IVF update: forms and needles

Syringe

This afternoon Jane and I drove over (drover?) to Dundee to Ninewells Hospital to sign consent forms and give a blood sample for screening (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV) prior to our IVF treatment beginning sometime this year.

Seemingly we were supposed to have done this preparatory work a few months ago but with the complications and Jane’s operation the paperwork got lost in favour of treating Jane. Which I think strikes the right balance: people before paperwork.

The nurse who talked us through the forms and extracted some blood from us was lovely. She was friendly, fun and made us feel quite special which, not surprisingly, made us feel quite at ease.

With that done, and assuming that the blood tests are okay (and we have no reason to believe otherwise) we now just wait for the process to carry us through to our first cycle. More on that in a minute.

What happens with IVF

For those who don’t know what the procedure is, here’s how having a baby should work (assuming that all goes well):

  1. Man and woman have sex. (Drugs prior to sex are entirely optional at this point, but not recommended.)
  2. Man and woman have nervous wait.
  3. Woman takes pregnancy test.
  4. Couple celebrate, like it’s 1987.
  5. Nine months later woman gives birth to a healthy baby.

Now, here’s how it (roughly) works with IVF:

  1. Woman goes on drugs for a few weeks to reduce the size of her womb lining. Drugs at this point are entirely compulsory.
  2. Woman has baseline scan to make sure all is well.
  3. Woman begins ovarian stimulation to (hopefully) produce more than one egg. More drugs, again compulsory. More scans too (probably).
  4. Woman goes into surgery for oocyte retrieval, a small operation to remove the eggs.
  5. Man goes into a room with a pot to produce a sperm sample.
  6. Scientists mix the retrieved eggs with the pot of sperm to fertilise the eggs. (They don’t use an egg whisk, I’ve checked.)
  7. Scientists analyse fertilised eggs (embryos) which are selected for quality. (It’s a bit like Min Div, but different.)
  8. Woman goes in for another minor operation for embryo transfer. In other words, a maximum of the two best embryos are placed in the womb.
  9. Man and woman have nervous wait.
  10. Woman takes pregnancy test.
  11. Couple celebrate, like it’s 1987.
  12. Nine months later woman gives birth to a healthy baby.

As you can see the two procedures are almost exactly the same. Except for the intervention of scientists and the clinical environment in which it all happens. And the operations. And extra drugs.

Ethics

During the last few months I’ve been doing some reading on the ethics of IVF, which has been really helpful. When a couple has sex naturally there is usually only one egg, and one embryo, and if that dies then it dies.

But with IVF there could be 10 eggs and 10 embryos, each with the potential for life. Only two at most are transferred back into the womb. The question then is what you do with the other eight, assuming that they all survive. Do you let them perish? Do you freeze them? If you freeze them, for how long? Do you allow others to use them? Do you allow them to be used for research?

Similarly, only a small amount of sperm is used to fertilise the egg, so what do you do with the excess? Do you let them perish, freeze them, donate them, allow them to be used in research?

These are the kind of questions that we’ve been pondering for the last few months. Today we had to give our answers, to say what we wanted the hospital to do with our biological material, our building-blocks of life. I think we made the right decisions for us.

Next

I’m not going to blog much about the process as we’re going through the first cycle, whenever it begins — and we’re assured that it can’t be that much longer (surely!). This is to protect Jane as much as anything. It’s going to be an emotional and physical roller-coaster.

Prayer

I have an online-friend in Pakistan, Arsi; he contacted me on MSN Messenger to ask a Psion-related question or two about a year ago. Last year Arsi went on Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. It’s not just a pilgrimage. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to do so must carry out this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. This was a big deal.

And yet, there he prayed for us. For Jane and me, that we would have a child. When he told me this on MSN I had tears in my eyes. I felt truly blessed and really touched. He didn’t have to remember us on this most important of journeys for him, we’ve never even met, and yet he did.

If you pray: please pray for us — you don’t necessarily have to travel to Mecca to do so; if not then please simply hold us in your thoughts. We really appreciate your love, concern and support.

I’ll write updates as and when I can.