The Egg Retrieval is often considered to be the most important part of an IVF cycle. It is also regarded as the most painful of any of the treatments or procedures that you encounter along the way. It was safe to say that from the moment we commenced our cycle, this was the day I was dreading the most. I would spend hours scanning infertility forums, my IVF instagram feed, my IVF books, reading individual accounts of this experience. Some women found it not too bad, others said it was the worst pain they’ve felt in their lives. This was not helping. At our scans in the lead up to the big day, I would often try to garner more information from the nurses; “is it really as painful as people say?”, “how long does it last?”, “what drugs do I get?”.
The bad news was that even the nurses found it hard to sugar coat the reality that yes it would probably be very painful. However the good news was that the procedure itself only lasted approximately 20-30 minutes, and there would be drugs administered. Excellent news. I have heard of some other clinics who actually sedate their patients for this procedure, however with it being such a short process, our clinic don’t think it’s worth putting someone to sleep only for it to be over so quickly. To be honest, I was quite happy with this as I don’t feel the need for general anaesthetics unless absolutely necessary. And anyway, I was confident I could handle it. The IVF had forced me to shed my weakling status so I steeled myself that I would get through it! And as I kept saying to Dave, all this pain was hopefully building up my threshold for labour one day (fingers crossed).
We were scheduled for 9am but had to be at the clinic for 8am to get ‘prepped’. Predictably I hadn’t slept much the night before; although I could honestly say that I wasn’t afraid anymore; I was actually excited to get the eggs out of me. My last scan had shown 9 eggs ready for collection with another few that might make the cut, and trust me, they were heavy. I looked and felt about 6 months pregnant and my stomach was rock hard. I just wanted them out so I could feel a little bit normal again and I could stop tormenting myself when I looked in the mirror that this is what a pregnant me would look like.
I had been instructed to take two paracetamol and two ibuprofen before arriving at the clinic and what with me already feeling shattered from a sleepless night, I was beginning to feel quite relaxed. We were shown into our ward and changed into our “outfits”. Me of course with the ever-flattering ‘bum-hanging-out’ gown again, and Dave in his greens looking like a Scottish version of George Clooney in ER. Luckily for him he started to look more Clooney-like the more drugs I got. Next along was a nurse who gave me 2 temazepam and then the doctor who gave me an intravenous antibiotic/painkiller. It was approximately 3 minutes after this that I started to feel vvvveerrrrryyyy woozy. But a good woozy, like that nice buzz you get when you’ve had a few glasses of wine. Dave then toddled off to do his contribution and returned very pleased with himself. Unfortunately for the guys this is the only part they really have to take part in, so the least they can do is do it well, which of course he did. We were then taken into theatre for the procedure and unfortunately after this point I really don’t remember much!
The procedure itself involves a very long needle entering the vagina, piercing through the vaginal wall into your follicles and extracting the egg. This is done one at a time so obviously the more follicles you have, the longer it takes. I remember feeling pain, but it almost felt like an out of body experience. Needless to say the drugs were doing their work and I was grateful for it. I often think in situations like these the most obstructive thing for the doctors and nurses’ trying to work on you is just how tense you are. You’re almost expecting pain so you tighten your muscles and of course this makes it much harder for them to do their work. They also don’t want you to make any sudden or sharp movements as the procedure is very intricate and they need you to be as still as possible. The drugs definitely helped me to relax and although I remember feeling quite a lot of painful twinges, it definitely wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. And it was over before I knew it.
When the doctor extracts the eggs, she immediately passes them one at a time through a little window in the theatre room to the embryologist who is stationed next door in the lab. They incubate them straight away before starting the fertilisation process with Dave’s sample. Once we were wheeled back through to our ward, the doctor came to check on us and informed us that everything had went well and that the embryologist would come to see us soon to tell us how many eggs had been extracted. By this point I was well and truly in la-la land so really didn’t care! I was drifting in and out of sleep and everytime the nurse came in to take my blood pressure I could see her having a little giggle to herself. I remember hearing her say to the doctor outside that I was fine, just “a little sleepy!”. Haha that was an understatement!
After what felt like an eternity the embryologist arrived and told us we had 12 eggs extracted. We were thrilled. 12 was a great number and gave us a really good chance of having at least a few fertilise and be of good quality to be implanted back in. She said she would phone the next day and let us know how many had fertilised over night and when we would likely be called back in for the embryo transfer. We knew it would either 3 or 5 days, so we didn’t have long to wait.
I’m not sure how we got home or what happened for the rest of that day; I was still pretty dazed and confused, but I remember feeling pain in my stomach, so it was a lazy afternoon and evening on the sofa cuddling with my two boys. The next day the embryologist phoned and told us that 6 eggs had fertilised, which was terrific news. She was really pleased and scheduled us in for the embryo transfer 2 days later. Dave was back to work that day and I had been told to take it easy however I didn’t feel too bad so stupidly did some housework as well as some bits and pieces round the garden. What a mistake that was. That evening and the next day, I could barely stand up straight. The pain in my stomach was unreal and I cursed myself for not taking it easy the day before. What I wouldn’t have given for some of that Temazepam then!
The next day the pain was some better but the thought of getting back into the theatre the very next day for the embryo transfer was enough to make me want to cry. However, I was excited to be taking home our little ‘embaby’, so I steeled myself once again for what was to come and tried desperately to think positive thoughts.