Following some interesting conversations I have had recently, I think it might be appropriate to tackle some facts and myth. So,here goes!
Myth 1: IVF is the last option!
Fact: This is very false. You don’t have to leave IVF until when you have exhausted all other options. In fact, for women with irrevocably blocked tubes, or in cases of very low sperm count, it might be best to opt for it right away!
Myth 2: IVF is only for the rich
Fact: I won’t quite say this is false, but it is not as true as it used to be. A lot of hospitals now have payment plans, and some financial institutions have developed banking products to help finance IVF for women who otherwise might not be able to afford it.
Myth 3: IVF is always successful
Fact: Unfortunately, and as a number of us have come to realize, this is false. Literature indicates that the success rate is about 25% – 30%, which could mean only 1 in 4 cycles will result in a successful pregnancy. That said, I know a number of women who were successful in their 1st cycle, and I was successful in my 2nd, so it’s all about praying, doing all you can and hoping for the best.
Myth 4: IVF requires hospital stay
Fact: In general, this is false. The 2 main IVF procedures (egg retrieval and embryo transfer) are outpatient procedures, which do not require hospital stay at all. BUT, that said, I have a slightly contrary opinion, based on my successful cycle. Unlike my 1st cycle, where 30 minutes after embryo transfer, I was already on my feet, sorting out hospital paper work, and then embarking on a tedious, bumpy ride home, for my 2nd cycle, I insisted on staying overnight in the hospital after my embryo transfer. I’m not saying that’s why the cycle was successful, but it’s just one of the things I did differently.
Myth 5: IVF always results in multiple pregnancies
Fact: I will start of by saying this is false, as it pretty much depends on how many embryos you have transferred. That said, it is something of a circular reference, as the general thinking is that the more embryos you transfer, the better the success rate. Most countries have a single embryo transfer policy, and will only transfer 2 embryos if the couple signs a number of waivers. In Nigeria, you can have as many as 3 or 4 transferred, depending on your age.
Myth 6: IVF isn’t safe
Fact: This is largely false, as long as you ensure you don’t put your life in the hands of a cheap/unprofessional doctor or clinic, just to save a buck. The major thing to be careful of is ovarian hyper stimulation, which can be a very serious condition. But if the cycle is a well-monitored one, this can be avoided. My earlier cycles of clomid showed I had the tendency to over stimulate, so I was placed on the minimum dosage of stimulants in both cycles.
Myth 7: The drugs will drive you crazy
Fact: Dr. Google’s answer to this is false, indicating that since the drugs are estrogen-laden, and as estrogen is a happy hormone, you are instead expected to be a ball of happiness and joy. Not only do I disagree, in my opinion, this myth is somewhat true. From my experience, most women will experience some very frustrating side effects from the meds. I had very bad migraines when I was down regulating, and found myself an emotional mess. And even without the physical side effects, the mental agony of self injecting and dealing with all the bottles and equipment were enough to drive me crazy. But, I have to say, not crazy enough for me to want to stop, or to adversely affect my life, so fear not.
Myth 8: Bed rest is vital for a successful IVF cycle
Fact: Contrary to what you will read online, I emphatically believe that is quite true. And this is from my own experience! For my 1st cycle, everything I read implied that bed rest wasn’t necessary, as it was putting my life on hold unnecessarily, and that women who went on bed rest actually had lower success rates. Well, that didn’t work for me. For my 2nd cycle, I went the opposite direction! I was horizontal for the first 3 days, leaving the bed only for toilet breaks. For the remaining 10 days, I was a bit more active, but only very barely. That was my successful cycle.
Myth 9: Stress lowers IVF success rates
Fact: In my opinion, this is very true. I have read a number of things to the contrary, with the most humorous being a statement credited to a Dr. James Grifo of the New York University Fertility Center, which was something like “Stress is not contraception. If it were, no one in New York would get pregnant.” I will even transpose that statement on our beloved Lagos! LOL! Statements like these might be true with natural conception (and even then, not entirely), but with assisted reproduction, stress is one of your biggest enemies. Whilst it might not be possible to completely eliminate stress, research has shown that cycles wherein the subject has been exposed to as little stress as possible have recorded far greater success rates. With my 1st cycle, my stress was mainly from over-anxiety. I was permanently on my phone, Googling how I was, or wasn’t, supposed to be feeling, and pretty much over analyzed everything. For my 2nd cycle, which was successful, I made sure I kept far far away from Dr. Google, and generally made sure I was as relaxed as possible.
Myth 10: Laughter helps!
Fact: Very, very true. A lot of people will eye roll at this, but laughter is the antithesis to stress. So, if stress is detrimental, laughter has got to be the opposite, right? When I was starting my 2nd cycle, I read online that, in Israel, a study conducted of 219 women found that those who were entertained by a “medical clown” after embryo transfer were twice as likely to get pregnant as those who were not. Wellllll, I had no access to any such medical clown here in Nigeria, so opted to go for the next best thing, comedies! TV comedies, movie comedies, local comedies, foreign comedies…any comedy! That was practically all I watched in the 2 weeks following my procedure. I don’t know if that’s why that cycle worked, I just know that it worked.
Myth 11: Special diets boost IVF success
Fact: This is true. Not only is it important to eat right in order to maintain a healthy weight, eating the right foods have shown that there can be marked improvements in egg quality, production, and even implantation.
Myth 12: You have no control over the success of your IVF cycle
Fact: In my opinion, this is somewhat true. Yes, you can do all you can by eating right to improve your egg quality, ensuring your uterus is clear and habitable, getting acupuncture, changing your doctor, changing your clinic, changing your protocol, eliminating stress, going on bed rest, etc., but the truth is, with IVF, there are no guarantees. Yes, I credit the fact that I did most of these when I had my successful cycle, but I know people who have been even more meticulous than I was, ticking every single box in the IVF checklist, but have instead suffered several failed cycles. All you can really do is try the best you can, and hope for the best.
There are so many other myths that abound, where IVF is concerned. This to be expected, considering that it is still a relatively new phenomenon, at least in these parts. Wherever you are in your IVF journey, I wish you all the very best!