Struggling with Infertility: Starting IVF

The meds, the myth, the legend…

I have long been a big proponent of speaking out on difficult topics. I feel like the more we talk about something the less taboo it becomes.

For me, this has resulted in talking about having diagnosed anxiety and how I cope with that, struggling with isolation as an entrepreneur, writing extensively on the #metoo movement, and most recently, talking about my struggles with infertility.

I want to talk to you about what is going on with me right now.

I started my first IVF cycle last week.

Insurance

My husband and I are on the most expensive health insurance plan his company offers. Part of the reason we picked it is that it had the best coverage for prenatal and maternity care.

However, this major national insurance (United Healthcare) does not offer ANY coverage for fertility treatments — not even helping with the cost of all the medications.

I looked into whether we could get off the company insurance and purchase private insurance through UHC which WOULD have fertility coverage — technically, I could. BUT it would be FAR more expensive AND HAD NO PRENATAL OR MATERNITY COVERAGE. UHC specifically said their private plans had no coverage for pregnancy. Freaking ridiculous.

So, that was not an option.

We had to pay completely out of pocket for fertility treatments and medications.

Emotional Rollercoaster

Trying for a baby and failing for so long (almost 2 years) is a constant rollercoaster. I was tracking my cycle and ovulation (so romantic!), peeing on ovulation strips, getting bloodwork and tests done (with no reason showing why I can’t conceive!), and then feeling devastated every month when I got my period.

Starting to work with fertility doctors almost a year ago helped that feeling of anxiety and loss of control because at least we were doing SOMETHING, you know? Trying to figure it all out.

I got tested, Husband got tested, I got tested a crap-ton more.

Fertility Treatments and Money

We did an IUI to see if it would work, even though it only had about a 10% chance and we had to pay out of pocket. The facility worked with us and gave us a bundled price they charge for uninsured patients or whose insurance has no coverage. It was only about $900. That did not work.

We decided to move forward with IVF the following month, in November.

Because we did not have insurance helping us, we did a lot of research and ended up going through a company called WINFertility. They do a lot with patients, employers, health plans, and consulting, but the big thing they do for people like me is they offer bundled pricing on IVF treatments for people with no insurance or no insurance coverage for it.

I had to prepay the money to WINFertility, who then worked directly with my doctor to make sure they ordered all the medications I needed and had them sent to my home. WINFertility pays the doctor’s office directly from what we already paid them.

This actually saved us $10,000.

Don’t worry, it is still costing us $20,000 total. But at least it’s not $30,000. [Note: It ended up costing more.]

Making that payment hurt my soul and my wallet!

IVF

When I started my period on November 15, 2018, it was the start of the IVF cycle.

The next morning at 7 am I was in the doctor’s office for bloodwork and ultrasound and based on those results, started twice-daily injections two days later.

I would have started the next day, but the pharmacy I was required to go through did not deliver my medications in time, did not notify me, and was not going to be able to get them to me for at least another 2 days. I had to pay out of pocket for new meds locally, pick them up, and start injections one day late. Don’t worry, I got a refund for the local meds since I had prepaid for the ones being mailed. That was frustrating and scary.

Starting Sunday, 11/18, I was injecting myself with 300 IU of Follistim every morning at 7:30 am and 2 Menopur powders every evening at 7 pm.

I was back in the doctor’s office at 7:30 am twice more in the next few days for monitoring. Bloodwork and ultrasound, then they call you that afternoon and let you know if the doses of medications are changing or staying the same.

On Friday, I went in for monitoring (it was PACKED) and my follicles were growing faster than they thought they would. Starting that evening, we added a third injection of Ganirelix to my day, which is to prevent premature ovulation. I had 10 growing follicles.

Back for monitoring Saturday morning and they let me know the trigger would likely be the next day with the egg retrieval procedure on Tuesday. Same 3 shots on Saturday.

Back for monitoring Sunday morning at 7:30 am (getting really sick of getting up at 6:30 am on my holiday weekend!). They called to let me know to stop all other injections and do the 2 trigger (to trigger ovulation) injections that night at EXACTLY 8 pm. Trigger meds were 40 units of Lupron and 1 powder of Novarel.

I have never been more aware of my ovaries. They are enlarged, tender, and I am just feeling them, which is something I have never once felt in my life.

Back for monitoring Monday morning. They gave me all the instructions and information I needed for the egg retrieval surgery/procedure, which was scheduled for Tuesday, 11/27, at 8 am. Husband and I needed to be there to check in at 7 am. The procedure started at 8 and I was able to leave around 9:30 am.

Egg Harvesting

The procedure was fine and painless — I was completely unconscious for it. The doctor said it went well and they retrieved 5 good eggs, which is less than we thought they’d be able to get, so that was disappointing. Through the fertilization and biopsy period, that number will lessen, but I am holding out hope for 2–3 viable embryos.

Throughout the day, I experienced cramping and discomfort and general abdominal soreness, but nothing too bad. The following week I had soreness, then I was ok.

The egg retrieval is actually considered a surgery with me being completely knocked out. They require someone to pick you up, so Husband took a half day. He needed to be there anyway to provide the sperm for fertilization.

After they got all the eggs out of me, the eggs will be manually fertilized (weird) and allowed to grow and develop for 5–6 days.

At that point, each teeny tiny embryo will get biopsied and 3–4 INDIVIDUAL CELLS will be removed and go through a full spectrum of genetic testing (that part is expensive). They test for all kinds of chromosomal anomalies, defects, and other things. Any that are not viable will not be used. They are left with the viable embryos which are the MOST likely to “take” and provide a viable pregnancy.

The MOST viable embryos are kept and frozen and one will be used for the implanting into my uterus in January.

My Feelings

The entire last two years have been a rollercoaster, for sure.

But this last week has been ever weirder and in some ways, better.

The day I started my period, it came 4 days early and I had been preparing and planning for IVF to start, but now that it was here early, I had a small panic attack and cried a little. It just felt very overwhelming all of a sudden, though I had been excited even an hour before.

The husband and I had to watch a 2-hour online course with all the info about the process, procedures, and how to do the injections. We rolled our eyes watching it but have referenced back to it multiple times.

Some of the injections were painless (Follistim), some were not (Ganirelix made the injection site sore AFTER the injection and Menopur stings going in).

My husband has been an absolute champion throughout this and did my evening injections for me (I did the morning Follistim, it’s a pen so it’s easier). He’s been my rock and true partner through everything but has been especially patient and sweet with me during this.

I have not experienced any severe side effects from the meds, aside from a bit of weight gain.

I have, however, been FEELING a lot more. My emotions feel more at the top of my mind, I feel a bit deeper about everything. I have like 4 emotions normally (happy, mad, sad, bored) and during these crazy injections, I have probably tripled that number.

I’ve also been what my husband is calling “aggressively affectionate.” I crave hugs and cuddles. I need them!

I have a lot of feelings right now, ok?

I was definitely nervous about the retrieval. Not about the procedure itself, just a desperate hope that it works. That we will hopefully end up with at least 2–3 viable ones for implanting.

I don’t think we could afford to do this whole part again right now, so it better work!

I’m so thankful we can afford to do this now and also that I work from home so that I’m able to easily get to the doctor’s office so often without worrying about a boss being annoyed. I’m incredibly grateful for the doctors and nurses we are working with.

The implanting will be in January. I am completely excited about it and wish it could be sooner, but the labs are closed during the last half of December, so we have to wait.

Fingers crossed!

P.S. I am super terrified of pregnancy and giving birth. But I want a potato baby, so I guess I’ll deal with it!

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com

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