My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s O for Ovaries.
During my cancelled cycle of IVF I learnt an awful lot about ovaries since so much of the treatment process depends on what’s going on with them and how they feel about the different medication you’ve been prescribed. As anyone with polycystic ovaries will know, your ovaries can be temperamental little buggers; even without being polycystic they can still be temperamental. As I mentioned during my post for H (Hyperstimulation) they can get carried away and over respond, or they can be slow off the mark and not really do much at all.
During the first stage of treatment, once you start the injections, you’ll become very well acquainted with your ovaries. I’ll admit, during your first encounter with the dildo cam, it’s quite cool to see them on the ultrasound screen, especially when they start responding to the drugs and you get to see the follicles within them developing. They kind of look a little bit like frogspawn or the inside of a pomegranate.
Some women experience ovulation pains, brilliantly known as ‘mittelschmerz’ during their cycle as a follicle naturally grows and releases an egg. During IVF treatment you get some fantastic aches and pains in your abdomen and your ovaries swell to obscene proportions. By the end of our overstimulated cycle I couldn’t button up my jeans and I could feel ‘stuff’ under the skin on my belly. Considering the fact that your follicles need to reach around 17mm in size to have a chance of having a viable egg in them and you’re likely to have several on each side (I had roughly thirty on each side), you’re basically walking around with a couple of bunches of grapes on either side of your belly button.
It’s really not comfortable, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll actually kind of welcome the discomfort. In a weird way, it feels good. Stuff is happening and growing inside your body and it means that everything is working the way it is supposed to. You probably won’t feel up to doing much exercise (by the end of our cancelled cycle even walking hurt), so take it easy. Some people find a warm water bottle helps to soothe the cramps and aches (apparently it can help to stimulate the growth of follicles as well, though it shouldn’t be used after egg transfer).
If you’ve got a friend or family member going through the process, be aware of the fact that they’re going to get really uncomfortable towards the end of the ‘stimming’ phase. Don’t plan any long walks or busy shopping trips unless they let you know they’re up to it. In fact, if you can offer to walk their dog or do a supermarket shop then do, they might turn you down, but they’ll appreciate knowing that you care.
Oh, and don’t be too shocked if they spend a lot of time wearing joggy bottoms or with their flies undone, sometimes there’s just no alternative.