Kicking off IVF: Stims (#4)
October 30, 2018 1 CommentCategory: IVF Journey, Motherhood
Tags: Gonal, IVF, Infertility, Infertility journey, Menopur, Stims
We’re in the thick of it – AKA “Stims”.
What’s “stims”, you may ask? “Stims” refers to the hormone injections that start the IVF process or that “stimulate” your ovaries to produce lots of eggs – when typically you would only produce one or two. Your body essentially gets tricked into doing this with hormones that stimulate your ovaries for up to 14 days. The goal is to develop as many eggs as possible so you have more opportunities for eggs and sperm to fertilize and then create embryos. The more embryos = the more opportunities for a baby.
This part of the process is what people typically think of when they think of IVF – the shots – because there certainly are a lot of them. You typically start with morning and evening shots, and add a few more a day as time goes by. In addition to shots, you also go in to the doctor’s office for blood tests and ultrasounds every two or three days so they can see how your body is responding to the medications and to monitor your progress. It’s a lot for your body to take in – especially when mixing in Tysabri, my MS medication, into the mix. (Note: I was told to stay on my MS meds until pregnant)
You hear all sorts of stories about the side effects of these hormones and while everyone is different, I’ve noticed the following:
- Headaches – These to me are the worst side effect of the hormones. Estrogen increases in your body can lead to severe headaches which I’ve had almost every day. They wake me from sleep they are so bad. I’ve heard that other people do not have these at all; I think it all depends on the person.
- Bloating – I mean, you are giving yourself shot after shot into your belly for days on end to overwork your ovaries. So yes, bloating and discomfort is common.
- Stress – I have been a stressed mess since we started – not only due to this process but outside factors as well. The unknown result is the worst part for me. If I knew that this cycle would work or that I’d have a baby at the end of this, I wouldn’t stress as much. But, I don’t know any of that and we are dealing with the emotional, physical and financial stress of banking on this one cycle working, so it’s weighing heavily on me. Plus, I am getting updates on how my body is supposed to respond to the meds versus how it’s actually responding so those comparisons are really hard for me. Every time I go to the doctor for a check-in, I feel like the results has been less than promising. In all cycles I’ve done, I haven’t developed a ton of follicles and have been a slow responder with the meds, or my body just isn’t accepting the meds like it’s supposed to which makes me concerned it won’t work. I am usually optimistic but initial results have been discouraging.
- Numbness and tingling (resulting from my MS / subsequent stress) My arms and hands have been really bad and flare up during stressful times. These symptoms have been prevalent during the entire process and are common with my MS.
There’s not much I can do about the bloating or headaches, but I’ve been trying to reduce stress in the ways I know how. I’ve been going to the gym daily, working out with a trainer, and doing acupuncture twice a week. I’ve cut out alcohol, caffeine, and have been eating very clean. I’ve also had work to keep my mind preoccupied but truly haven’t felt like being my normal social self. I’ve been staying in at night, avoiding making plans, and refraining from my typical social media (which is odd if you know me) because I don’t feel like pretending to be happier or better than I feel right now. I know this is also temporary so I’m seeing it as a little break from normal life which is fine.
Back to the shots…
Here is a glimpse of an average morning during “stims”. If you’re weary of shots, then I wouldn’t watch the video below.. but just keepin’ it real.https://wellandstrongwithms.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/large.mov
I am taking Menopur in the AM and Gonal Follitism in the evening and baby aspirin daily to improve my endometrium lining. After four days on both, they upped my hormone meds since I am a “slow responder” (again, woof). Even though the shots themselves are not horrible (they burn a little, especially Menopur), I was terrified giving them to myself. I tried but ended up having a bit of a meltdown. Bill had to give me shots from there. On Day 4, I woke up and decided to do them myself. And I was able to. It’s all about your mindset and I felt clearer and stronger by then. I am thankful that Bill could be there for me every day in the meantime.
My medication schedule is below. To most of you this won’t mean anything but I personally benefited from others sharing their plans and responses so I will share mine here.
After Day 11, I knew I was close to being ready for my egg retrieval. Upping the dosage of medications helped a lot. Not only were some of my follicles grown according to the ultrasound but my stomach was for lack of a better word “full” and I was cramping like crazy. At this point I had 12 visible follicles. By day 13 I was ready to “trigger” – which is a shot that triggers ovulation – and 36 hours later I would have my egg retrieval surgery.
I have to say looking back, the shots and appointments were the easiest part of the process. It was the waiting, the anticipating and the stress that really felt unbearable at times. I was constantly worried that I wasn’t progressing, that something was wrong or that it wouldn’t work. These feelings consumed me even though I did my best to focus on road ahead. It’s so easy for people to say not to worry or not to stress when this process takes so much out of you.
But, the truth was I was making progress. A lot of it actually and soon enough we would learn how many embryos we had from this cycle..
Stay tuned for the egg retrieval surgery results coming this Thursday for this two-part blog post..