What I Wish I'd Known Before My First IVF Cycle
When I hear from clients after their first (or second, or even more) failed cycle of IVF, "why didn't anyone tell me..." my heart sinks a little. So I've put together a list of some of the things I wish I'd known earlier in our family building process. Special thanks to a few Instagram friends, @ewenkel and @ourstory2makeyouk2, for their contributions.
- It takes 90 days to impact egg quality. So what does this mean, you ask? It means if you have low ovarian reserve or an egg quality concern, you may want to give yourself time to bring your eggs into a healthier state rather than jump immediately to IVF. Waiting is HARD, but it can be worth it.
- You can do something to positively impact egg quality. For me, that included lots of supplements including DHEA, CoQ10, Myoinositol, and various vitamins, diet changes, as well as acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Again, it takes at least 90 days of this before IVF stimulation in order to get the full impact and you should absolutely consult with your doctor about what is right for you.
- It is OK to get a second opinion or even "shop" for the doctor and clinic that is right for you. We changed doctors at one point in our journey because I didn't trust the original doctor had our best interest in mind. But it took someone telling me that was OK before I felt comfortable doing it. Your doctor should be someone who knows your case and acts in your best interest...not for ratings, statistics, or any other reason. Talking to a few doctors may help you better understand what you need and what makes you feel you are receiving the best possible care.
- Your cycle may not go as planned. During our first IVF cycle, we were expecting to go from retrieval to PGD on Day 5 embryos, which would then be frozen, and we'd set up for a frozen transfer the following month. What happened is we were called on Day 2 and told to prepare for a fresh transfer on Day 3. No PGD, no blastocysts, no frozen transfer. Whaaaaaa?? It was shocking and so disappointing. The kind nurse explained that many of the babies featured on the "wall of success" in the office (which they have, thankfully, since removed) were Day 3 transfers so I should "rest assured" things would be fine. Well, they were - for a bit. I had an early miscarriage a couple of weeks in. As difficult as that was, it was also shocking, jarring, and overwhelming to have the "path" I was expecting completely altered in midstream. I've learned now that no fertility plans go exactly as you think they will and you should anticipate changes. For the record, though, sometimes the plans take a turn for the better...as an example, for our fifth round we expected a Day 3 transfer - which is what we'd always done to that point - but ended up having all of the fertilized eggs make it to Day 5 embryos. The transfer didn't work that time, but one of the frozen guys from that round is now a chubby, smiley, and pretty cute little boy named Harry. So - sometimes the unexpected changes can turn out pretty well.
- Take the time to review your schedule and the required paperwork step by step. This is where a lot of the unexpected delays and stressful pitfalls can happen. Don't assume anything. Make sure you clarify any questions you have. Remember - this is your body and your family. You have the right to be clear on schedules, protocols, procedures, and what to expect. It may help to talk with someone who has been through IVF - a fertility coach, for example (shameless plug) - or a friend so you are more prepared and can anticipate questions you may not know to ask.
- Get a list of the medication you are expected to take - and inventory what you receive. Don't wait until you are supposed to be taking something to find out it isn't there. If it helps, once you've inventoried, put your medication and supplies away somewhere convenient but not in your constant line of sight. This can, literally, keep the fertility process "in its place."
- Make sure you understand how to administer your medication - before the moment you are scheduled to do so. Most clinics offer nurse consultations, videos, or other educational resources. There are also some helpful videos online (contact me if you'd like help finding them!). For most of us, this will be the first time we're giving - anyone - an injection. Be informed, be prepared, and you'll feel more comfortable.
- Consider acupuncture. Studies have shown acupuncture may increase your odds of getting pregnant and having a live birth. Your acupuncturist is also likely to advise you on lifestyle and diet adjustments as well as herbal additions that can help your body respond in the best possible way to your treatment. Plus, relaxing alone for a few minutes once or twice a week in a quiet room isn't bad (IMHO).
- Try to gain a sense of perspective. For many of us, the IVF process is overwhelming. We can get tunnel vision and believe it is the one and only way to motherhood. We allow doubt and fear and blame to creep into the process. All completely natural and understandable. But, it can help if you pause before the process. Talk with your partner about your fears, but also your ultimate goals. Ask him or her to share as well. What does being a parent mean to the two of you? What is required to be a parent? Conception is just the beginning and it is ok to think beyond this stage. Because, we all hope you'll be beyond it very, very soon.
- It is OK to explore options like donor egg, sperm or embryo, surrogacy, or adoption early in the process. It may not be the step you want to take right away, but learning about these alternatives to IVF with your DNA may make them seem less intimidating. Just like you didn't know much about infertility before you faced it, arming yourself with information instead of speculation or fear can help alleviate stress and pressure of a "one way or no way" path to parenthood.
What would you add to this list? What is it you wished you'd known? If you're going through IVF for the first time, is this list helpful? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
And, if you could benefit from less stress, more calm, and a shift in mindset, to help your family building experience schedule your free consultation with me to begin.