IVF: The Raw Truth– Episode II, “Injections”

I have decided IVF is somewhat similar to pregnancy. The meds make you bloated, tired, and nauseous. Also, after it’s over you forget just how hard it was and say things like, “Oh, it really wasn’t that bad.” That’s bullshit and anyone who says anything like that is either delusional or lying. I feel like I’ve had the flu for two and a half weeks. I am dehydrated. I get painful muscle cramps and spasms and no amount of potassium or water is helping. Everything hurts and look I like a heroin addict. It’s not easy! I used to think IVF was the cheater’s way out. It is most definitely NOT for the weak!
If you’re doing IVF there is just NO WAY to avoid harsh medications and needles – a lot of them. We tried other fertility treatments for a year before moving to IVF so I lost count of how many times I’ve been stuck with a needle throughout this journey. I’ve given over 20 tubes of blood in the last year, but a nurse drawing labs and stabbing YOURSELF are two totally different things. 
Growing up I was Hypoglycemic, meaning I had chronically low blood sugar. I checked my sugar every day by sticking myself with (basically) a thumbtack to check my sugar. I also worked as a medical clerk and tech for over a decade. I saw minor surgeries, gave injections, and even assisted with epidurals and spinal taps. You would think giving myself a shot would be nothing, but it’s different when you’re doing it to yourself. I know some women have their partners do it, but honestly that sends my anxiety to a whole new level. Trusting someone doesn’t mean you believe they know how to stick you with a needle without killing you. I can feel what’s going on with my body. He can’t. Therefore, I do the shots and he assists. 
I’m hoping I can help others by offering up some lessons I have learned through this process…
BASIC TIPS–

*Open all your supplies ahead of time. You’ll need gauze, bandaids, needles, syringes, alcohol swabs, and the medication(s). If the meds need mixed have them all mixed & drawn up, ready to go, a few minutes before you give the injections. 

*Be sure to bleed the needles to avoid air bubbles. 

*Sometimes holding an ice pack on the area for a minute or two beforehand helps. Ice packs and/or heating pads sometimes help after, too. 

*Once you know which ones hurt the most, do them last. For me, Menopur has been the worst so far but everyone is different. 

*Have someone there to help you. It’s not hard to do it alone, but it definitely helps to have moral support and a helping hand. 

*Ask your clinic for videos on how to do the injections. My clinic has videos on their website. I have them saved to my favorites on my phone browser and I sometimes watch the videos while I am doing my shots. 

*Even if you don’t bleed, use the little round bandaids. They mark where you’ve already given shots so you know where not to stick the next time. I rotate day-to-day from right to left. Once I have done the same side twice, I take the older bandaids off and leave the newer ones on. Right now I have six bandaids marking the shots I have done for the last two days. 


Here is what I can tell you about my experience with the shots so far…

I am not sure which one(s) it is, but I am VERY dehydrated! I drink nothing but water – CONSTANTLY and I’m still thirsty. When they draw labs my veins roll (another sign of dehydration). DRINK AS MUCH WATER AS YOU CAN! The average person is supposed to drink 64 oz of water a day, minimum. I’ve been drinking double that and I’m still kind of dry and sometimes get muscle cramps (Charlie horses). Also (disclaimer) ALL of my injections up through embryo transfer will be Sub-Q/subcutaneous (under the skin), even my trigger shots (HCG/Lupron). Some people will do SOME inner-muscular shots and some sub-Q shots. Your protocol will definitely be at least slightly different from mine so I’ll try not to be too specific. This is just MY experience. Everyone is different. 
FOLLISTIM–

Follistim and Gonal-F are the same thing. No one explained this to me at first and once I found out I felt totally stupid. I’m using Follistim. This is the easiest injection to give of all the ones I have done so far (in my opinion). The needle is very thin and short, and the medication basically draws itself up. You dial a little knob to your dose, do the stick, and then press a button/plunger until the dial goes down to zero. The really cool thing is if there isn’t enough medication in the vial you’re using, the plunger will stop at the remaining dose you need when the vial runs out. You change the cartridge(vial) and needle and just stick and hold the button again until you get zero. 
Now, that’s not to say the medication is the easiest to handle. Follistim is tolerable but it definitely burns. I’ve learned to set it out for 3-4 minutes to let it warm up a bit before I use it. Also, after you bleed the needle (get the little drop at the top of the needle to avoid air bubbles), it helps to shake the drop off before sticking. However, no matter what I do, it still burns for at least 20-30 minutes after I take a Follistim injection. For me the burn spreads all throughout my entire abdomen. Some say Follistim doesn’t bother them at all. Everyone is different. 
CETROTIDE–

I didn’t start Cetrotide until about a week before we expect(ed) the egg retrieval to take place. The hardest thing about Cetrotide is dosing. It comes with a small syringe full of mixing solution, attached to a huge mixing needle. I squirt the solution into a vial of Cetrotide powder, and swirl until mixed. That now-mixed vial is a full dose, but I take a half dose, and the syringe that came with the liquid in it is not marked at all for dosing. I re-cap the mixing needle, remove it from the syringe, and attach it to a new syringe which does have measurements marked. Then I draw up the dose. After the dose is drawn I change to an administration needle, which is pretty small but longer than the Follistim needle), get the air bubbles out of (bleed) the needle, and give the shot. I don’t feel anything at all. It doesn’t seem like the Cetrotide has any immediate side effects. However, 20-30 mins after I give it I usually get a headache and start feeling EXTREMELY tired. My doctor says that happens to some people but it isn’t common. Also, I sometimes get a little red splotch around the injection site, and it itches for a few minutes. 
MENOPUR–

I started taking Menopur one day before I started the Cetrotide. This one has had the worst side effects for me so far. Administration is pretty much identical to Cetrotide- same size needle too. Menopur hurts pretty bad as soon as it goes in, and the pain seems to spread and get worse over a the next 30-60 minutes. I do Menopur injections at night and the burning sometimes keeps me from getting to sleep. I take Tylenol to help ease the burning. It basically feels like my abs and lower back are cramping badly, and I have that scalding hot water on my skin feeling I mentioned in a previous post. The Menopur, for me, hurts bad at injection, for a long time after, and seems to make me feel bloated and crabby. It’s like PMS on steroids. I hate it. I am hoping I never have to use Menopur again, but as is the common theme, everyone is different. 
TRIGGER SHOTS–

We are using a dual trigger – HCG (Novarel) and Lueprolide (Lupron). I did them this morning. They were Sub-Q. In the past I have done only HCG triggers and they were inner-muscular. Honestly, Sub-Q was easier. It burned a lot less and didn’t make me achy after. I had to do it 36 hours before retrieval so I was up at 5am today. I did the shots and went back to bed for an hour before getting up for work. It’s almost two hours later and I feel fine. I didn’t have any of the cycle meds last night (no shots), only an antibiotic. I have to admit I feel pretty good this morning – for the first time in a couple of weeks. Other than a Charlie-horse in my leg when I first woke up I have no body pain, and my headache is barely noticeable. 
Overall, it’s all tolerable, especially if this works. I did walk around feeling like I had the Flu for two weeks, basically, but I lived with it. My belly is bruised, sore, and bloated. I am tired. My whole body aches off and on, and I have a never-ending mild-to-moderate headache. I don’t sleep well, am sometimes nauseous, and I am never comfortable. BUT I am blessed to be able to walk this path. Many cannot. We can BARELY afford it, even with insurance, and we also have help from family and friends. So, I will not complain. I want people to know what it’s like, but I never want my future child to think it wasn’t worth it. It is worth it in every single way. If we had the money to do 100 cycles we would. We would just keep on trying until it works, but hopefully we don’t have to even worry about that. With every shot, blood test, and ultrasound I feel like we are one step closer, and I am thankful for every single step!

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