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OHSS + Watching our Embryos Grow/Die

By 3rd November 2015April 14th, 2022No Comments

A few days after my retrieval I expected to be up and about. The previous two retrievals I recovered quick smart and figured it would be the same again. Oh, infertility. I should have realised that any expectations are there to be dashed.

I got mild OHSS (Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) and let me tell you – that shit is not fun. Urgh. At the clinic I rushed through the boxes I know I needed to tick to get home: drink something, eat something and pee. No problem.

After I’d got home and slept off the meds it was a different story – I was in so much pain. Even more when I tried to go to the bathroom. I read somewhere once the muscles you use to stop peeing are the same muscles you use to push a baby out of your body. Turns out those particular muscles hurt like a mo-fo if you have OHSS. So much so that I fainted. On the toilet. I woke up with a massive bump on my shoulder where I’d hit the tub and a bigger lump on my head where I’d hit the wall. I felt indignant when I came to – as if I hadn’t had a bad enough time with infertility, now I had to pass out from pain on the toilet too? Siiigh.

It took me a while to figure out it was OHSS and not just my body being slow to recover. There were a few key ah-ha symptoms:

– Weird bloating and tenderness. I looked like I was pregnant. Really pregnant.
– I couldn’t breathe deep. It felt weird to take a big breath.
– I couldn’t lie on my side comfortably – I’d almost always roll onto my back.

I did some reading (expect a proper research laden post coming soon) but realised that as we weren’t transferring I’m not at risk of it getting worse. As soon as my body realised I’d ovulated, wasn’t pregnant and my levels of hCG went down it’ll reverse itself and I’d cover.

Which meant that the biggest part of the week was me hanging out in bed, waiting for the daily calls about our embryos.

Of six retrieved, five were mature. Of the five that were mature, four fertilised. 

They cleaved into four cells. And then eight cells. One went off early and became ten cells. We got daily calls, we got pictures. There was that feeling of relief and then I’d get all worked up thinking about the next call. There is just so much hope – so very much hope. 

On Day 5, when we were hoping for 4 beautiful blastocysts – we had 4 compacted morulas. 

Oh. We know that embryos that don’t grow to plan aren’t always viable, but to have none of embryos make it to blastocyst level is terrifying. The embryologists are as keen as we are for them to grow and gave us another day.

We had one blastocyst (one beautiful, hatching, blastocyst). They said they’d give the other three another day – just in case. Sadly none of them survived.

It’s pretty heartbreaking to go through the IVF process. All the drugs, stims, retrieval and OHSS and then spend the week watching all your hard work drop off one little miracle at a time. 

I feel guilty. Like I could have done more. I could have taken the weeks pre-IVF off. I could have stuck to the diet, rather than relaxing it. I could have been more diligent with the morning supplements, and excercised and avoided BPA laden bottled water. Watching my little embyos stop evolving, I feel guilty. 

Because it’s my fault – all development at this point is powered by mitochondria found in the egg – the egg quality is all on me. So when they stop developing… that’s on me. 

One blastocyst. Oh. I know we only need one, but heartbroken doesn’t even cover it. Diminished ovarian reserve – it’s horrid. I’m still hopeful, though. That this little guy will be chromosonally normal and it’ll all work out. I’m so, so hopeful.

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