Causes & Treatment

Egg Collection Left Me with PTSD: Here’s How I’m Overcoming It

Eloise Edington  |   31 Dec 2021

Experiences of infertility, fertility treatment, difficulty TTC, recurrent miscarriage and everything else fertility-related can be incredibly stressful.

That’s why, at Fertility Help Hub, we provide expert advice to guide you through your journey (see our experts here).  We also know our community (download the free app) offers endless support to one another, especially during bleak times, and shared stories are just one of the ways we learn from each other.

Over the holidays on the FHH Instagram (follow us), Alisa-Juliet reached out to raise awareness of fertility PTSD.  She told us how egg collection left her with post-traumatic stress disorder and about her journey of overcoming it because she and her partner “desperately want to be parents”.

Read on to discover Alisa-Juliet’s story in her own words…

Alisa-Juliet on Instagram.

Plans to have children

Around 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS and told I had little to no chance of having children and was sent on my way.  At the time, I wasn’t too bothered; I didn’t want my ex to be the father of my children because we had an unhappy relationship.

[FHH Editor’s note: A diagnosis of PCOS does not mean you’re infertile, learn more about how PCOS affects fertility, watch this video.]

Then I met my lovely partner Chris, in 2019.

Almost instantly, I knew I wanted him to father my children.  Not long into our relationship, we discussed my infertility and it turned out that, due to his epilepsy medication, he had a diminished sperm count, sperm motility and morphology.

We were devastated as it was now both of us battling infertility.

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The love, encouragement, support and strength [my partner] gave me was astonishing.

HyCoSy procedure

In April 2021, we went for our consultation with a gynaecologist, Chris provided his sample and I had a HyCoSy procedure [to investigate infertility by looking at the cervix and fallopian tubes].  Due to my tilted womb (which I found out during the HyCoSy), I found the procedure painful and it made me bleed.

I bled for a week. We were then referred for IVF at a clinic.  Unfortunately, the referral took months to send off…

Proactive waiting

Whilst we were waiting to begin IVF treatment, we spent all our time and energy on getting fit and healthy and researching treatment.  We chose to eat healthier, stopped drinking alcohol and caffeine, had little to no sugar and started taking specialised supplements (costing us an arm and a leg!) designed to support and increase fertility in men and women.

We also started walking more, going to the gym, tried meditation and looked into acupuncture (but my phobia of needles meant I avoided this).  Rebecca Fett’s book It Starts with an Egg was also helpful.  To see more of FHH’s recommended fertility books, click here.

Get 15% off Beli supplements if you live in the US by using code FHH15 at checkout.

The start of IVF

We eventually started our first IVF cycle in November 2021, although our planned IVF ended up being ICSI due to Chris’ swimmers not swimming.  (To learn how to take care of your sperm, follow this link.)

It was not an easy ride for us:

I am extremely needle-phobic so IVF was a little traumatic for me.  I had nightly panic attacks when the stimulation medications were due and fainted and panicked during blood tests.  Chris softly reminded me during each and every one that we were doing this for a little baby.  Each time this felt like a fresh reminder and it gave me the strength to carry on.

The love, encouragement, support and strength he gave me was astonishing.

Egg collection

PCOS meant I had a high count of 47 follicles on my ovaries, so I had a very high risk of OHSS [ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome].  As a result, my consultant decided to prescribe me a slightly lower dose than usual of stimulation medications.

Chris and I felt this was a mistake because we ended up only getting three eggs at egg collection.  Two eggs fertilised and only one made it to day two, when we had the transfer.

Egg collection [EC] was by far the worst experience of my life.  I have a high tolerance to pain relief so the mild sedation didn’t touch the sides and I put so much pressure on myself to go ahead and complete this chapter, I was devastated to only have three eggs collected.

Post EC I bled heavily for five days.  I cramped so much and was in a lot of abdominal pain; I could barely walk to the bathroom.  I also contracted a UTI and had diarrhoea for days.  I was exhausted, to say the least.

Then I started progesterone pessaries.  These had a huge emotional effect on me and changed my attitude in extreme ways – I couldn’t control this newfound rage inside me.

Seeking help

I was advised by my clinic, 111 [the non-urgent medical NHS phone line in the UK] and a walk-in-centre to attend A&E [ER in the US] but I chose to self-medicate the diarrhoea and received antibiotics from a doctor for my UTI.

Fortunately, the clinic also reduced my progesterone.

By the next day I was feeling a bit better.  But after our 2WW, we found out our only embryo didn’t stick around – which made it all feel so much worse.  It took me nearly a month to feel like myself again.

Looking ahead

We have our review consultation on 6th January 2022.  I’ll advocate for myself and feel I won’t allow the same mistakes to happen again.
For now, we aren’t ready to try again but when we do, I’m hoping the next cycle will be better and, hopefully, successful.

Alisa-Juliet’s advice to others

  • Prepare your mind and body before starting.  Take a couple of months before starting [fertility treatment] to exercise and do some mindful meditation.  Eat well and take recommended supplements
  • Guard your heart.  Be clear with family and friends about what you’re willing to share, discuss and be told (dreaded pregnancy announcements)
  • Be a really strong advocate for yourself.  Your unique quirks and requirements won’t be accommodated for if you don’t ask

At FHH, we send our thanks and support to Alisa-Juliet and Chris on their fertility journey.  It isn’t always easy sharing hurtful experiences but when we do, we can process and heal and others have the opportunity to learn.

If you have a story you’d like to share, reach out to Editor Holly on the FHH Instagram.

When you’re ready to begin your fertility treatment, take our quiz to be matched with an expert.

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