PGD Part 4 - The Final!
So our little eggs and spermy were put together overnight after egg collection. Waiting for the phone call to let us know how many had fertilized was pretty nerve racking.
Luckily I didn’t have to wait too long as they called early in the morning and let us know that 4 had fertilized! We were ecstatic! That’s an 80% fertilization rate! We were told that they would contact us again in two days time, to let us know how many survive to Day 3.
This whole week is a little blurry to me at the moment. There was a lot going on on the farm but I also rested a lot as I was quite tired and sore from the egg collection. It was a tricky time because I knew there was a lot to sort out with the farm and it was hard not to feel like I wasn’t contributing to this. No one made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough, it’s just I knew I could have been helping. My husband was great in this time – he never expected me to do more than I felt like doing, and repeatedly told me to just do what I feel like doing. This was a good excuse to try and set a lot of our computer/office things up so I could easily rest if I needed to.
So come Day 3 we get a call to say that all 4 embryos were still going strong! They had all multiplied in cell count to what they would expect. Two were actually further ahead than what they would usually expect! Shit yeah – grow little embaby’s!! Again, they said they will call us in 2 days time to let us know how many make it to Day 5 and from there can be tested. This was the big wait because a lot of embryos can have difficulty surviving to Day 5. Many fresh transfers for people going through IVF happen on Day 3, so it was quite nervewracking
This is the point I stopped writing down what happened in our journey. I cannot remember why I stopped and I'm a little annoyed with myself to be honest! This is still very early on in our IVF/PGD journey! What's written below is based on my memory and I apologise that it's not in a lot of detail.
So on Day 5 we were told that all 4 fertilized embryos had survived! This is great news and the doctors were impressed as well. To have 80% of collected eggs survive to be a Day 5 embryo is very very positive. From here the 4 embryos were able to be tested for the BRCA1 gene mutation. They had to be transported to Christchurch fresh, and the test was done down there. They were frozen immediately after the test (which involved some of the fluid just inside the embryo casing being removed) and then transported up to Hamilton Fertility Associates.
The actual testing took about 2 weeks from memory. This was a nervous time, as I kept thinking by having *only* 4 embryos to work with, we may very well not be left with many to attempt to transfer with. The likelihood of passing down the BRCA1 gene mutation to offspring is 50%, so based on this we may be left with two. But then again, it could be more or less than that. Some couples can get like 10 fertilized embryos from an IVF cycle, and therefore have more chances of attempting a transfer. However, the saying "quality over quantity" played a part in our IVF journey!
So it turns out the statistics were right for us, of the 4 embryos, 2 were deemed affected and 2 were unaffected.
So, we had two unaffected embryos sitting in the freezer waiting for us.
Now came the decision about when to transfer them. By this time it was about July and we were just getting in to calving on the farm. The doctor at FA said it would be ideal to have a natural menstrual cycle before doing a transfer (after egg collection). This meant my body would have expelled the drugs from the IVF cycle and had a chance to find it's rhythm again. We could basically then decide whenever we wanted to do the transfer! The timing worked out that I had a natural cycle, and the next cycle we would do the transfer which was in September 2017, and near the end of calving on the farm.
The start of the transfer cycle involved internal progesterone pessaries. I had to insert two of these, three times a day. I remember needing blood tests to test my hormone levels as the transfer needed to be done at the exact right time my uterus was ready for it. The day of the transfer we headed to FA in Hamilton. I don't remember doing anything in particular to prep for this, apart from a lot of visualising - of a healthy embryo and a healthy uterus. The transfer was very straight forward and the doctor told me that as the embryo was defrosting it started to "hatch" which is an excellent sign! They emailed us a picture of the embryo which is amazing to see as well. The transfer took about 10 minutes and was fairly painless - much like a cervical smear.
From here it was the 2 week wait. I had heard from many many women that this is the most anxious part of the cycle. Any little sign could be analysed to the tiniest detail. Pain? Implantation? Bleeding? Nauseous? Tired? Energetic? NO CHANGE?! Anything could mean pregnant or not pregnant! Over the two weeks I felt very small twinges in my uterus inconsistently. At the two week mark I would either get my period or not, so the twinges could have been my uterus getting ready to shed, or the wee embryo implanting itself.
The morning I was due to do my 2 week blood test, I took a pregnancy test. I was in two minds about doing this because I would have had a result by the end of the day regardless, and the possibility of getting a false-positive was real. The pregnancy test came up positive and we tried super hard not to get too excited about it. The feeling I had when I got the phone call later in the evening is hard to describe. To be told you're pregnant after going through something as invasive as IVF, plus the variable of the BRCA gene, seems almost too good to be true. Pregnant? After our first transfer? We almost weren't expecting it!! But also: OMG WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A BABY!!!!!
The blood test measured the level of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone in my blood. I cannot remember the number at the two week mark but it was high which is a good indication of a strong pregnancy. I had two more blood tests over about a week and the level of hCG rose at a rate they expected for a continuing pregnancy. This was a huge relief as those early days are so delicate. From here, FA basically just wished us all the best and said they will be in contact after our estimated due date to get some details about the baby.
My pregnancy symptoms started about 6 weeks gestation. You can read about that in my other blog post here.