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Treatment stress: a 30-minute emotional rollercoaster of an appointment

To mark stress awareness month, Mel writes this blog to explain how she felt ahead of egg collection.

I have just got back from the appointment. My frantic Google search history shows “optimum follicle size”; “follicles too big”; “how many follicles do you need for successful IVF?”. The ‘final scan’ was not quite the easy, straightforward camera-up-the-vag-job-done I had hoped for.

When I arrived at my final scan, the nurse greeted me, took me to the scan room and waited for me behind a curtain while I took my shoes, trousers and pants off. Lucky pineapple pants. I kept my lucky socks on - can’t have too much luck in this situation!

She lubed up the dildo-like transvaginal ultrasound device and explained what would happen, and that she would go quiet while she was counting and measuring the follicles. I explained that my uterus was upright, so be prepared for that. So far, so good. Everything seemed to go to plan, then she removed the device and turned the screen around.

“So, I need to show you something… Your lining is thickening up nicely to 6mm so that’s great. But on one side position of the ovary means that the doctors probably won’t be able to retrieve these follicles, because they won’t go through the uterine lining.”

Blow number one. I am reeling slightly, but I am sitting down still so I’ll be ok.

“There’s also three follicles on this side which are really big - I mean they’re too big to be follicles now, they’re cysts, so they’re not going to be able to be used. I’m going to need to go and find a consultant to discuss this with, so I’ll be gone for a few minutes while I discuss this with them and how it might affect your regime.”

I feel dizzy and a bit sick. I blink several times and go into survival mode, nodding and laughing a little as I hear myself say “Yes that’s fine, see you in a bit…!”

As soon as the nurse left the room, I grabbed my phone. “Follicles too big in ultrasound” was my first google search. The first result took ages to load and I scanned through the content quickly. It stated that doctors need to keep an eye on follicle development during the IVF drug regime, and if follicles have got too big, that means that the cycle has been unsuccessful.

Is this the end? Have we failed our treatment? Those lovely follicles that could have been full of life have been left too long in the oven and have swollen up so much that any potential egg in there has disintegrated and I am simply left with a pre-cancerous cyst? Oh yeah, cancer. That was the next result. Just what you want. Memories of previous pelvic ultrasounds also flooded into my brain, where the consultant had said that a big cyst would make any fertility treatment unsuccessful and would have to be removed prior to treatment - not sure what will happen now it’s mid-treatment. Cancelled cycle? The end? Are we done here?

I take deep breaths and try to calm myself. I can feel the fear and anxiety and grief - yes, grief - welling up inside my chest. I know that I am going to the worst case scenario. I know I am catastrophising. I know that I don’t have all the information I need to know and that I can’t be in control of what is going to happen next. Doesn’t stop my thoughts from racing.

The nurse finally comes back in, clutching a little party bag of goodies.

“So, I’ve spoken to the consultant and the earliest we would get you in would be Friday, but they are having a meeting this afternoon when they look at all the women’s scans and make a decision. Anyway, we will phone you this afternoon and let you know but let me talk through what I saw”.

Phew. Finally, I get more information. Heart racing, I look again at the swollen fuzzy images on the black and white screen. The nurse flicked the screen to show a table, which listed the sizes of the follicles in each ovary in turn. She talked me through the first side, where there was a 34mm follicle and a maybe 29mm follicle, as well as couple of others and I think a little 8mm one. There were perhaps four or five rows of numbers on that screen. She explained that the larger ones definitely wouldn’t be viable.

The next screen showed the other ovary and there must have been eight or nine lines of text. The largest follicle was about 24mm I think, and the smallest about 8mm. The trouble is, in the panic and the heat of the moment, it’s hard to keep your mind straight enough to take it all in.

The nurse then started to explain that the earliest possible retrieval would be this Friday. She asked if I had any questions. But I had gone through some extreme emotional rollercoasters in that half-hour appointment and I felt I had to get out, get home, have some lunch and see my husband.

The next step is a phone call - from the clinic - this afternoon. I will find out later today what is going to happen with my treatment - dates, times, triggers, etc. I am 100% not chilled. It is out of my hands and I need to find a way to be at peace with that - the number, size and quality of eggs is out of my control now - it’s how I have looked after myself over the past few months that will have determined that.

Mel's blog

Review date: 1 September 2025