Staring down the challenge of potential infertility is, most certainly, frightening. Whether you’re on your own or trying with a partner, the thought of having such an obstacle in your way of starting or continuing the family you’ve dreamt of can conjure lots of negative thoughts and questions. For some, in vitro fertilization (IVF) — the process by which the egg is fertilized by the sperm in a test tube, outside of the body — is the most logical choice. But along with IVF come so many fears and questions, and the process can be emotionally and physically exhausting.
We partnered with CCRM, one of the nation’s leading fertility treatment centers, to learn the best practices for anyone going through the IVF process to keep spirits up and anxiety low during this challenging time. Dr. Sunny Jun, MD, co-founder and co-medical director of CCRM San Francisco, answered our questions about what to expect. Plus, five women who’ve been through the thick of it share their best tips for surviving the IVF process.
Most couples starting infertility treatments like IUI and IVF have never administered a shot to anyone before. What are your tips for making shots less painful and ensuring you are administering them correctly?
Most patients will go through an injection training class prior to starting IVF. There will be instructional videos and handouts available for patients to learn from prior to their first injection. There are two types of injections: subcutaneous and intramuscular. Subcutaneous ones are usually less painful and are injected into the adipose or fat tissue with a very thin needle. Intramuscular injections need to be inserted into the muscle and therefore require slightly thicker and longer needles. They may be slightly more painful. Prior to these injections, applying ice to help numb the area and massaging afterwards have helped decrease the pain. Taking time, relaxing without tensing up the muscles, taking deep breaths, and being confident have all helped with the experience. IVF nurse coordinators are available to help instruct and guide them through these injections. Even the most needle phobic patients with proper guidance and support are able to inject themselves through their entire IVF cycle.
IVF and IUI are expensive processes for many without guaranteed results. Do you have advice to people starting out on how to manage their expectations, fears, and anxiety throughout their treatment cycle?
I try to have patients understand that these treatments will not always work the first time, the second time, or even the third time. The success rates will significantly depend on their individual factors, i.e. age, ovarian reserve, reason for infertility, etc. IVF is the most aggressive treatment and is highly successful in most cases. However, it may require on average 1-3 IVF treatment cycles. For IUIs, it can take 3-6 IUI cycles before considering moving forward with IVF. They need to understand that this may take longer than initially expected and it is very common to undergo multiple treatment cycles. Staying positive and taking measures to try to reduce stress, i.e. acupuncture, yoga, breathing techniques, have all been helpful in easing the anxiety and fears of going through fertility treatments. Having the emotional support through their partners, family, friends, counselors, and support groups is invaluable. Patients need to have confidence in their entire fertility team as they are there to help achieve the same goal.
The dreaded two-week wait is every infertility patient’s version of torture. What are your tips for a happier and healthier 2WW?
The two week wait can be extremely stressful and frustrating. In order for patients to get through this period, we advise them to keep busy with work, exercise (not intense), and social outings. Having relaxation and calming techniques through breathing exercises, yoga, music, imagery can all help during this time. At times, having a plan in case the test is negative can allow patients to be less disappointed and to look forward to starting treatment again.
5 Women Share Their Tips for Surviving Infertility Treatments
Try to Create Happy Treatment Milestones
“During my IVF cycles I always tried to create moments to look forward to. A special dinner, a new cozy outfit to wear to and from my egg retrievals, a trip before a transfer. By creating little moments that will bring you joy, it takes some of the uncertainty and stress out of the journey. You can choose to make fertility treatments a time where you lock yourself away and only focus on your cycle, but by choosing to make it more of a celebratory thing, I found the journey a bit easier.”
Ask to not know specific numbers during a treatment cycle. “During my first IVF cycle I was obsessive about my follicle counts and growth, my hormone levels, and just generally worried about every little thing. My cycle was SO stressful and I was so miserable. In subsequent cycles, I only had the nurses and ultrasound technicians share with me my instructions versus specifics. I learned that there was nothing I could do to control my body’s response and letting go was the best thing I could do. I only asked after retrieval how many eggs we retrieved and I found this much easier to survive my two subsequent cycles.”
Feel your feelings.
“Don’t let blogs or the Internet dictate the way you’re feeling. Only once in three years were my feelings hurt when I found out a friend was pregnant. And that doesn’t negate the grief and anger I’ve felt through this process.”
Be nice to your spouse.
“There are no hormones for him, so make sure he understands what your body is going through and don’t be too proud to apologize for being irrational.”
Talk about it!
“Let your family and friends know what you’re going through. People will be there for you. It is so powerful when someone sends a text out of nowhere asking how you’re doing and when the next doctor’s appointment is. Also, talking about my miscarriage made a huge impact on my recovery. It will always be something that is part of my story, but it’s not going to dictate my life because I have all of these wonderful people helping me to keep everything in perspective.”
Don’t stress about doing every healthy lifestyle adjustment.
“I’d say don’t stress too much on super healthy lifestyle adjustments, or the old wives tales. It was the month I let loose, didn’t do intense exercise, and got margaritas with friends that I conceived (not the months doing Whole30, lots of yoga, and took life way too seriously).”
How are you making it through your IVF treatments? Share your wisdom with us!
This post was in partnership with CCRM, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.