Disclaimer: Although this post is solely about IVF & 6 things you should know before IVF, my blog generally does contain posts on pregnancy, babies & children. You won’t find links to those posts through this one but they may pop up in my ‘related posts’ section at the bottom. If you feel like this could be a trigger for you, then I totally understand if you would prefer to avoid this post altogether.
For many people, taking the IVF road is not one you expected way back when starting a family was merely a future goal. If you’re anything like me, you naively assumed like everyone else in your life, when the time was right it would be a case of coming off contraception, and within a month or two you’d have a bun in the oven.
So what happens when things don’t go to plan? What if mother nature decides she’s not going to make it so easy for you?
Well, if you’re reading this post it’s likely, for one reason or another, IVF is the next step to your family goals. But before you jump on that train with both feet, it’s a good idea to know as much as possible about the process so you can be as prepared as possible.
It’s likely a lot of the information you’ve read online is from the medical side of things. Those doctors might perform the various procedures multiple times a day and have years of medical training, but have they physically experienced IVF for themselves? The answer, probably not.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 6 things I feel you should know before IVF. Hopefully, this can help to give you the perspective of someone who has gone through it themselves and can talk from experience.
1. It’s a good idea to decide who you’re going to tell
This may seem like an odd first point, but once you start down this road, it will become clear why you should take this question seriously.
On one hand, telling close friends & family members that your starting IVF is great for moral support and having people to talk to about what you’re going through. But! And that’s a big but. Just remember, for each person you confide in is one more person you may find yourself having to explain why this time, it hasn’t worked. An unsuccessful round of IVF is hard enough to deal with, having to then try to explain it to others, who are eager to know, is one thing you could really do without.
You will also find, whoever you tell will always have a story. If they haven’t experienced it themselves, they will know someone who has. Hearing about how such and such had 9 rounds and are still without a child, is not helpful to you. Equally, hearing how another couple was successful the first time, when you are on your second or third round, also not helpful.
If, like me, you’re not keen on telling close friends and family, why not try some online IVF support forums. Once you get your head around the various acronyms, and there are many, so many I could probably do a separate post on the topic, they can be a great support. They are places where every member will know to some extent what you’re going through because they have experienced it for themselves. You never know, you may even make some great new friends along the way, as I did.
2. The IVF process can be extremely emotionally draining
The whole process is long, with many hurdles to overcome. Health checks, internal scans, self-injecting medication, follicle count, egg collection, discovering the number of eggs collected, fertilization, and finally, the embryo quality.
This is all before you get to embryo transfer. You’re also doing this with a body pumped so full of artificial hormones you feel like your walking a tight rope of emotions. One tweak, either way, could send you into an angry rage, or more likely, breaking down in tears.
Crying in itself can extremely draining, but take into account many of the other thoughts and emotions that occur, just adds to the strain. Through my IVF journey, I’ve cried for many reasons. I’ve cried for the baby we really wanted but didn’t have yet. I cried because of ‘why us?’ and the unfairness of it all. I’ve cried due to frustration at seeing more & more people seemingly popping babies out left, right & center, some not even wanted and not appreciating how bloody lucky they were. I’ve cried for feeling resentful of my other half because all he had to do was give a ‘sample’ or two. And, I’ve cried at positive & negative pregnancy test results.
3. There’s no room for embarrassment
If you find smear tests embarrassing, they’ll become a piece of cake after you’ve experienced a couple of IVF cycles.
You will quickly learn to get over any embarrassment after the investigatory work you’re likely to have which checks your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. Multiply internal scans required to monitor follicle size and numbers. Embryo extraction, and embryo transfer. All requiring the need for your naked nether regions to be exposed to at least one person each time.
After a while, having your bits on show becomes some kind of normal. You’re never totally going to feel comfortable but it does help to get over any embarrassment for future procedures like smear tests.
4. Sometimes a fresh IVF cycle will end without a transfer
I wanted to add this one to the list because since starting our IVF journey, I’ve made some great friends through online IVF forums. Each one with slightly different reasons for taking this route & each having a different experience.
While most experiences were straightforward (i.e they either ended with a positive pregnancy test or a negative), there were quite a few who were surprised to find that for one reason or another, a fresh embryo transfer had to be canceled. Either it was canceled altogether or it was recommended to ‘Freeze all’. ‘Freeze all’ means freezing all embryos for later use.
For the couple going through it, it’s a devastating blow. You’ve either got to start all over again, which has its own problems i.e cost implications and emotional stress. Or, you’ve been advised that a fresh transfer is not possible and you’re embryo’s need to be frozen for later use. Either way, all that planning, psyching yourself up & potential added costs takes a lot of energy and can be extremely emotional. To then be told it all has to be stopped can be a crushing thing to hear.
There are a number of reasons your cycle could be stopped:
- There is a high chance you may develop OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). In this case, any quality embryo’s would be frozen
- Too few or no eggs have been retrieved
- Eggs have failed to fertilised
- Embryo’s have failed to develop or are too poor quality
In most cases, a canceled cycle does not mean the end of your IVF journey. More often than not, after a brief break to allow your body to return to normal after hormone treatment, you’re able to try again.
If you are in the position of needing to freeze your eggs, this post will explain the process of a Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) IVF: Frozen Embryo Transfer
5. There is a good chance IVF will not work first time
As much as I want to encourage you to remain positive and believe it WILL happen, you also have to be realistic & prepare yourself for IVF not being successful.
Whether your IVF cycle will be successful or not is largely down to chance. Success rates vary greatly depending on age and the cause of infertility.
Although IVF has come on leaps and bounds in the last 10 years, you may still be surprised with the success rates per age group. The following success rates are based on 2018 figures:
- Across all age groups is 23%
- The under 35’s age group is 31%
- The over 40’s age group is less than 10%
So, just because you’re considered “young” in the IVF world, it doesn’t mean you will be successful the first time. It could take multiple rounds or may not work at all.
Other factors, such as potential medical issues that may have impacted your fertility, will play a part in your own individual chances of success. Your consultant will go through all of this with you and make sure you have all the facts before going ahead.
6. IVF can feel lonely
Although you may be going through IVF with a partner, it can feel quite lonely. When you are the one having hormone treatment, scans, procedures, and dealing with artificial hormones, it can be difficult even for your partner to understand how it actually feels at times.
I personally found the hormones the hardest part and unfortunately not something my partner could help with. It wasn’t the self-injecting that I struggled with, it was the effect the hormones were having on my body & mind. Hormones alone can make you feel very up and down emotionally & make you believe you’re alone in it, even if you have plenty of support around you. They also have a lot to answer for when it comes to the effect on your body too. From hot flushes & headaches to extreme bloating & constipation, it can all leave you feeling very fed up, uncomfortable and lonely.
I do strongly recommend joining some online IVF communities. They are a great place to find people to talk to who are going through or have gone through the same thing. They can be a great help in answering any questions you have that only they would know. But more importantly, they are a great source of support.
Try to find the funny moments
IVF is hard. There’s no getting away from that. But it doesn’t all have to be doom & gloom. Trying to find the funny moments can really help make it just a little easier. Whether it’s laughing at the thought of your partner having to provide that ‘sample’ in a not so cozy hospital side room, filled with all the magazines & DVD’s he could need (within reason I suppose) to complete the task. Or, if it’s finding joy in the temporary boob lift the hormones may have given you, there will be times that can bring a smile to your face.
Remember why your doing this. Remember an IVF cycle only lasts a couple of months at a time. Remember, regardless of statistics, IVF is giving you the chance to have the family your desperate for, and that’s one chance more than you had before.
I’m here too
If you haven’t already gathered after reading this post, I am one of those people aware of how stressful & lonely IVF can be. I am also one of those people you can talk to. Whether it’s just to chat, moan/cry or ask questions, I’m here too so get in touch… firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also like Unexplained Infertility ~ A personal experience