself the shot, just go for it: it's really not that bad!

Surprisingly, I've not experienced the same side effects - or for that matter, any side effects - on the higher dose. The bad news is that since my ovaries are poly-cystic, I have a ton of follicles just hanging out in there waiting to gobble up all the Follistim and get big: kind of like Pop-Eye. So the idea is to produce 10-12 decent sized follicles: as of my last ultrasound, I had 8-10 mature follicles and another 30 small ones.

To quote my doctor: "You have a million follicles... [We should trigger ovulation tonight since] we don't want your ovaries to pop."

Thanks, doctor. I'm supposed to be the one prone to hyperbole!

The original plan called for me to inject 200 iu of Follistim for five nights before going in for my first ultrasound. After the third day, I had blood drawn and my doctor decided to lower my dose to 175 iu for the next two nights. After my second ultrasound, he lowered my dose one final time to 150 iu and put me on modified bed rest.

Doctor (and I swear she said this): No activity beyond light walking. No laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping.

Me: Um, you might need to write that down. Husband is never going to believe me.

One Hour Later.

Husband: There is no way she said, "No laundry, cleaning, or grocery shopping."

80% of women take Follistim for seven days. I ended up taking it for eight because the low dose meant that the follicles were growing much slower.

The second medication in the simulation phase of IVF is Ganirelix, which I began taking after five days of taking Follistim. So to read about my experiences with Ganirelix, check back on Monday February 28!


  1. I would have gotten myself pretty worked up about giving myself a shot, too! But it sounds like you're a pro now. It also sounds like your doctors are totally perfect for you. lol. and you probably keep them entertained. :)

    P.S. I hope you're not an alien!! :)

  2. Oh wow! I'm crossing my fingers for you and your hubby! Thanks for sharing. I'm sure a lot of people will benefit from hearing about your experience.


  3. I am thinking about you guys and sending best wishes your way! Thank you for sharing your journey :) Make sure you follow doctor's orders on taking it easy & no chores!! My hubby totally wouldn't believe the doc said that either :)

  4. Hunnie....I cant even imagine how all those needles feel...I seriously cannot stand one, like every couple will be sooo worth it in the end:)

    You are a brave soul:)

    Stop by and say Hello:)
    Enter my FAB ModCloth Giveaway!!♥

  5. Hey Kathleen- I've been thinking of you lots and hoping that this all goes well for you.

    My recent news is proof positive that these things can happen! I'm praying that you get your little miracle, too! :)

  6. Oh my gosh, Kathleen, I was cringing through basically this entire entry. You are earning crazy big Karma points here...I am rooting for you!

  7. first time poster, long time reader that's kept up with your fertility saga...

    really rooting for you!! keeping fingers and toes crossed that this cycle is the one! as someone who has had her share of fertility issues, i empathize entirely...i know you will be a mom someday!

    hang in there!

  8. and if may, one tip (if you haven't tried it yet), ice up the injection area for a couple of minutes to ease the sting! also, make sure you grab a good 1" pinch of skin when injecting--somehow it stung less the better pinch i could get!

    good luck!

  9. Hi Kathleen,

    I haven't commented for quite some time but had to after reading this post. You are such a strong, brave lady and I commend you for sharing your journey with all of us.

    Sending positive thoughts your way!