The people that follow me on twitter know why I haven’t posted on my blog for a while. My partner and I had our first ICSI treatment. For the people that don’t know what this is – It’s a fertility treatment, similar to IVF. The difference between ICSI and IVF is the lab procedure, otherwise, it’s the same thing. I want to share my experience for everyone that is going through the same thing or is interested in knowing how an ICSI treatment works.
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How an ICSI treatment works – A personal story about infertility
Day 1 -3 of ICSI
Monday, August 20 my period started and this is the day I had to let the hospital know I wanted to start the ICSI treatment. I wrote an email to the nurses and they invited me to come in on Wednesday (day 3).
On the way to the hospital, I was quite anxious. I knew sort-off what was going to happen, but it was still a new experience and the doctor had her concerns about my mental health.
When I was called in the doctor checked if it was safe to start. They checked if there were follicles ready to grow and if my uterus was free of cysts and endometriosis. Everything was alright so I went with the nurse to learn how to inject myself. I used to be really scared for needles as a kid so I told myself ‘whatever you do, just shove it in’. The first time the nurse did it and my partner almost collapsed from panicking – I felt sorry for him but I was also glad it was me and not him who had to do this part of the treatment.
The nurse gave me a bag full of medication I had to use over the next couple of days and it was a whole bag full! Kinda overwhelmed me so I completely freaked out on the way home.
All of a sudden I was full of doubt – ‘was the doctor right, can’t I do this?’ ‘How on earth am I going to survive this?’ I teared up and felt so sad all of a sudden. I didn’t want to do this, but I knew I had to if I wanted a baby.
I went home, put the medication into the fridge and that night I injected myself with the hormones for the first time and it literally went how I told myself it would go. I prepared the needle and shoved it into my belly – I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me what I could and couldn’t do and I felt proud. I didn’t doubt myself for a second, I just did it without thinking.
Day 4 -6 of ICSI
The next couple of days were difficult. I was angry at the world that I was in this position, I felt insecure and worried that I couldn’t handle it. At one point I woke up crying and came to the conclusion I wasn’t going to have a baby. I felt my heart break into a million pieces.
The next day I told my partner I wasn’t going to continue and he was very supportive and sweet. We decided to wait for the appointment on day 6 and talk to the doctor about how I felt.
At day 6 we went back to the hospital to see how the follicles were growing, at this point I felt better again and everything was going as it should go so we decided to continue. I had 8 follicles that started to grow and everything looked promising.
Day 7 – 12 of ICSI
I continued to use my medication twice a day 100ml of Gonal-f and I also started using Feramydal to make sure I wouldn’t ovulate too early. Everything was going well, I felt very good and I was extremely proud of myself that I continued despite the anxiety.
At day 9 we went to the hospital again to see how things were going. there were 12 follicles growing and everything still went well.
During the next couple of days, things became more difficult. My belly was the size of a watermelon and I had to take Tylenol daily because I had sharp pains in my stomach.
At day 12 we went to the hospital for the last echo and there were 18 follicles growing, most of them in my left ovary so that explained the pain I was experiencing. Normally it’s the size of a grape, but mine was more like a tennis ball. We scheduled the egg retrieval for 2 days later on September 3rd.
The ICSI egg retrieval
36 hours before the egg retrieval you inject yourself with a ‘trigger shot’ that starts the ovulation process.
So who doesn’t get scared when the doctor want’s to put a needle in you through your vagina for at least 18 times? Well, I was scared to death, but I told myself if I wanted to give birth someday I have to get over it and let the doctor do her job.
We had an appointment at 10 AM and my partner had to be there 30 minutes early to give a semen sample. So there I was sitting in the waiting room for 30 minutes while I knew what was going to happen. Here in the Netherlands, we don’t do anesthetics for this procedure so I wasn’t really looking forward to it.
At 10 AM I was called in and made myself ‘comfortable’ in the chair. How much comfortable can you really get with your legs up while a doctor stares into your vagina with a huge needle?
So there I was, waiting for my partner to get in the room, but unfortunately, he had his own job to do and all the anxiety had made it hard on him, poor hubby. So the doctor looked at me and said ‘I’m sorry, but we have to do this now or it might be too late’ and at that moment I felt like I had a choice – Get on the anxiety train, yell and scream and get out of the room as fast as I can or give myself over to the situation, and that’s what I did. Oh hell, I was here anyway so let’s just do this.
The nurse injected some morphine and I felt a heavy warm feeling in my chest and for a second I felt this wave of anxiety hit me so I started talking like a crazy person about Floris – a baby swan I found a few weeks earlier and was now living in my backyard water. Before I knew it the doctor was already done with 1 side and I got a second shot of morphine before she started the other ovary. All together it was maybe 10 minutes and 30 punctures, it was painful but doable and I would do it again if needed.
After the procedure, I had to stay for a while and I just tried to relax. My partner still hadn’t produced a sample so he went home to try, in the meanwhile the nurse told me they found 22 eggs and 17 were mature and good enough to be used and I truly felt blessed.
When my partner finally arrived in the hospital we heard his semen count was very bad, less than 100.000 and they weren’t very healthy either and for a moment I thought all hope was lost, but I decided to let it be for a moment and wait for the phonecall the next day.
In the lab, they put a sperm cell directly into an egg with a long sharp needle and keep the fertilized eggs on body temperature until they are ready to be placed back in to the uterus.
The next day the lab called and told us there were 14 embryos growing and I felt so relieved. I started doing the math and I felt safe to feel we might have a few healthy embryos that could be frozen.
The embryo transfer
This was the day it was all going to happen, I was getting one of my embryos back, and it was going to grow safely in my uterus. When we arrived in the hospital, the lab called us in, and I took a quick peak on the lab list and what I saw shocked me.
They rate embryos between 1-4 – the lower the number the worse the quality. Our embryos were almost all 3’s and 4’s and I saw a lot of ‘uneven’ and for a moment I felt the floor shift beneath me. I asked the lab tech if we had a chance but I didn’t really get an answer, from the 14 embryo’s there was 1 that was graded a 2 and they placed that one back. The doctor assured me that the embryo could grow into a healthy baby.
The first day I felt so nervous, and I made sure I did everything right. No coffee, no raw food, etc. I wanted to make sure if it failed I wouldn’t blame myself. The doctor prescribed Utrogestan to assist the body with the pregnancy, it made me very tired, and I slept for most of the days.
I started experiencing menstruation cramps a few days before my period, and I already knew it didn’t work, but my partner told me to have faith, but the only thing I wanted to do was cry.
When the day was there to test I was sitting on the edge of the bathtub thinking to myself ‘So many women will find out they are pregnant today, please let me be one of those women.’ The test was negative, and I just cried for an hour and went back to sleep hoping it was just a bad dream.
The aftermath of our first ICSI treatment
When my period arrived, I was just dull, not able to feel anything. It wasn’t until 2 hours later when the letter from the lab arrived that my heart broke into a million pieces.
‘We are sorry to inform you that the embryos are not good enough to freeze, however, this says nothing about the embryo we transferred.’
Just like that, I had lost 14 ‘, possible babies.’ I cried for days, wondering what had happened. Was it me? Is my body not good enough? Did I do something wrong? I crawled behind my computer and was determined to read every single thing ever posted about ICSI and infertility, and I soon realized that The Netherlands is far behind with fertility treatments.
For a few days, I was obsessed with finding an answer but my partner bought me back to reality. He has hope for our future treatments, I’m not there yet.
I scheduled an appointment with my ob-gyn and asked her what happened but she had no answer either. It could be the eggs, the semen or a combination of both or just bad luck. So now we have to do it all over again and hope for a different outcome.
Things that helped me during my ICSI treatment
- Prenatal vitamins and a multi that helped with the tiredness.
- Heating pad against the pain.
- Lots of Tylenol as it’s the only safe pain med when you’re pregnant.
- The calm app that helped me relax in stressful times.
- Deep sleep pillow spray, nothing relaxes more than lavender.
- Protein shakes can help avoid overstimulation and help you recover quicker. I started drinking protein shakes 3 days before the egg retrieval and stopped when my belly started to shrink.
One last important advice I can give you; no matter how much you want to don’t google! You are only driving yourself crazy, and the truth is – there is really not anything you can do that will make your fertility treatment a guaranteed success. You can only wait and try to relax as much as you possibly can in your situation.
I started acupuncture for my next treatment cause I heard a lot of positive stories about how acupuncture can help with fertility. I’m not sure about it yet, but at least it helps me relax.
My conclusion after the first ICSI treatment.
I had some time to think about everything that happened, to distance myself from it and looking back this is how I’ve experienced my first ICSI attempt.
- The hormones weren’t as bad as I expected. The first few days I had a mild headache, and I was more tired than usual. If you’re young like me you can expect mild overstimulation, my belly was the size of a watermelon, and it took a while for my body to get back to normal.
- The injections were easy, don’t think just do was my motto and it helped. All medications are different, some are little sharp needles, other’s are bigger blunter needles. The Feremydal gave me a sting and red rash after injection but nothing serious.
- the egg retrieval wasn’t as bad as I thought. In most countries, they put you under, but here they give you morphine. It felt similar to when you put a rubber band on your wrist and you pull it and then let go, you feel a little discomfort but it’s only for a moment. Afterward, they gave me diclofenac and after a few days, the pain was gone.
- Mentally it was challenging for sure, the waiting, the insecurities – a whole new experience, but it’s doable and I’m really proud of myself that I got to experience this and how I handled everything. Fertility treatments are always a gamble you have no certainty, and that’s hard to accept, you might go through several procedures with no positive outcome, but what I’ve also experienced is that time heals, it keeps stinging, but the pain gets better.
- Physically it was the most challenging for me. I was exhausted during the treatment, and I had pain in my belly from day 7. The day after the egg retrieval I had a short hospital stay because I couldn’t move my arm anymore and had a lot of fluids in my ovary – all of this is normal and can be expected during treatment.
- I was very envious and hostile during the treatment. Let me be clear; I wish everyone the best, but going through a complicated treatment like this that is both mentally and physically challenging is hard. You are dealing with a lot of things in a short period and that makes you feel a lot of complicated, intense emotions. At the moment I was doing my treatment I felt like everyone around me was pregnant and I suddenly became very protective of my body. I hated how everyone else was raising there children and even my partner couldn’t say anything right.
I also realized I had to let go of this attempt, it didn’t work period. I will never know why, and for now, I don’t know if it will ever work. I’m taking a break for a few months and then I will try again with a different medication plan. I’m not sure how many treatments I’m willing to do. For now I say 2 more, but maybe we will look to clinics in other countries, however me and my partner also feel that if at one point we think ‘it’s enough’ we will stop and do other things with our lives, we always joke that if we don’t get children we will take a cruise every year, so who knows how life will turn out.
If you are going through fertility treatment, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Any feeling is allowed to be there, it’s a challenging time, it’s heartbreaking but you are strong, and you can do it, and however life turns out, you will be fine.
I will answer any question you have, leave a comment or reach out to me personally on the contact page.