Amy Schumer Revealed the Results of Her "Painful and Mentally Grueling" IVF Treatments
She also opened up about how empowered she felt after receiving hundreds of hopeful stories about IVF from her Instagram followers.
Amy Schumer isn't afraid to be vulnerable in her social media posts. Throughout her first pregnancy, the actress and comedian consistently gave fans hilarious, yet thought-provoking insight into what pregnancy and postpartum life can look like for new moms. Not only was Schumer candid about her struggles with hyperemesis gravidarum (an extreme form of morning sickness), she also posted photos of herself in hospital underwear to help normalize postpartum bodies.
Now, the comedian has taken to Instagram to open up about starting in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments just eight months after giving birth to her first child, son Gene Attell Fischer.
In January, Schumer shared a raw photo showing her C-section scar and some bruises on her stomach. "I'm a week into IVF and feeling really run down and emotional," she wrote alongside the photo. "We are freezing my eggs and figuring out what to do to give Gene a sibling." (Related: Amy Schumer Canceled Her Comedy Tour Because of Pregnancy Complications)
A month later, Schumer shared the results of her "painful and mentally grueling" experience with IVF: "They retrieved 35 eggs from me. Not bad for the old gal right?" Schumer wrote in the caption of a pumped-up selfie.
"Then 26 fertilized! Whoah right?" continued Schumer. "For all of those, we got 1 normal embryo from that and 2 low level mosaic (mosaic means there are some abnormal cells but can still lead to a healthy baby). So we feel lucky we got 1! But what a drop off, right?"
But what does all of this talk about eggs and embryos mean? For starters, IVF is a popular fertility treatment that involves retrieving eggs from the ovaries, inseminating them with sperm in a lab, and inserting the fertilized embryo into the woman's uterus. Sounds simple enough, right? But prepping for IVF and going through the process can often be much harder than it seems—something Schumer appears to have experienced firsthand.
First of all, IVF isn't just one thing; it's an umbrella term that covers a series of different procedures, Paul Magarelli, M.D., an ob-gyn, reproductive endocrinologist, and founder of Magarelli Fertility, previously told us. (Related: Should You Get Your Fertility Tested Before Wanting Kids?)
Usually, IVF and the embryo transfer process follow five basic steps, according to the American Pregnancy Association (APA). First, you're given fertility medications to help stimulate egg production in the ovaries. These injections are typically administered daily for about one to two weeks, and they can sometimes cause bruising at the injection site (as shown in Schumer's first photo), according to Allina Health. During this time, you also undergo blood tests and a vaginal ultrasound to monitor hormone levels and measure your body's reactions to the medication, according to the APA. If all goes well, you then undergo one final injection of fertility medication 36 hours before the egg retrieval process, which encourages the body to release the eggs, according to the University of Utah Health. As you might imagine, many people experience uncomfortable side effects to these fertility medications, including headaches, mood swings, insomnia, hot or cold flashes, breast tenderness, bloating, and/or mild fluid retention, among other symptoms, reports Parents. (Related: Could a New at-Home Conception Kit Compete with IVF?)
BTW, that all describes just one "step" in the overall IVF process. The next step involves retrieving the eggs through a minor surgical procedure, in which ultrasound imaging helps to guide a hollow needle through the pelvic cavity to remove the eggs, according to the APA. Apparently this step can be as uncomfortable as it sounds, so the procedure often requires some pain meds and/or mild sedatives, according to the Mayo Clinic. Usually, doctors are able to procure about 15 to 20 eggs in one procedure, and roughly 80 percent of retrieved eggs will typically be viable, according to Extend Fertility. If you want to freeze your eggs (like Schumer said she plans to do), they're immediately frozen following egg retrieval, according to USC Fertility. (Related: Is the Extreme Cost of IVF for Women In America Really Necessary?)
If you're not freezing your eggs, the next step is to have a donor or your partner provide a sperm sample to be combined with the retrieved eggs, according to the APA. Following that, a process called insemination begins, wherein the sperm and eggs are mixed together and stored in a lab dish to encourage fertilization. Once fertilized, these eggs are considered embryos, notes the APA. (BTW, did you hear about this new 3-parent IVF technique?)
In the final step (typically three to five days after egg retrieval and fertilization), the embryos are transferred into the uterus via a catheter or small tube. Sometimes this procedure is painless, but other times it can cause some cramping, according to the APA. If the procedure is successful, implantation (i.e. when an embryo attaches to the wall of the uterus) typically happens around six to 10 days following egg retrieval, according to the APA. However, it's important to note that not everyone gets pregnant their first time after going through IVF. In fact, it's only successful about 41-43 percent of the time in women under age 35, and the success rate decreases significantly as you get older, according to the APA.
So yeah, when you break it down, the IVF process is by no means simple. Not to mention the science of it doesn't account for the mental and emotional ups and downs that can take place during the process—something that many other women, like Chrissy Teigen and Fit Body trainer Anna Victoria, have opened up about before. (Related: What Molly Sims Wants Women to Know About the Decision to Freeze Their Eggs)
As for Schumer, the comedian hopes that by speaking up about these challenges and heartwrenching moments, she can help other "warrior women" out there feel like they aren't alone in their IVF journeys, she wrote on Instagram.
"I have so appreciated everyone sharing their IVF stories with me," continued Schumer. "They made me feel empowered and supported."