egg retrieval and such

Egg retrieval was on Sunday, 8/26/2012.

Egg retrieval means: a procedure where all of the eggs the doctors have been growing and stimulating in my body over the past month are harvested. I had many mature follicles with 23 eggs ready to burst out of me by the time retrieval day came. Some women only have one or two follicles and only one or two or three eggs. I was supposed to retrieve on Friday or Saturday, but because I had so many eggs, most of them were not stimulated quite enough so the doctor had to keep “cooking” me a little longer. Translation: more stimulation meds, more trips to the pharmacy, more money, and more pokes in my belly!

There is a lot of bloating and cramping throughout the week of stimulation medication. It progressively gets worse as the ovaries are pumped full of estrogen and the follicles grow in size. By Sunday morning, I could barely stand upright; the pain in my right ovary (which is where the majority of eggs were) was so great. It was greater than any pain of any impending miscarriage I had felt. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a good thing! Counter-intuitive, if you ask me. I felt like both ovaries would burst open at anytime. The retrieval came not a moment too soon.

Logic would suggest that the more eggs you produce the more embryos you end up with. This is not the case. Most women who produce a lot of eggs have issues with egg quality. So even though a lot of eggs are retrieved, very few embryos survive the incubation and fertilization process. But, as my sweet doctor always says, it only take one Good Egg to make a baby.

Of the 23 eggs they retrieved on Sunday, 17 had fertilized by Monday morning. By Wednesday, we had only 10 left. And by yesterday, Friday, there was a small handful of precious “good embryos” in tact.

Dr. Fisch transferred the best two yesterday morning, and froze one that was ready to freeze. There were a few more embryos still growing so he hopes for a total of two or three frozen little embryos by this Tuesday. (I will detail the transfer procedure in a later post.)

The Procedure

Yes, they put you to sleep for the procedure because it is quite painful. You are strapped to a bed (no joke) with your legs in the air. It’s just like lying down for a pelvic exam except the stirrups are for your legs, not your feet. Black leather straps are tied around your legs and the stirrups to keep the legs in place as you conk out.

After making a few jokes with the nurses about feeling like I was in some medieval torture chamber–jokes they have heard a hundred times before–the anesthesiologist put an oxygen mask on me and pumped me full of the good stuff. Before I knew it I was dreaming of carpools and soccer practice and all things back-to-school related.

The doctors guide a tube with a tiny needle up through the vaginal canal and past the uterus. It lands right next to the ovary. The needle then makes a tiny hole in the ovary and sucks the eggs out. Amazing, huh?

I woke up a little while later…Adam safely back by my side, in the recovery bay. He had his own contribution to attend to during my procedure. Can’t make this baby without him!

Sidebar: There’s a room, in the clinic, where the men leave their semen sample. Adam took pictures of the room for me because I was so intrigued. I mean, I’m in a sterile operating room with a needle stuck up inside of me sucking out my eggs, and he’s across the hall collecting a semen sample. Why do the men ALWAYS get the better end of this deal???

Apparently, the guy in line before Adam took a really long time. The nurses kept looking at each other saying, “He’s still in there?” as they looked at Adam with a “not sure what to tell you” kind of look. He said they all just laughed! The guy took so long that Adam barely got back to our recovery bay in time to see me wheeled in. The magazines must have been super interesting. 🙂

My procedure was scheduled for 9:30, and we were home by 1:00. I had been prepared by a few different friends to expect pain, and take it easy. Some women are ready to go back to work after 24 hours. I find that unbelievable! But the doctor also said that the more eggs retrieved, the longer the recovery time, which makes sense. Some women take three or four days to recover. I had moderate pain, probably a three on the pain scale when I woke up from surgery, and about a five or six by the time I got home. Luckily, I was prepared and had cleared my schedule to be down for a few days. (MUCH thanks to amazing friends and VT’s who repeatedly cheered me up, brought me food, and helped with my kids last week!)

What I didn’t see coming: OHSS! Ovarian Hyperstimulation…a possible side effect to egg retrieval and the stim meds.  I had been warned by my doctor that I was at risk for it, but I didn’t give it much thought. I will talk about this in my next post. I think anyone considering IVF should know about it.

Soooo glad it is over. I have already sworn to my husband that I will not be doing anymore fresh retrievals. However, I can already feel myself wanting this to work so I am not going to say, Never. But if there is one thing that would stop me from doing it again, it would be the memory of the egg retrieval. Yuck! Glad it’s over.

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