The embryologist said to us “It made it to blastocyst, so we froze it”. His tone made it quite obvious though, that he didn’t think it was a good embryo, or that it had a high chance of resulting in a pregnancy.
At least one other doctor had also warned us that it didn’t have a high chance of being successful. The hospital staff is really good at managing your expectations, which I believe is important. You need to be hopeful, but at the same time, if you have unrealistically high expectations, you have further to fall, if events don’t work out as you hope.
All the odds were stacked against this embryo: On top of the low odds of success, which Steve and I put at virtually zero, there was the fact that having this extra step would take at least another three months and cost a further £2,500. Steve and I are so ready to put PGD behind us. I had psychologically prepared myself that we would have done three cycles by the end of 2010. By 2011 either I would be pregnant or we would move on. An unexpected frozen embryo, scuppered those plans and it seemed we would therefore still be doing IVF with PGD in the new year. I was really upset about this.
We were feeling very negative about this frozen embryo transfer before it even started. Of course we didn’t have to use the embryo, but what else were we going to do? We didn’t want to waste it. Yes it seemed like a relatively expensive way of getting a miniscule chance of having a baby, but there was a chance. The embryologist wouldn’t have frozen the embryo, if he didn’t consider there to be a chance.
Frozen embryo transfer
The run up to having a frozen embryo transferred is so much easier logistically and physically than doing a full IVF cycle. I was having a medicated cycle (as oppose to a natural cycle), which I was told had a slightly higher chance of success. (See further information section.)
Eventually the time came, for us to go to London to have the embryo transferred. Because of the travel time, Steve and I had to set off before we knew whether the embryo had survived the thawing process. Whilst in the car, we got a call to say our embryo showed no signs of life, but I was to keep taking my medication so that if the embryo was showing any signs of life the next day, my womb lining would still be thick and I could have it transferred then.
We turned the car around and started to drive back home. After half an hour, it dawned on me that I didn’t have enough medication for one more day. We stopped in a service station and lots of phone calls followed to try and solve this problem. My sister was googling and calling round Sheffield chemists to find one that stocked the medication I needed. None did, and they were amazed she was trying to track it down when your IVF clinic is supposed to provide it. (Of course, CRGH do provide it, but we were trying to avoid having to turn the car around again and drive a further 2 hour round trip to get it, not to mention the London traffic, London parking nightmares, waiting at the hospital). Our situation is unusual, normally people would just call into their IVF clinic to get their drugs. Everything is so much more complicated when you have to travel to appointments.
I called our clinic, CRGH , to ask for advice. It is a nightmare trying to get hold of a nurse, as they are busy seeing patients, of course. Once I explained to the receptionist how on this occasion I couldn’t wait for someone to call me back , he was very helpful and managed to put me through to Joy. Joy said if I couldn’t find a local chemist who could give me the projesterone shots (using a faxed prescription) the only alternative was to drive to London and pick them up. I asked Joy, “ realistically, what are the chances of this embryo being suitable for transfer tomorrow?” It seemed to me that the chances were pretty much zero. I didn’t want to add so many more hours on to this already horrible day. We decided that I wouldn’t go back to London for the progesterone injection, I would make do with cyclogest pessaries, which I happened to have spare of at home. Cyclogest is another way of taking projesterone. They aren’t as effective as the projesterone injections but are much easier to use. Your doctor will make the decision about which is more appropriate for you depending on your situation. My projesterone tends to be very low, hence I have been using the injections since cycle 5.
Sure enough the next day, it was confirmed over the phone that the embryo hadn’t survived the thawing process.
I didn’t feel upset about this embryo. I was just annoyed that we had wasted three months. It is actually better that it failed in this way, rather than we had it transferred and then I did a negative pregnancy test. It saved us having to go through the torturous two week wait. It also saved us some money. The hospital refunded us most of our money, though it still ended up costing about £750 for the failed attempt because of our travel expenses, the medication, and appointments that I had in preparation.
CRGH's webpage about their frozen embryo transfers