Sorry — I sort of wrote two posts at the same time — which means there’s bits of information in both but maybe not the whole picture. So as you might have gathered from the previous post a) I’m not done and b) I have a plan, so here’s a few more details on that…
The minute there was a plan, that made me feel so much better because, as you may recall, that is the sort of person I am. My consultant basically said that I shouldn’t feel downhearted and that we’re not at the point where I need to think about alternatives yet, which was nice.
But the bit that was less nice is the fact that the quality of my eggs is clearly a cause for concern. It’s possible that the freezing and the thawing process damaged eggs that were genetically good but somehow not that robust, but the fact that several that survived the thawing fertilised abnormally suggests a quality issue with the actual DNA of them. Which is a bit shit. (OK, I’m understating things; it’s a lot shit.)
Obviously I asked if there was anything I could do to improve the egg quality — I’d read (of course I had) that there’s some limited evidence that the hormone DHEA can reduce genetic abnormalities in eggs and also some suggestion that the antioxidant CoEnzyme Q10 can also be valuable. She told me that the DHEA evidence was very small scale and that in her clinical experience, it could cause ovarian cysts which meant you had to be careful with dosing of stimulatory hormones etc so she didn’t want me to take it. She — and most doctors I’ve seen comment on it — seem ambivalent about CoEnzyme Q10 so obviously I went a bought a load of that.
Basically all I can do is hope that despite being older, my months off the booze and on the PregnaCare Max (which I didn’t do when I was freezing my eggs three years ago) will help improve the quality of my eggs this time around. Yes, I’m clutching at straws, but you would too.
The plan is to do three cycles of IVF as near to back to back as possible. The idea is to retrieve eggs, make embryos, freeze embryos and, after the three cycles, hopefully have at least one embryo to put back. The first cycle will be a normal IVF cycle — basically what I did when I was freezing my eggs; hormone injections to stimulate egg production, hormone injections to prevent ovulation and then a trigger shot to “release” the eggs 36 hours before the retrieval procedure. Then rather than being frozen, they will try to make embryos from any eggs straight away. That will tell them if my eggs are any good. If they’re not, for the other cycles we’ll probably do what they call natural IVF where you don’t force eggs that are a bit crap to grow, you just concentrate on the one that was going to be released that month anyway.
The reason why you do the cycles back to back, or as near as, is because embryos freeze better than eggs so there’s less of a concern there — ie if it’s good enough to freeze, it’s probably good enough to survive defrosting and a transfer. But also there’s some evidence that the success rate with frozen embryos is higher than with fresh — perhaps because if it’s been frozen and defrosted, you know it’s robust, but also because the body has time to recover from the drugs and brutality of egg retrieval first. Also I guess, there’s the time thing. If after one cycle you put an embryo back and get pregnant and then miscarry, it could be six months before you can do another IVF cycle, with eggs that are six months older etc etc.
So basically, there’s no way — miracles and accidental shagging aside — that I’m going to be pregnant this year. Which is kind of shit but also kind of a relief. I mean, obviously there’s the emotional rollercoaster of egg retrieval, and numbers and embryo creation (or not) to go through, but there’s also a lot of stuff that I won’t be going through.
Although — as I realised when I started counting days, I’m going to have to take drugs and needles with me on holiday. And drugs that need to be refrigerated. When I’m in a shared house with people who don’t know that I’m doing IVF. So, as my friend, C, put it, that’s more great material for the screenplay. Those people who called their podcast IVFML — see my last post — had it right…