Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Part 2: Reflection on the Birds and the Bees (ICSI IVF Style)

I have reflected a bit on my previous post and it falls short of the post that I thought that I would write about our fertility journey over the past 2-3 years.  Every time I thought about writing something down during this time, I saw witty comments and cartoon drawings of the most ridiculous moments - so far, not so good.  However, I feel that if I don't write this stuff down before our baby arrives, the moment will be gone.  So please bear with me.  I am writing this all down as much for me as anyone else.  I am writing each post as I go, so they may not be as tightly written as they should be.

I do not know for certain but I suspect that people tend not to talk about treatments and procedures because either they are trying to forget them, normalise them or are trying not put off other people who might have to experience them. The truth is though, that some procedures, especially fertility related ones, are fairly extraordinary.  It's been 9-10 months and I still haven't been able to normalise them.  In some respects, I think that they should stand out as something quite odd (or amazing, whichever way you wish to look at it).  I hope that my personal experience of them doesn't put anyone off.  If you are having difficulties with fertility, asking for help, receiving treatment and having a successful outcome more than compensates for any of the procedures that you have to go through.

Our first appointment at the hospital was a bit of a non event, a quick meet and greet, a review of our file and a dispatch for more tests.  The Fella was sent for more tests and told to review the medications he'd been prescribed to stabilise his blood pressure with his usual doctor as the side effects of some of them were known to cause fertility problems.  I was dispatched for a Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test (wiki link).  The fertility specialist told me that this test was both 'diagnostic and therapeutic'.  Basically, it's an x-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes.  The way our consultant put it almost made it sound like a relaxing spa treatment - it sounds fairly benign, right? 

Well, trust me, it felt a lot less benign when I was stripped from the waist down (apart from my M&S black ankle socks), lying under a skimpy paper towel and x-ray machine on a cold metal slab, in a dimmed room, waiting for the x-ray to happen.  The nurse had explained the procedure to me but I still felt like I'd entered another dimension of the bizarre when the x-ray guru entered the room with a miner's lamp strapped to his forehead. 

You see, they have to squirt dye up inside you in order for the x-ray machine to see any of your reproductive organs.  So the x-ray guru has to insert a catheter up into your uterus and squirt in the dye.  Are you squirming uncomfortably yet?!  I was - even before he'd switched on his lamp.  This is also where I learnt first hand, for the first time, that when a medical person says, "You might feel some cramping," what they really mean is, "This is really going to flipping hurt - brace yourself."  I was expecting a bit of cramping, I wasn't expecting the kind of 'cramping' that shot me halfway up the metal slab and almost had the x-ray guru's eye out on the toe of one of my black socks!

Luckily, it didn't last long and the x-ray guru left the room before I could regain my composure sufficiently to fling myself off the slab and ping his forehead forcefully with his miner's lamp. I commented lamely to the nurse that it hurt a bit more than 'cramping' and she commented helpfully, "Well, it hurts a lot less than childbirth." 

That's right, I thought, just the thing to say to a potentially infertile woman, who's sitting on a metal slab with her knickers off and trying to come to terms with the fact that she's just had her insides invaded by dye and a man wearing a miner's lamp.    

So why was this test both diagnostic and therapeutic?  Well, the x-ray enables them to check your vital reproductive bits.  Squirting the dye through your reproductive system, flushes it out.  So it is possible that if you had something blocking a fallopian tube, it would be removed and voila!  Your fertility problem would be solved.

At our next appointment, the specialist confirmed that all my bits were present, correct and free of any blockages.  He looked over the Fella's test results and advised that things had not improved, despite the changes implemented around multi-vitamins, lifestyle and blood pressure medication. In fact, his results were slightly worse.  Mind you, it is important to remember that it takes about 3 months for any changes to be processed through a man's body completely, so it is possible that some of the changes the Fella had made were just not reflected in his results at that point in time.

The specialist advised us that there were avenues that he could pursue that might or might not help to improve our fertility situation but that it would take over a year for us to begin to see any beneficial results, if there even were any.  Due to the uncertainty of success and our ages, he felt that we should consider some form of assisted reproductive treatment instead.  Based on our specific situation, he recommended ICSI IVF.  This is the type of IVF where individual sperm are injected into each egg. 

As we were in December and approaching Christmas, he suggested that we start our IVF cycle in January - so that is what we did.

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