IVF: No Two Cycles Are the Same

It’s a fact that veteran IVFers happily share: no two cycles are ever the same. But as a relative newbie, only embarking on our second cycle, it’s advice that was easy to ignore. You can rationalise that it refers not to those who have a long gap between cycles, and thus age gets in the way. Or cycles where there have been significant changes in the protocol. It’s easy to get swept up in to thinking that if everything went well first time, and the only changes have been positive additions, then everything should work out very similarly the second time.

I’ve just learned, to my cost, that that isn’t true. It really is the case that no two cycles are the same. The human body just can’t be forced to work like that.

To be fair to myself, I had a bad feeling about this cycle from the beginning. The delays in starting and the disappointing first stimms scan. I regretted not having the cyst drained. I regretted going ahead, to be honest, because I think I may have started stimming too late, which limits the number of follicles still available to be recruited.

But IVF is like a train. Once you’re in, you’re on and though it’s not impossible to stop it, it’s difficult and can be costly. It’s a process with fixed end points and it seems no one likes to take a different track in the middle of the journey.

So egg collection came around last week. We had the usual difficulties with not being able to get a cannula in any of my rubbish veins, and whilst I was definitely given plenty of pain relief, I can’t say it particularly worked. I have a vivd recollection of wanting to jump straight off the bed at one point – not something that is advisable when you have a giant needle sticking in your ovary.

It’s worth it for a good cause, I told myself.

But then, we got just six eggs.

It doesn’t sound too bad on its own, but I was instantly disappointed. Last time, we had twelve.

Half as many eggs. Half the chances. And last time we still failed.

The worst news, however, didn’t come until the following morning. The dreaded “fertilisation report”. It turned out that initially NONE of my eggs had been mature. Maturity is the readiness to be fertilised, and involves the ejection of half the genetic material to leave 23 chromosomes ready to be paired with 23 from the sperm cell. Immature eggs won’t form normal, euploid embryos even if they fertilise. Fortunately two of my eggs went on to mature in the lab, but I was informed they weren’t great eggs and were very tough to inject in the ICSI process.

And then, worst of all, they hadn’t fertilised.

It was the worst possible outcome. Dreams that we might get 5 or 6 embryos again and this time maybe have some to freeze were shattered in a moment. Everything seemed to slow down, become somehow muted and greyed.


Obviously I was desperately sad and I cried a lot of tears. But I was also angry.

I didn’t, and still don’t fully understand how things could go so wrong after such a good cycle just three months ago. I was concerned that we’d gone from a male factor problem to possibly also having issues with the quality of my eggs. I was angry with the clinic. I blamed them for not draining the cyst. For not using testicular sperm – which had always been the plan, and I thought may have given us a different result – especially as I didn’t learn this until after the event. I felt sure that my medication must have been mismanaged to have so many immature eggs after trigger. I wondered if we’d cycled again too soon – at their suggestion, but one I suddenly felt suspicious could have driven by money. I was angry too about the money. Whilst it didn’t upset me last time, this felt like a huge waste of cash because we didn’t really get our “chance at a chance”.

I realise now, though, that it isn’t really understandable. Medical science is amazing, but nature more so. And whilst we can manipulate it to a degree, there is really only so much control we can exert over all the complicated elements of human reproduction.

If it were easy, the success rates for IVF would be much greater than the average 35%

This journey is hard. It’s unpredictable. Emotionally draining and physically wearing.

All I know right now is that it’s not really over yet.


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