Causes & Treatment

Staying sane during IVF – a doctor’s top 3 tips

Dr. Drew Tortoriello  |   5 Oct 2022

We know (too well) the careful dance of stress and resilience involved, when heading into an IVF cycle. Whether this is your very first round, or you’ve been here before, shifting perspective and working on your mind-body connection can really help, as you approach your treatment kick-off. But can anything really make it easier? 

Sher Fertility Solutions in NYC and Las Vegas have over 55 years experience in reproductive medicine. And a big part of that is helping patients prepare, from first consultation to quick-fire questions ahead of treatment. 

Today, Sher Fertility Solutions Medical Director Dr. Drew Tortoriello rounds up his top tips for staying sane during IVF, plus a few key things to bear in mind, which can make the process a little easier. 

Words by Dr. Drew Tortoriello

IVF treatment lab testing

Feeling clued in, connected and ready

Any couple experiencing infertility feels a loss of control. You desperately want to conceive, and in your minds are doing everything just right – so why isn’t it happening?

This is where a consultation with an experienced Reproductive Endocrinologist comes into play. We can help you figure out why things aren’t moving in the right direction, and formulate the quickest pathway to success.

But even when the plan is in place, it’s not uncommon for the stress of infertility and the treatment unknowns to create a sense of anxiety, and even dread. I’m here to tell you that you can do it, and you can succeed. But a little preparation and information go a long way in making a process that seems daunting into something way more user-friendly.

Your first move is to make sure you and your fertility specialist cover all your questions, leaving no stone unturned. We want you feeling confident at every step, on why and how you’re taking a certain medication. 

We can make IVF easier, with a little prep

From mindset and stress management to travel plans, supplementation and symptom check-ins, we can make the process easier. With all of my patients, I like to emphasize: 

  • IVF is not forever, however much it feels like it. Treatment usually lasts no more than two weeks, and over that time there are likely around five or six visits. It can help to keep this in mind, when building up to a cycle. 
  • Do prep for some symptoms and side effects, including bloating, fatigue, constipation, and cramping. While uncomfortable, this is normal. If you have a more ‘vigorous’ response to the egg production part of the procedure, these symptoms can be more prominent. Your doctor can help guide you through this – I advise my patients to write all symptoms down and share them in our consultations. 

There are medications you can take to minimize these symptoms, but you need to start them soon after your egg retrieval, to get a jump on things.

  • You can do things to help alleviate stress such as acupuncture, massage, and engaging with others in support groups such as those sponsored by Resolve. Your medical team can probably connect you with a professional therapist too, for specialist fertility counseling. 

Alongside these therapies, lifestyle can play a key role in making IVF that much easier. So eat well – using the huge bank of diet and nutrition support here on Fertility Help Hub gives you a fantastic starting point. Maintain a good sleep regimen. Focus on gentle exercise (at least until later in the stimulation regimen, when your ovaries need to be treated gently). 

Remember, you yourself matter just as much as your eggs. So treat yourself kindly, even while hyper-focused on the upcoming IVF cycle or treatment. 

  • You can, believe it or not, learn to take your own injections. This is often helpful in alleviating anxiety, giving you freedom to carry on as normal even if your partner or next of kin isn’t there to do your shots. 

Your nurse will be able to instruct you, and watch your technique. A little ice on the skin before a subcutaneous injection goes a long way. And a little muscle kneading, as with a rolling pin or hand-held massage device, can minimize lumps and bumps after those intramuscular injections. Make sure you have these the right way round though, with your nurse’s help! 

  • Supplements can be helpful. Every fertility doctor has their roster of preferred supplements, often including ubiquinol, melatonin, resveratrol, pycnogenol, or NMN. These are high-strength anti-oxidants and their effectiveness on egg health is controversial, but they can’t hurt one bit and are, in general, excellent for your overall health.
  • Prepare your inventory of medications when you go out for longer stretches. You don’t want to be at a late night event or early conference and remember you need to take an injection of medications which aren’t easily accessible. Specifically, it’s critical to be on time with your GnRH antagonist medications, as they suppress ovulation and need to be taken every 24 hours, fairly stringently.

If you need to fly, do get the necessary letters and paperwork from your doctor – they’ll be ready and prepped to help with this – to let TSA know why you have medications and syringes with you. 

My top 3 IVF sanity-saving tips

Along with everything we’ve already covered, keep these three tips and factors front of mind, during your IVF prep and treatment: 

  1. Make sure you have all your medications ahead of time. So, before your first injection, check your inventory! You don’t want to reach for your trigger shot at 11pm one night, only to find you never received it.
  2. Plan in quality time with your friends, family and partner, as you navigate this journey. The mind influences the body, and a relaxed and stimulated mind is good for every other facet of your physical wellbeing.
  3. Try not to get too bogged down in the numbers. Yes, most of us want to know the statistics. And we all want to maximize egg yield and healthy embryos. But this is not a contest, and it’s not just about volume. Every woman needs to pursue her own unique treatment course under the guidance of a compassionate and skilled fertility doctor. And it’s important to remember that fantastic outcomes occur, even if the numbers aren’t ideal. and needs to be aware that often good outcomes occur even if the numbers are not ideal. 

So much of the time in my clinic, perseverance trumps physiology. The goal, for many patients, is maintaining positivity – optimizing wherever possible to move from infertility to family. Easier said than done, but with a great team behind you, totally possible. 

Connect with Dr.Tortoriello and team for experienced care, expert support and pioneering treatment, at Sher Fertility Solutions.

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