I was chatting with my friend today through text and she inspired me to share my story about the whole artificial insemination process from start to finish. So here is my story. Please take note that there are different variances between clinics and couple situations that will be completely different from our story. But I hope this post will help you not be scared about it all as I was.
I had mentioned before and on social media, that I went in blind to this experience and I didn’t want to read other people’s stories. The reason for this was that I wanted to create my own experience. Looking back, it would have been a bit helpful reading other people’s experiences as it did shed some light on a lot of things that made no sense to me. There is no point on dwelling on the past. We got what we wanted done. That’s all that mattered at the end of the day.
Before I go into what the IUI process was for me, I should mention that I was diagnosed with low ovarian reserve (low egg count and quality) and my husband had low sperm morphology (the shape of the sperm). As a result, from April we had been taking a variety of supplements. It takes about 3 months for eggs to improve quality with these supplements, and about 2 months for sperm quality to improve.
I was taking CoEnzyme Q10, DHEA, prenatal multivitamin, Vitamin C and Vitamin D. My husband was taking Men’s Multivitamin, Selenium, Zinc, CoEnzyme Q10, Vitamin C, D and E.
CD1 : Call the clinic and let them know you’re starting
On my cycle day 1 (for those who don’t know what that means – it is the first day of your menstruation), I called the clinic twice to check if 1. my file is complete (i.e. no more testing needs to be done); and 2. to let them know I will be starting on medications. Because of the pandemic, I was only able to leave a voice mail. On CD5, the nurse called me and told me “good job on taking medications; continue taking them – see you on CD9 for an ultrasound”.
CD2: Start on Letrozole
On CD2 to CD6, I was expected to take Letrozole. It is a drug initially developed for breast cancer patients to reduce their chances of the cancer coming back. It does this by suppressing the production of estrogen which is believed to produce more breast cells and thus cause production of cancerous cells. Because of its suppression of the production of estrogen, it is now proved to induce a woman to ovulate. This is because estrogen signals the body to mature only one egg. When that is suppressed, multiple eggs begin to mature. It’s counterpart, called Clomid, has been proven by many studies that it causes birth defects and chromosomal defects.
CD5: Start taking Gonal F shots (FSH shots)
Gonal F or FSH shots were started on my CD5 and continued until CD8. They should be taken at the same time each day. These are shots that should be taken in an area around the belly button or on upper thigh. I took them all around my belly button because they need to be inserted subcutaneously in a soft spot and my thighs didn’t give that much flesh to work with. These shots contain a purified form of FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) that cause the maturing eggs follicles to grow and eventually release the eggs.
CD9: Ultrasound to measure follicle size
I got an appointment to go in to do an ultrasound to measure how many follicles I have and what were their sizes. Doctors do this to check for hyper-stimulation which is a very real possibility when taking all of these hormones. Hyper-stimulation is when a woman starts maturing more than 3 follicles. Doctors avoid this kind of stimulation and to fertilise a woman in that state because of the health risks to her and baby.
I had 3 maturing follicles – size 16 mm, 15 mm and 14 mm. Still too young to release eggs. The doctor decided I take one more FSH shot which brought me up to 5 days of FSH stimulation. That day, I gave myself one last shot.
CD10: Trigger Shot
Trigger shot, what it’s known in the fertility world, is actually an hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). It has been proven that hCG triggers a woman to start releasing the eggs from their follicles. It is given much the same as the FSH shots, around the belly button or upper thigh. This shot however, does bruise the skin underneath, which is what happened to me. It has to be given at the right time. And this time is decided by the doctor to ensure eggs are released in a timely manner so that ovulation is not missed completely.
The doctor told me to give myself this shot at 11 pm on CD10. 24 to 48 hrs following this shot, ovulation takes place. I read somewhere to make sure you did it correctly, you can take a pregnancy test, and you should be able to see a faint positive.
CD12: Insemination Day
My husband had an early appointment that day to go in and deposit semen. They then washed his sample with vitamins and minerals to wake up lazy sperm and to concentrate the sample with strong swimming sperm. When I went in that day, 3 hours later than my husband, I was handed a report of the wash and the doctor asked if my name was correct on the tube he was holding.
The report said that before the wash, there were about 15% active sperm, after the wash there were 55%. There were about 60 million sperm/ml before the wash, and after there were 50 million sperm/ml. They concentrated the good swimmers into a vial of 0.5 ml and that was the tube the doctor showed me.
While I was laying down, the doctor entered a long tube into my cervix and deposited the sperm inside. This helps bypass the cervix and if cervical mucus is not optimal, there would be no issue getting pregnant that way. I didn’t feel a thing. The doctor told me to keep laying down like this for another 10 minutes to ensure gravity helps keep sperm where they need to be and I would be able to continue with my day.
After 10 minutes, I got dressed and left. Nothing left for the clinic to do. They tell you after 15 days to take a pregnancy test. Regardless of the result, they need to be notified. If positive, congratulations, you’re done. If negative, they will tell you to continue on the same medication concentration, or increase it to a higher dose. The same process stated above will be repeated.
CD12-26: Progesterone suppositories
I was prescribed progesterone suppositories to enter into my vagina each day until testing. If I have conceived this cycle, I will need to continue this treatment for up to 8 weeks of gestation. If not, then I will stop to ensure I menstruate correctly.
Progesterone is actually used for menopausal women to help maintain their hormone levels. But progesterone is crucial in maintaining a pregnancy as well. It helps reduce the chances of miscarriages. It does this by thickening your lining and creating a very cozy home for your baby to grow in. Be very mindful, that it leaves lovely oily deposits on your underwear when you wake up in the morning.
TWW: Now we wait
The dreaded TWW. Now you wait until you are close to your period to check for pregnancy symptoms or for positive tests. I must say, my mind is playing tricks on me. I feel a lot of symptoms of pregnancy, but I just did shoot myself up with some hCG. So I can’t be sure if it is an actual pregnancy or the shot playing tricks on me. We shall wait and see.
I hope this brings you hope. Good luck on your journey!