Cheers, dear readers,
Cathy here representing Conceive Hospital for another installment of our blog. We very much hope that what we are contributing here is helpful both to Conceive’s patients as well as anyone else that may be reading this blog. This is only one couple’s journey, but we represent many other couples out there who have had been diagnosed as requiring reproductive assistance due to infertility issues as a strategy for family building. It is estimated that one in ten couples that is working towards building a family has infertility issues of some kind. That is quite a lot of hopeful couples, I’m sorry to say.
Last I left you on my chronological tale, Eric and I had just undergone our first (and only) natural cycle IVF (meaning no drugs were used to stimulate my ovaries to retrieve more than one egg, thus it is more “natural” as it was utilizing my own natural cycle with on foreign drugs). It turned out be a failed IVF cycle, which is both emotionally and financially upsetting. What is a failed IVF you may ask? It is an IVF cycle cancellation for any number of reasons: the follicles may rupture on their own before the doctor can retrieve them himself, or not enough follicles are produced (in an ovarian stimulated IVF, which this one was not), an inadequate number of quality eggs are produced, unexplained results, the embryo(s) may not implant properly in the uterus, thus there is no pregnancy, or also the embryos themselves could die before they are even implanted. Any number of reasons can cancel the IVF cycle.
For us, the reason was my one and only successfully retrieved egg did not fertilize. Since there was no fertilization, there was no embryo to transfer. We received a small refund as our consolation prize. And no, it did not console us at all.
I was recently having a discussion with a friend of mine who seemed disturbed by my saying that the IVF “failed”. I think she thought I was thinking of myself as a failure. Well, from the scientific and medical side of things, my understanding is that it is a medical term to use the words “failed IVF”. That’s simply what it is. And from a practical side, our goal was to have a successful pregnancy, and we did not achieve that. Thus our attempt “failed.” It’s simply a fact, or an inconvenient truth. For me, I like to work with reality most of the time. There are moments in our lives where it is good to tell ourselves a little story that might bend the truth to make ourselves feel better. But there are other moments where we need to be honest with ourselves and look at the cold, hard facts, no matter how hard it is to look at them. This was one of them, partly because we had to look at the data and decide what to do next.
After we both had a good cry several times – both at how depressing, stressful and upsetting this entire experience was, and also how financially difficult it was too – we talked about our options. The loss of money with no outcome to speak of (as Eric alluded to in an earlier post) is not to be taken lightly. Certainly, that added to the “failure” aspect of that cycle. Were we ready to chance that again? Were we ready to handle that disappointment, and emotional trauma again if it did not work? Were we ready to play roulette with nature, self-injecting drugs into my body, in the hopes of getting pregnant with our own genetic material?
After a week went by, we went to see our doctor to discuss what happened and what to do next. He explained that he felt it was worth the try for Natural Cycle IVF in case it worked, partly since it was about a quarter of the cost of drug-induced IVF. But since my egg did not even fertilize, he recommended we “take it up a notch” and next try for drug-induced IVF to retrieve as many eggs as possible to up our chances of success. In our case, the cost to do even this one cycle was staggering. We really only had enough money to try it one time without going into debt. Talk about stressful and feeling lots of pressure. After much deliberation, weighing the pros and cons, and getting a better understanding of what we were about to take on, we decided the time was now, and to go for it, with fingers and toes crossed. We felt very alone because we did not know anyone who had been through anything like this before, but at least we had each other. We started moving money around, borrowing from Peter to pay Paul in order to come up with the funds, but yes we were ready to take a another chance. And boy, was it scary. But at least a part of me was still excited that this could work! What if it did? What a story to tell our little youngster someday, and then we’d be one of the statistics of success stories (not failures). That’s something to smile about!
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.