If your TTC (trying to conceive) journey has led you to IVF treatment at a fertility clinic, you will undoubtedly be feeling a whole heap of emotions – the main one being hope. For many TTC warriors, IVF offers the chance to be optimistic about possibilities again. So, how do you ensure you’re giving the process the best chance of IVF success? IVF is about science and luck and it’s easy to be naive about success when you head into a cycle of IVF for the first time.
Luckily, IVF ‘warriors’ and fertility clinics have shared their knowledge and experiences, for you to learn from. This should help you avoid scouring Google and fertility blogs for advice. We’ve gathered the most common IVF blunders and given suggestions to avoid them. Whether you’re about to begin your first IVF cycle or planning another round, give yourself the best possible chance by following our tips.
Words by Beth Tupper
Remain Calm and Collected
Easier said than done, right? If you are a born worrier, the 2WW (two-week wait) can become a hot-bed for analysing every twinge and twitch, even at 2am. Though a gruelling wait it might be, this is the period of time your body needs to accept your embryo and gives you the time to recover from the IVF procedures. In the fog of thoughts and emotions, try to remember that whether the transfer is successful or not, is out of your control at this point.
IVF is a physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing process – especially during the two-week wait. It’s easy to feel stressed about the possible outcome. Alas, stress can cause a hormonal imbalance which is detrimental to IVF success. As hard as it may seem, try to focus on the present moment and avoid thinking about the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’. Recognise that you’re doing everything you can by following your fertility schedule and investing in self-care – make that your motivation to reduce your stress.
If remaining calm seems like a far-fetched fantasy, occupy your mind with mood-lifting activities: movie nights, countryside walks, and leisurely brunches with the girls (if Covid restrictions allow of course). Your world shouldn’t stop whilst you wait for science and Lady Luck to declare their outcome, – you just need to ease your foot off the gas for a little while.
As if trying to conceive isn’t draining enough, IVF treatment takes it to a new level. A mistake often discussed by fertility specialists is being tempted to either over-extend yourself or to rest too much. Whilst you will be advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your physical and mental wellbeing, it is also important to dedicate some of your schedule to downtime – it’s a bit of a balancing act.
Your schedule will become peppered with appointments, fertility tests, and fertility drug pick-ups – and more so if you include holistic sessions such as fertility acupuncture, infertility support groups, fertility yoga, and counselling. Feeling determined to slot this in around your work, your social life, and other commitments will likely leave you feeling like you’re burning the candle at both ends, which is less than ideal when trying to conceive.
On the other hand, some people go
for the opposite approach and confine themselves to bed rest, especially after the embryo transfer. Whilst vigorous activity should be avoided, keeping your circulation flowing is important. Not only that, maintaining a relaxed but normal routine will help to keep your mind off what is inevitably a very long 2WW. Make sure you check in with yourself – if your body is telling you to have a sofa day, then do it. Leave the housework to your partner or grab your wellies and take to the fresh air. Listen to your body and if you’re still unsure, listen to your fertility specialist.
Understandably it can be easy to lose track of your fertility schedule when you are juggling a whirlwind of emotions, physical changes, and new information. However, keeping track of your fertility medications and IVF dosages, and the times you’re supposed to take them is vital. When it comes to IVF success there’s no truer saying than ‘timing is key’. One of the reasons behind failures during the first cycle of IVF, can be due to messing up medication timings. These tips might help to guide you through the storm:
Create an inventory of all your medications and supplies and update it regularly, to avoid running out and making a mad dash to your fertility clinic for refills.
Use a calendar, an alarm, or a tracker app to remind you to take your medications and injections at the correct time.
Follow your fertility clinic’s schedule and if they haven’t given you a personal schedule, ask for one.
Try not to underestimate or overestimate time in your calendar. At first, it might take you a little longer to be comfortable with the injections and you don’t want to find yourself in a rush. Likewise, you shouldn’t assume you’ll have your usual sprightly energy levels throughout the cycle – factor in some downtime.
Document your journey in a journal – not only can it be a creative and emotional outlet, but it could also be a useful reference for doctor’s appointments and even future cycles. It may also be a keep-sake someday.
Trust in your Fertility Specialist and Yourself – Not the Internet
Okay, we have to give the internet some credit; some resources will be reliable and social media can provide connections to like-minded people and supportive communities. Though it’s no secret, a Google session can spiral out of control quite quickly and social media can be an enemy, as much as it is a friend.
Resist the temptation to self-diagnose, make predictions, or compare your symptoms to those of the IVF warriors you see or meet online. Oh yes, we hear you, it is easier said than done. Nonetheless, everybody is different, and no two fertility journeys will be the same. Scrolling through a stream of failures and horror stories, or (in)fertility blog forums, querying every bodily symptom, will only cause you to spiral our of control and to question your own fertility journey. Likewise, cooing over IVF success stories can give you false hope.
Social media can be a source of toxic positivity – an overly optimistic attitude without acknowledging that sometimes things don’t work o
ut. It will only make you feel more pressured to ensure your fertility treatment is a success story too; prioritise self-love by avoiding this toxicity.
If you find yourself doubting your symptoms or querying any stage of your cycle, schedule an appointment with your consultant and go prepared with a list of questions. Your fertility specialist is there to support you, you don’t have to rely on the internet for a helping hand.
IVF brings with it a tsunami of changes to your body, your emotional capability, and your daily schedule, and if it is a success, so will pregnancy too. Planning to eat healthily and actively seek support from your loved ones might seem obvious when it comes to physical and emotion preparation; it is important to mentally prepare yourself for unexpected hurdles along the way too. For example, have you thought about what you might want to do with ‘leftover’ embryos if your doctor asks you? A large part of preparing yourself for the IVF journey – which some don’t realise, and some avoid – is understanding and accepting the success rate, and the factors that impact it.
Recognise the importance in remaining realistic and having a plan B. According to HFEA, around three quarters of IVF treatments are unsuccessful. After the turmoil of the process, you don’t want to end it thinking ‘well, what do I do now?’. You might want to consider another cycle, alternative conception options or adoption. However, your plan B could be something as simple as arranging a holiday – a chance to escape and something to look forward to.
Ultimately, try to avoid putting all your eggs in your first cycle’s basket – pun intended. Enter the process with realistic expectations and try to continue living for the everyday, rather than living in anticipation of the outcome.