May 31 2011

IVF Part Seven: Pregnancy Testing

Published by at 2:39 pm under IVF,The Man

Taking a pregnancy test when you’re undergoing IVF is not really like taking a pregnancy test at any other time. Every other time I’ve taken a pregnancy test, it was of the “pee on a stick” variety, known in infertility circles as the “HPT” (home pregnancy test). In this case, I was discouraged from home testing, and there’s a good reason for that. All pregnancy tests measure HCG, the hormone produced by embryos that have successfully implanted and have begun to develop. Home urine tests can only measure up to a certain threshold. If HCG is present, but below the threshold of the test, you’re going to receive a negative result. The blood test for HCG, however, can detect even the smallest amount of HCG in your blood. My doctor’s office told me that they consider anything 5 and over to be a “positive”. My understanding is that home tests cannot detect levels that low; most home tests only can detect at levels of 20 mIU/mL. So, home testing, even on the day of your blood draw, may provide you with a false negative and cause unnecessary heartache.

The day we went in for my test (May 31) was like a regular blood draw day: show up between 7:15 and 8:15 AM, get blood drawn, go home. Except, if you remember, we live two hours away from my reproductive endocrinologist, so for this simple blood draw, I got to get up at 4:30 AM. Needless to say, after four hours in the car, with just a quick break in which I was poked by a needle, I was not feeling particularly sunshiny. I was supposed to get a call “that afternoon” telling me the results, but I was already convinced that it was going to be a failed cycle. I had absolutely no feelings of “being pregnant” or “just knowing” or even “feeling different”. After the cramps had subsided in the first week, I felt extremely, disappointingly normal. It was hard for me to remain positive. I’m sure it was worse for The Man, because he not only had his own negative thoughts to battle, but I wasn’t even trying to maintain any kind of charade for his sake. I was OVERWHELMINGLY negative about the whole thing. I had gone from “not wanting to get my hopes up” to “not really having any hope”.

So, when one of the nurses called at around 10:30 AM with my results, I did not sound happy to hear from her. I was polite, though. It wasn’t her fault. Of course, when she said “Congratulations!” everything pretty much changed immediately. And by that, I mean I started crying immediately. I said, “REALLY? REALLY?!” as I was rushing across the yard to where The Man was working. He could see that I was crying, but I knew he would have no idea why I was crying (good news or bad), so I gave him a thumbs up.

The nurse told me (as I said previously) that they considered anything over 5 to be a positive, but I had tested at 30. I had to come back in two days for another test, as they were looking for that number to double, and then double again a few days later. We weren’t out of the woods; there was still the possibility that this could end without there being a baby or even a “real” pregnancy. I wouldn’t be totally convinced that everything was real until I saw the heartbeat on an ultrasound. But just knowing that we COULD get a positive pregnancy test after so long (and we had never gotten one before, NEVER) was reassuring and a cause for celebration.

(Just to check, I took a home test the day after we got our positive result from the doctor. I used a First Response Early Result test and STILL only got the faintest,very hard to see line indicating pregnancy. This just confirmed for me that people doing IVF should stay away from home pregnancy tests! Only trust your doctor’s results!)

Two days later, we were back in my doctor’s office for another blood test. That afternoon, they called and told me that my HCG levels had more than doubled, bringing me up to 68.something – didn’t catch the last number. This was good news. We were on track. Two days after that we were at 130+, and two days later we were over 600. After that, we didn’t need to come in every two days anymore. Instead, they scheduled us an ultrasound for that Monday (June 13) to make sure it was a normal pregnancy (as opposed to being ectopic). At that ultrasound, we saw that not only was the pregnancy a single pregnancy and normal, but we also saw the heartbeat. It was official: we were having a baby.

The IVF Series

Part One: Making the decision

Part Two: Flurry of tests and consents

Part Three: Drugs and money

Part Four: Stimulation

Part Five: Retrieval

Part Six: Transfer and waiting

Part Seven: Pregnancy Testing

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