IVF & Fitness - My Journey
January 2017 - My name is Vix Lyttle, and I’m a personal trainer in Los Angeles. Last year my husband and I started IVF treatment in the hope of having a little mini us to call our own. There are thousands of people embarking on this journey every day, each with their own personal story to tell. I would like to share my story with you from the eyes of a fitness lover and personal trainer. We are currently starting our second round of IVF and I will blog each step of the way through my eyes
Let me give you a brief overview of our journey thus far……
After two failed (IUI) Intrauterine insemination treatments our doctor advised IVF treatment. So we embarked on the first round! And the unknown! With that comes your own fears AND other people’s fears! I quickly learnt to navigate their emotions with care and our emotions with less care! More like a hormonal mess, at times. My husband on the other hand quickly learnt how to negotiate our emotions with care and did his best to ignore other people’s emotions. Ha - Typical man!
Our first IVF cycle gave us three embryos, letting us do two transfers. Both sadly failed. But fear not, there is still a chance. With new scientific advancements we still have options, and I’ll explain what we are doing differently in my coming blogs.
My fitness advice would be set a clear SMART fitness plan with a diet plan to run alongside every stage of the IVF process. There are stages where you can exercise as normal and stages where you can do limited types of exercises, then there are stages where you can NOT do anything. Your plan must incorporate all the sages and change to fit each one. Follow my coming blogs to see how I navigate this journey. I hope it helps you or at least give you the support you’re looking for.
29th January 2017
Start meds for eggs retrieval and new fitness plan.
Today I start the medication for my egg retrieval, I have three injections. As I said in my previous blog we are doing things slightly different. The first difference is my husband is traveling for work so I’ll have to inject myself!!! I know, I know, it’s not a medical difference but it’s a bloody big difference for me! My eyes water when I get my eyebrows plucked, and I go dizzy at the sight of my own blood - so this may not work out so well. However, I keep reminding myself that I am a Thai boxer, and if I can spar with fully grown men I can stick a little needle in my belly. So, back to the meds. Starting tonight, I am taking Follistim, Menopur, and a growth hormone called Omnitrope. The Omnitrope is the difference to this stage as I did not take last time.
Current mood: Positive but really worried about doing the injections myself. Its times like this I wished I lived back in the UK close to my Mum & Dad.
The baby plan: The Omnitrope will help grow my fallopian tubes increasing the number of eggs we get. Last round we harvested (sounds like an alien movie I know) but we harvested 11 eggs.
The fitness plan: 29th Jan – 7th Feb
No aerobic: To keep my core body temperature down to give egg growth best possible chance.
No ab’s: Because my fallopian tubes are bigger than normal could get bend & damaged.
30th Monday – Upper body training with medium weights 70% of my 1Rep Max
31st Tuesday – Lower body training with medium weights 70% of my 1Rep Max
1st Wednesday - Upper body training stability with light weights 50% of my 1Rep Max
2nd Thursday – Thai boxing
3rd Friday – Total body training stability with body weight
4th Saturday – Easy Hike and foam rolling.
5th Sunday – Rest day
6th Monday - Total body training stability with body weight
7th Tuesday - Easy Hike and foam rolling.
8th February – 21st February
Egg retrieval stage and second stage fitness plan.
So it’s been twelve days since my last blog. You will be placed to know, that the pre egg retrieval injections were not as bad as I thought! I’m a badass!
So, two days ago I went in for my egg retinal. I was given general amnesia, so for me it felt very quick thanks to good old legal drugs, for my husband waiting two hours - not so quick.
The difference this time to last time was the added procedure to the sperm taken. This time the lab separated the sperm, effectively picking the best of the best this time.
We got a call the next day, seven eggs fertilized which is the same as last time. Bit worrying, as last time only three embryos from the seven survived the genetic testing stage. And the disappointment didn’t stop there. This time we have decide to freeze all seven early on day three and without testing. This is because the embryos where not maturing well in the lab. The hope is they will do better once they are back in the uterus. Initially I felt deflated, and above anything scared. Deflated because we hopped for more eggs this time, and scared because the genetic biopsy would have told us if the embryos are chromosomally sound - meaning better peace of mind from a lower chance of miscarrying. I just hope they mature when they are transfused, and hang on as tight as they can.
When we started this cycle my husband, and I agreed to be honest with our feelings but air on the side of positive not negative. So I have acknowledged the fear, but we are focused on the positive,. We have seven embryos and that is the main thing.
Current mood: Scared shitless pretending it will all be ok.
Side effects: Bloating and tender.
The baby plan: Eggs retrieved and frozen. Now we wait for my menstrual cycle.
The fitness plan: 8th Feb – 21st Feb
No exercise for 48 hour’s after retrieval then workout as normal! If you feel up to it!!
8th Wednesday – Rest
9th Thursday - Rest
10th Friday – Rest
11th Saturday - Missed
12th Sunday - Missed
I missed both 11th & 12th training days as I was still feeling sore and bloated.
13th Monday - Missed
14th Tuesday - Missed
Still not feeling that great so missed another two days of training!
15th Wednesday – Three mile run/jog
16th Thursday - Thai boxing pad work no sparing
17th Friday – Rest
18th Saturday – Three mile run & Upper body training stability with light weights 50% 1RM
19th Sunday – Played tennis
20th Monday - Total body training stability with body weight
21st Tuesday – Total body training stability with light weights 50% 1RM
22nd February – 28th February
Hormone preparation for egg transfer
So month two starts, in terms of IVF. I’m feeling much better in myself and determined to get the most out of the few weeks in terms of my fitness goals.
I got my menstrual cycle on Sunday, and today I had my check-up. I developed a small cyst on my right ovary, which is a common side effect from all the drugs. They took my blood to check the cyst - its ok I didn’t faint. I’m a badass now remember! And good news, the cyst was not producing hormones so it was full steam ahead.
Before I go on let me tell you about another BIG change to the plan. Our doctor was shocked that the last round of IVF failed, as were we. We all agreed that given the fact that we transfused embryo’s that we knew to be chromosomally sound, maybe there was another factor at play. Implantation! So currently fertility treatment is done on the best guess of when a woman’s body being ready for an egg transfuse, and this window is narrow. Basically a woman’s cells activate a chemical for implantation to happen, and in some cases, women may activate earlier or later than normal. Our doctor told us about a test called ERA (or endometrial receptivity array) It is a biopsy of the uterus.
I was like, what the? And my first question was, “how much will it hurt?” Apparently it is not a painful procedure just unconfutable. I’ll let you know if unconfutable actually translates as "a little painful."
The next step is to take the medication, and proceed as if we are really having the transfer as normal. On the day of the transfer my doctor will take a biopsy of my uterus instead. This will then tell us exactly when my cells activate for implantation. We can then do the real transfuse on the exact day my body tells us too.
So all is positive right. Yes, and no. I would be a robot if I wasn’t apprehensive. I’m very happy that we can do this test, and it puts my mind at rest that we are not shooting in the dark - pun intended. However, I’ve done this once before remember, so I know that the drug run up for transfer is butt injections! And they are not as pain free as the belly injections, and I will have to do them twice! Once for the dry run before the biopsy, and then for real….. ouch is all I can say. My badass self needs to man up again!
Next step 22nd February – I started Estradiol tablets to thicken the lining of my uterus. I have a check-up scan on 1st march to see if my lining is think enough to start the dreaded butt injections for my dry run transfuse stage.
Current mood: Very positive, and doing my best to not think about the next set of injections.
Hot Flushes throughout
Day three a felt a sick for 1 day (treatment non)
Day six & seven anxiety, racing heart and agitated for no reason. (treatment Camomile tea & cuddles)
The baby plan: Taking Estradiol to thicken uterus lining.
The fitness plan: 22nd Feb – 1st March
Workout as normal
22nd Wednesday – 2mile run at 10 minute mile pace. Hike
23rd Thursday – Three-mile run & Thai boxing workout with light spar
Menstrual cycle from hell. I’m normally very light and no pain. Not the case this month!! However, this only lasted two days.
24th Friday – Lower body training stability with light weights 50% of my 1Rep Max
25th Saturday - Total body Barr’s Boot Camp class
26th Sunday - 2mile run at 10 minute mile pace. Upper body training 70% of my 1Rep Max
27th Monday – Rest
28th Tuesday – My own 30 min GynGo.com Hiit That Fat Class. Tennis with friends.
1st March – 7th March
Pre transfer medication to thicken lying (for ERA test)
This week has been business as normal yay. Had a check/scan on Wednesday March 3rd, and my lining was thickening nicely around 7.5mm. My doctor increased my Estradiol to three times a day, whoohoo bring on more sickness and anxiety days ! Other than that there is not much to report.
Current mood: This week has been fine and I’m not over thinking next week.
Side effects: None.
The baby plan: Think lining ready for the Progesterone injections.
The fitness plan: 1st March – 7th March
Workout as normal
1st Wednesday – Upper body training 70% of my 1Rep Max
2nd Thursday - Lower body training 70% of my 1Rep Max
3rd Friday - 2mile run at 10-minute mile pace. Upper body training 70% of my 1Rep Max
4th Saturday – Barry’s Total Body Boot camp
5th Sunday – Rest and foam rolling
6th Monday – 2mile run at 10-minute mile pace. Upper body training 70% of my 1Rep Max
7th Tuesday - My own 30 min GymGo.com Hiit Total Beach Body Class then Tennis with friends.
8th March – 15th March
Pre transfer medication & ERA test
This week was not as straight forward as last week in terms of IVF. Remember I was told the ERA test was painless!? Well that translated to OUCH! I have the lowest pain threshold known to man. It was over in 60 seconds but an extremely crampy 60 seconds. Yes, I did scream, well more like a row of very loud ow ow ow ow ow’s. My badass self couldn't make it that day!
However, my workouts prior to the ERA test where on point, and I gave it all I had. Which was just as well because I was out of action for two days after the ERA test.
The ERA test takes 15 days to come back. The eggs will stay on ice until next month. If the biopsied cells give a receptive result it means that the endometrium (lining) is receptive, and the embryo is capable of implanting around the time of the REA test. A Non-Receptive result indicates that the uterus is either pre – or post – receptive relevant to the day the biopsy was done and a window of implantation will be suggested for the transfer.
Current mood: Thank goodness its al over for now!
Side effects: Bloating & tender
The baby plan: After stopping Progesterone my period started three days later. We now wait until the results come back in 15 days and then start the whole thing again for real when I get my next period.
The fitness plan: 15st March through April
2mile run at 10-minute mile pace 5 to 5 days a week
Upper body training 50 - 80% of my 1Rep Max – alternate days
Lower body training 50 - 80% of my 1Rep Max - alternate days
Thai Boxing twice a week.
Boot camp as and when.
My own Hiit Classes as 6 classes a week.
Rest days – Foam rolling.
10th April - ERA Test Result's & Summary
So here we are. The ERA test results and summary! I’m sorry I have taken so long to put this up. The test came back, and the results where receptive. That’s good I hear you say, and that’s what people did say to me. So what does a receptive result actually mean? It means that my body is ready for an embryo implantation after five days of Progesterone injection stimulation, as we have been doing.
Good news. Well yes and no. Yes, we now know we are implanting at the right time, and no because if we have been implanting at the right time - why has it not worked?
So far I've tried to write my blog with positivity and light hearted honesty, however this last blog has been the hardest. Hence taking so long to write the results and summary.
Both my husband and I hopped the ERA test would show that we were transfusing on the wrong day. At least if the result had come back un receptive, there would have been a reason for the precious failed attempts.
We have seven embryos, giving us two more transfers, and shit just got very real. Each IVF cycle cost about $20,000, and at some point you need to say, enough. It's heard to stay positive, or at least not worry, knowing that this is basically our last chance. We’ve already had two failed IUI's, and two failed transfers. All the tests are saying there’s nothing wrong. People keep telling me, "You mustn't stress" "don’t worry, it will all work out, or "Have faith." I know they all mean well. But it might not work out, and some days all you can do is stress. Some day’s your hormones are crazy high, the meds make you tired or sick, and some days your anxious for absolutely no reason. Then to top it off, it is financially worrying. It is probably the biggest emotional roller-coaster you will ever experience.
I’ve not stressed that much so far, and I’ve been amazingly positive. I have had faith and guess what, it’s not worked! so right now I’m shit scared and as worried as hell. And the only person I’ve told is my husband. If these two transfers fail, then it's game over.
What will be will be. I won’t be writing a blog on this next stage but I will let you know the outcome.
Current moon: Worried, and scared!!
Words of wisdom: Feel whatever you want to feel, and don’t apologies for it. If you are positive then fine, if your worrying then fine. As long as you’re not making yourself sick, or not eating, then it’s all totally normal. Give your husband or wife a big kiss each night because they are feeling what you are feeling, so lookout for each other.
Baby plan: Have one
Thank you for reading and I hope you have found it helpful or comforting in some way. Feel free to leave any comments below.
The fitness plan:
My own Hiit Classes as 6 classes a week.
Running as and when I can.
21st June 2017 - The Answer
So here we are Just over two months later. Well if you remember, I had seven embryos which my baby doctor grouped into two groups. The top two and then a group of five.
We decided to be aggressive and transfer five, yes 5! (and yes that is legal here in the states). Keep in mind that the embryos were only day three this time, and low grade. The other two we pushed, and tested with blasts and biopsies. If they survived we would re freeze two strong embryos, if not- well they probably wouldn't have made it anyway.
The day after the transfer I was put on three days of bed rest, and to be honest it’s not as fun as it sounds. I became ill by the end of the first day with a cutting migraine that got worse. by day three my husband called the doctor, and you'll never guess the cure? Coffee! You see best practice is to not have caffeine right? so like a good mum to be, I cut it out. BAD move.
I had a cup of black coffee, and six hours later I was back to normal. Yes, six hours, that’s how long the caffeine took to ease my addicted body from three days of migraine withdrawal hell- can you believe it. Great start!
So, a few days later we head off to Palm Dessert for a long weekend. (As you do when you live in California!!) The temperature was perfect, in the high 80’s- cold for Palm desert, but good for us.
The day we got there I had eight bug bites flared up on my legs, arms, and hands. Two weeks prior to the transfer I'd been on a hike in Malibu Creek and was bitten. All eight bits had gone, or so I thought!!! For some odd reason the all feared up- ten times worse than they were when I got them. The four days we spent in Palm Desert was an itching hell! I didn't get any sleep, and I’ve never itched so bad in all my life. I emailed my normal doctor, and was told to come in as soon as I retuned- which I did.
You will be pleased to know that our small desert vacation was still relaxing, just itchy. You'll also be please to know the doctor did not think I was in any danger of infection from the bites- but he had no clue why they flared up two weeks after I got them. His best guess was- I’m pregnant!!!
Which leads nicely to results day. We get to the doctors office, and I give a wee sample, then they drew some blood. The wee sample shows a faint line, and the doctor tells us you’re PREGNANT! Being British we are reserved, and didn't want to get excited till the bloods come in. But inside I'm over the moon. The bloods come in, and it's confirmed I am PREGNANT. My hcg level was low, at 59 but as long as it doubles in the next 48hrs all was going well. We were going to be parents. It felt so crazy, I was so happy, so ready! We talked about names, and joked about how many we might be having. (we transferred 5 remember!) I couldn't wait for the scan in two weeks to find out. I called my mum, and she said "Oh goodness we are going to be grandparents" Yep, and we are going to be mum and dad.
48hrs later. The second blood test showed my hcg dropped to 50- I was losing the pregnancy. My doctor told me to come in, and get a third blood test the next day. The IVF doctor said “I don’t want to throw away the pregnancy because in some cases it can turn its self around.” So I stayed on all my meds and had another blood test. On June 20th my hgc had dropped to 30. I stopped the meds.
I never thought it would hit me this hard. All the other times I’d been so positive, and even arrogant in my handling of failed transfers. But I suppose it was different this time. This time it worked, this time I was a mum. This time I had names, visions, a life with carpooling and grandparent visits. This time I let myself believe it. This time it hurt.
The day after the first dropped hcg, I knew it was gone - I just knew. I woke up, and it felt like someone had died. I’m glad I had a client, or I’m not sure if I would have gotten out of bed. I had the second blood test the same day, and it confirmed I’d lost the pregnancy.
I went for a run thinking it would help. Running always helped me in the past. I hadn’t run for nearly three weeks because of the transfer, and the last two days because I was pregnant.
As I set off I wasn’t happy to be running, I didn’t want to be able to run. I wanted to be moaning to my husband that I missed running, like I was doing last week. I wanted to stop and go back- but I pushed on. A lump rose in my throat. The music in my ears encouraged tears, and before I knew it I was crying. My dark shades hid my face so I just let it all out. I cried for the first quarter mile, and wallowed in self-pity.
I’m glad I didn’t stop and go back. You should never go back, run thought it, except the emotion because it’s no good keeping it in.
So, what will we do next? I don’t know. We are meeting with the doctor to talk about other options, and the cost! Then we will see.
Someone messaged me and told me to try cupping! Thank you, it looks painful but I’m looking into it haha. But I wanted to say thank you for reading and your support. I will update this blog next week- till then x
31st July 2018
Okay. So a year has passed. If you remember, we were talking to the doctor about continuing, and the financial impact. We where basically out of cash (credit card limit!)
With a turn of grace, my husbands grandparent left him an inheritance. So this was our last chance. This time we got 11 eggs, and 4 fertilized embryos, giving us 2 transfers. Sadly both transfers failed.
So our dream was over. I cant put into words, which is why I haven't, just how sold destroying this was for both of us. With regret, we booked an appointment with our IVF doctor to explain that we have no more money. At some point enough is enough, right?
Our IVF doctor was frustrated that we were not pregnant, and he didn't want us to give up. In his view, there was not a medical reason as to why we were not pregnant. He asked if we would give it one more go. He would do all his work for free, and use donated drugs, or free samples that he gets sent. The only payment we would have was the surgery costs. (About $6k)
We agreed, and off we went on the 4th and final round. And embarking on our 7th transfer.
The aim was not to get a large amount of eggs. We went for a gentle stimulation to give just just 1 good embryo at the end. We were also going for a fresh transfer, meaning no freezing. The eggs are taken out, and fertilized, then transferred in the same cycle. I had never done this before. Each time we froze the embryos for a month.
I started the free meds at a low dose, and for some messed up reason my ovaries were over stimulated. Surprisingly we harvested 14 eggs! But, my ovaries grew to the size of a grape fruit. I looked pregnant, and in PAIN!
The doctor said I could still do the fresh transfer, and it wouldn't affect the pregnancy. However, if I did get pregnant, the hormones would make the hypersensitive ovaries, even worse. So we decided to move forward, and go on as planed. Out of the 14 eggs we got 4 embryos. The plan was to freeze two and grow the other two for 6 days (one day extra).
However, I messed up and forgot to take the progesterone injections! Major mess up!! The transfer was booked for Monday, and there was no time to check my progesterone levels before. The transfer was canceled. The day 6 embryos were frozen.
Disappointed, we decide to give ourselves a break for a while. We went home to England for Christmas, and retuned ready to go. Sadly, in February 2018, my cat Poppy unexpectedly died. She was my best friend! Anyone who knew me, knew Poppy too. We had brought her from the UK to America, and were both devastated.
5th May 2018
We transfused the top two, day 6 embryos. My doctor said that one of the had stared to try an implant as soon as it was defrosted, and this was a good sign. I was on 2 days bed rest, but I took 3. Then we went back to Palm Springs, to the the same hotel as last time. The last time it worked!
We had a lovely time, with no painful bites. However, this time I noticed that my skin was super sensitive to the shower water. I hopped this was a good sign.
We returned the day before our blood test, and I was pregnant. And a strong pregnant. We had finally done it. What a ride...And, we still have two embryos on ice!
We couldn't have done it with out the people we had helping us financially, and emotionally. We are grateful to everyone. And to you guys for reading my blog, and offering advice.
My due date is January 26th 2019.
The fitness plan during pregnancy:
My own Hiit Classes as 6 classes a week.
Running as and when I can.
Light body weight workouts.
Thank you x
Quick foot note. We had a healthy baby boy 28th Jan 2019 7lb 8oz Blake William Lyttle. He is nearly 2 and the light of our lives.