When things finally start happening, you realise that the whole process is a true miracle.
Once your wife receives her hormonal stimulation, ideally more than 8 follicles begin to develop in her ovaries instead of just one. The hormone therapy is meant to increase the production of oocytes, however, your wife still needs her regular checkups during this process. The doctor will see what is happening inside of her ovaries using a simple ultrasound scan after five days of beginning hormonal stimulation. The most important question is how many healthy follicles will develop with the help of the stimulation.
One aspect I was curious about were the parameters of that particular sample compared to the previous one. Was this one better, worse or the same?
The number of follicles is important, but their size matters as well. The approximate diameter of a mature follicle is 18 millimetres, which actually surprised me at first - it is almost 2 centimetres! The oocyte that develops inside of the follicle is 0.1 to 0.2 mm, much smaller than the actual follicle. However, it is still large compared to a single sperm, which is approximately 45 micrometres from head to tail.
After the ovarian stimulation, my wife received another hormone therapy (called the “trigger shot”), which contains a human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to help the oocytes mature. Approximately 36 hours later our big day arrived: it was time for the oocyte retrieval and semen collection.
Oocyte retrieval is considered a minor surgery, but I was still a little bit concerned about it. I tried not to show it, of course, but I was worried about my wife. The procedure should take about 20 minutes, but it is still a surgery. Most of the time it is performed under general anaesthesia, especially if the woman has a greater number of available follicles. We only had five follicles after the ovarian stimulation, which is not ideal, but we were grateful to have at least some that were ready for the next step.
My wife was not under anaesthesia during the procedure, but the nurse gave her painkillers beforehand. According to her, she only felt some level of discomfort when the oocytes were suctioned out of her ovaries with a needle that went through her vaginal wall.
To clarify, during the oocyte retrieval process the doctor inserts a needle into each follicle and draws out all the fluid, including the matured oocytes. After just 10 minutes, she was done with this part.
During that same time, I came into the picture as well, or more precisely, my semen. The semen collection happens simultaneously with oocyte retrieval. By now I am used to not being the one at the centre of attention; most of the time I play the role of a supporting husband, but now it was my time to participate. Since I know my way around the clinic, I grabbed my cup and went to the collection room.
When the door closed behind me, I was left alone with thoughts and some porn magazines. Anyone who has ever been through this knows how awkward and uncomfortable this experience can be, but the staff at the clinic see many patients every day, so there is no need to feel embarrassed. Semen collection is an essential part of the IVF process, and it is just something that has to be done.