My theme this year is IVF/ICSI, a process we’re starting at the moment and today it’s P for Protocol.
I’ve mentioned the word protocol in several of these posts without actually explaining what that is, this is purely so I would have something to talk about for my Letter P post. In short, protocol refers to the drug protocol that you end up on during your IVF/ICSI treatment. This is basically the drug regime that you follow in order to get the desired results.
It’s a difficult topic to explain fully because there are virtually as many different protocols as there are women going through treatment. Ultimately a hospital will have a selection of different protocols based on what drugs they use and what a woman’s AMH results are; a woman with a high AMH will take a different dose of the follicle stimulating medication than a woman with a lower AMH level.
And while you may be given one protocol prior to beginning treatment, it’s not unusual for it to be tweaked once you start the process and the medical team see the results of your scans and blood tests. If things aren’t happening quick enough, you might be told to increase your dose or if a pill, like metformin (used prior to beginning treatment to help improve egg maturation) disagrees with you, then you may be advised to reduce the number you take.
When I explained this to someone once they replied that it didn’t sound like a very exact science, but I have to disagree. It’s such an exact science that there’s really no way of predicting what will happen and so it needs to remain open to adaptation. Chances are you’ll be given a sheet before everything gets underway that’ll tell you what your protocol will be, but don’t be alarmed if certain bits wind up being different to what you were told at the start. This doesn’t mean that the team treating you doesn’t know what they’re doing; it means that they have such a good idea of what’s going on in your body that they know the best way to get the desired results.
So if someone you know is going through treatment, or getting ready to go through it, don’t be surprised if they seem a bit sketchy about what medication they’re on, or if the mention that their dosages are changing. Just know it’s being done for a reason and try not to upset your friend by questioning why things are done that way. At the end of the day, the medical team don’t know how a person will respond to the medication until they start taking it and so it might seem like a process of trial and error, but there’s a whole lot of science behind it all.