I’m writing this the night before our egg donor, Marie’s, first follicle scan, with plans to fill in the details later. Since I don’t actually know how it’s going to go yet, I guess I’ll have to write it kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, with alternate endings depending on how it goes. I will write one version that’s excited and hopeful for if we see a lot of follicles growing, and I will write another that’s disappointed-yet-putting-on-a-brave-face for if we don’t see much response.
I do already know how the logistics of the appointment will go from my three non-donor-egg IVF attempts, so I can write about that first. Although our fertility clinic is in Belgium, and although you are required to do the first and last ultrasound checks there, I’ve previously used a local clinic here in Holland to do the intermediate scans. This is much more convenient than driving to Belgium every few days, and they only charge 75€ per scan. Right before my recent test cycle, they actually stopped offering this service for people who aren’t their own patients, but since I’d already been coming there, they (thankfully) agreed to keep doing mine. Fortunately, they also agreed to do Marie’s, since she’s only there as my donor.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able (or willing?) to do the blood tests that are required along with the ultrasounds. For my own checks, I was able to convince the local hospital where I had done my first two non-donor-egg IVF cycles to do those for me during my Belgian attempt. This meant biking 20 minutes across town to do the ultrasound, then biking 30 minutes in the other direction to get blood drawn. This usually also meant arriving to work super late and sweaty, but it was all still better than a 2+ hour drive to Belgium.
However, when I asked the hospital if they could also do Marie’s blood tests, they refused on the grounds that she doesn’t have Dutch insurance. After multiple phone calls to my ‘huisarts’ (GP) and various labs, we never actually found a solution. As a result, we will only be getting an ultrasound tomorrow, and we will have to hope that provides enough information on its own. If not, we may be making a last-minute trip to Belgium.
What happens at the ultrasound?
Like Marie’s initial scan before she started the injections, this will be a transvaginal ultrasound. At this point, I should note that the Dutch doctors don’t give you those flimsy ‘privacy sheets’ (or gowns) that Americans are used to. I’ve gotten quite used to stripping down and walking pantsless across the room to the waiting stirrups, but Marie is fresh-off-the-boat, so her American aversion to nudity is still firmly intact. I’ve advised her to wear a long shirt or dress, effectively creating her own privacy gown.
They will then use the ultrasound wand to have a peek around inside. For non-donor-egg IVF, they would start by checking the thickness and structure of the uterine lining. Since Marie is only donating the eggs — not acting as my surrogate — they will instead head straight to her ovaries. Once they’ve located them, they will look for the dark round spots that indicate growing follicles. They will use the computer cursor to measure the diameter of the follicles, and they will officially count all those greater than 10mm in size.
And the results are…
Marie’s first scan is now over, and the results look promising, with 17 follicles in total. Marie’s left ovary shows 5 follicles greater than 10 millimeters and 7 that are <10 mm, and her right ovary shows 2 that are >10 mm (with 3 more <10 mm). It’s only the first scan, so we will see how many of those little guys can catch up between now and the next ultrasound. Follicles grow 1-2 mm a day, and at the point of the egg retrieval, we can expect to find a mature egg in those that are ~15 mm or larger. We have our fingers crossed for ultimately retrieving at least six (mature) eggs in total — and ideally 12-15 for the best odds. Now we will email Marie’s results to the Belgian clinic, and wait for them to tell us whether we need to make a spontaneous trip to Belgium for bloodwork!