Dear IVF Newbie,
If I’m correct, you have just come to the decision to try IVF after a few months, maybe even years, of infertility. You have grown tired of the many failed cycles and have decided to grab your destiny in your hands.
If you are at the very early stage of the process, you are probably prowling the internet, searching for every piece of information you can get. It is very important for you to be as informed of the process as you can possibly be. Find an online community, join it, and read experiences of people who have walked, or are walking, that road. The IVF process is such a complex one that it is important that for you to know what could, or couldn’t, happen.
Deciding on the clinic to use is crucial. Before, when there were fewer clinics that offered the service, the choice was an easier one. But now, there is literally an IVF clinic around every corner. Please do not make the mistake of making your choice based on aggressive advertising. I made this mistake for my first cycle, and regretted it terribly. Before you choose a clinic, do your homework. Research all your options, ask around for people’s opinion, investigate their success rates and processes, get factual and not fictitious information. The next stage is to visit these clinics yourself, talk to the doctor(s) in charge, observe how their patients are treated, see how well your spirit accepts the place. No matter how wonderful a clinic is, if you feel uneasy, it’s best you check out the next place. I’m a big believer in gut instinct and intuition.
After you have chosen your hospital, spoken with the doctor and left the hospital with the information pack, you’re probably on a high and filled with so much excitement about starting the process. Enjoy that excitement for as long as you can, because the roller coaster experience has not even started. Before you are scheduled to start your medication, it’s allowed to give in to daydreams about the baby/babies that will soon be yours. Enjoy this calm before the storm.
When you get your medication, try not to be overwhelmed at the sight of the tiny bottles, syringes and needles. When the nurse gives you the tutorial about administering those stomach or thigh injections, don’t worry, it’s really not as bad as it first of all seems. If you pay close attention, and learn how to inject yourself at the skin surface, and not by drilling multiple holes, you’ll be fine. Hopefully, you will have enough stomach or thigh flesh, but even if you don’t, if you learn the technique, you will be fine. Mixing the medication can also be overwhelming, but you’ll soon get a hang of it.
If you’re on the short protocol, you only have about 10 days of stimulating shots, but if you are on the long protocol, like a lot of women, get ready for a rather mind numbing 5 to 6 weeks of shots. The 3(ish) weeks of down regulating can be an extremely boring affair. And if you’re unlucky, you might have some of the nasty side effects as migraines, mood swings, vaginal dryness, etc. Take heart, it will be over soon. When your period finally comes, it is such a relief, as it means you can finally move on to the more exciting stimulating stage.
Don’t be obsessed with numbers when you have your scans. Try not to compare the number of eggs you have to how many the other members of your online community have. Everyone is different. If your doctor is satisfied with your progress, you should be too, even if you only have 2 eggs. But be sure you are being well monitored, and are on the right dosage of medication to avoid over stimulation. OHSS (ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome) is not a joke!
The day of your trigger shot soon arrives, and it is imperative that you stick to the time given you by your doctor, as it is incredibly time based. As you get closer to your scheduled egg retrieval, you might start to feel some tightness in your abdomen. Don’t be afraid of this. It usually means that your eggs are ripe and juicy and ready for plucking.
Don’t be afraid of the egg retrieval process. I was terrified of mine, the first time. Don’t worry. Soon, you’ll be under anaesthesia and will wake up when the deed is done. Be prepared for the ensuing soreness though. That is almost inevitable. It is usually best to take time off work, at least from your egg retrieval day to after your embryo transfer. Trust me, there’s nothing better than being able to lie in bed during this period.
Around the time of your egg collection, your partner will be giving his sperm sample. Don’t underestimate this process for him. Yes, you’re the one who will have instruments inserted in your lady parts, but he is also under quite some pressure. Give him some morale boosting and be there for each other.
The wait for the results of your egg collection is an extremely anxious one. Even though you will have a rough idea of the number of your eggs from your scans, finding out how many they were able to retrieve is still nerve wracking. Then comes another anxious wait, getting your fertilisation report. Some couples are lucky to have almost 100% fertilisation, with all their eggs fertilising. Some are unlucky to have 0%, i.e. none. My prayer for you is that you have a good report, and can proceed to the next stage.
Before this stage, you and your doctor would have agreed how many days you will allow the embryos grow before transferring them to your uterus. The average number of days is 3, but some doctors prefer to transfer as quickly as possible (day 2), while some prefer to grow the embryos to blastocyst stage (day 5). No one approach is better than the other, but is a thing of choice. Whatever day you agree to transfer your embryos, be prepared mentally, and try to arrive the clinic with as much positive energy as you can possibly muster.
The hardest part of the embryo transfer process was the full bladder. You need a full bladder for the procedure, so if you’re one who gets uncomfortable with this (like me), try to prepare for it. Aside the full bladder, this is a much easier process. Save for the discomfort of the machinery going up your vajayjay, you are awake for the process and can even see what’s going on through the monitor. So that’s quite exciting.
Regardless of what you will read, I am a firm believer of bed rest for as long as possible. My own opinion is based on my own experience. My first cycle, I was on my feet almost immediately, and the cycle failed. Second cycle, I was on full bed rest for the first 4 days, it was successful.
Whether you choose to bedrest or not, my advice to you in the wait before your pregnancy test, is to stay as mentally positive as possible, but also be prepared for any possible outcome. Stay happy, watch what makes you happy, be around people that make you happy, eat what makes you happy. Try to be in a positive place, because the last days of the waiting period can wear thin even the sunniest of temperaments.
The day of your pregnancy test, be prepared for any outcome. It could be positive or it could be negative.
I pray you get a positive outcome, and can immediately begin the new exciting journey of pregnancy. But if you happen to get a negative outcome, take the time to grieve; it’s okay. Cry if you want to, scream if you want to, retreat into your own space if you want to. Go through your process, but make sure it doesn’t go beyond a month. By month 2, you need to get right back on the wagon and try again. It’s never as bad as the 1st time; trust me.
Good luck, my dear friend. I wish you all the best!