Yes, we know, encountering In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. There are medicines to take, time to ask off work, and results to wait on. But rest assured, if you educate yourself and take the proper steps now, you can have your best possible chance to receive that precious gift. And you won’t need to sacrifice your sanity to do it.
Below are seven important considerations you can make to help make your IVF experience as fruitful and uplifting as possible.
Like all important processes in our lives, your IVF journey begins with preparation.
Congratulations! You’ve started the process by educating yourself. For starters, your IVF journey will begin with some initial testing and decision-making. Let’s take a look below:
Ovarian Reserve Testing
Before they can recommend the ideal IVF treatment, your doctor must first know where you’re starting. Ovarian reserve testing helps determine the quantity and quality of your eggs. The results, when compared to an ultrasound of your ovaries, help your doctor to plan which fertility meds will work best.
A semen analysis helps your doctor determine the count and health of your partner’s sperm.
Mock or Practice Embryo Transfer
A mock or practice embryo transfer measures the depth of the uterine cavity and helps your doctor plan for placement of the embryo.
A uterine exam usually involves hysteroscopy, which is a telescope-like device used to examine the uterus, or sonohysterography, in which a doctor injects fluid into your uterus and uses an ultrasound to create images of the uterine cavity.
Questions to answer with your doctor:
How many embryos will be transferred? You and your doctor will decide this based on your age and the quality of the embryos. If you are older, they’ll likely transfer more embryos due to a lower rate of implantation success.
What will you do with any extra embryos? Although they can be frozen and stored for years, not all will survive the thawing process. Extra embryos can also be donated to research or discarded – decisions that often involve serious and personal ethical considerations.
What will you do in the event of multiple pregnancies? While it’s important to think about the effect of multiplying all of your baby duties times two (or more), in some mothers, multiple pregnancies can pose a serious health risk. If that’s the case, a fetal reduction can be performed, which again is a decision that no one takes lightly.
What about fertility complications? Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about the risks to you or your baby. It’s always better to be informed than surprised. Also, keep in mind that in some states, embryo donors may have rights as well.
2. Your Choice In A Doctor Matters
While your doctor’s qualifications and practice methods are vital, so is their demeanor and willingness to work with you. You want a physician who not only knows what they’re doing but also knows what you want to accomplish and is willing to listen.
Regarding qualifications, many more physicians have frozen an embryo versus successfully thawed one. Therefore, you should make sure that your doctor has the skills to do it properly if cryo is part of your long-term plan.
Fertility Treatment Philosophies
Different doctors will have different philosophies about how long you should try fertility medicines like Clomid alone versus moving on to more serious therapies like Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and IVF.
While many physicians may claim to offer fertility care, it’s important to choose one that is specialty trained in fertility medicine.
Opinions on Number of Embryos
Physicians differ in the number of embryos they see necessary for a successful IVF. It’s important to know this ahead of time – especially so you and your doctor can be on the same page.
Opinions on Donor Eggs
While you may prefer to use your own eggs, based on egg quality, your physician may have a better success rate using those from donors. That statistic, in turn, may influence whether or not they suggest donor use or not.
Many physicians say they will change treatments to better the patient experience, but many do not. Without question, your doctor’s opinion is vital, but so is yours. So do your best to find a doctor who will let you feel heard.
Large clinics offer more services like in-house labs, but they often suffer from less personalized service. Ultimately, your comfort with your care team, no matter the size, is most important.
Private Versus Academic Affiliation
If your doctor is privately affiliated, they are more likely to perform all your procedures. Otherwise, you might find yourself working with a different physician on the day of your egg retrieval or embryo transfer.
3. The Fertility Lab You Work With – Why it Matters
Given that the fertilization of your eggs will take place in the lab, your choice in a lab is critical. A skilled lab can nearly double your rate of success. Fortunately, most fertility labs have accessible fertilization rates. Try and make sure yours has a rate of 70% or better. You also want their blastocyst conversion rate to be 40-50% by day 5.
Beyond stats, you also want to make sure the lab uses only experienced embryologists. Let the newer practitioners learn somewhere else. And you always want to make sure they use state-of-the-art incubators whose atmospheric temperatures are within 5% of recommended levels (typically 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
4. The Fertility Protocol You Choose and Why it Matters
By now, you may know there are several different fertility treatments from which to choose. Again, as important as your doctor’s opinion is, you should know a little about them yourself, so together you can make the best decision. Here’s a summary of the most popular methods:
This traditional protocol, known as Long Agonist, works in 3 to 4-week cycles. It employs the use of the following medicines:
- Birth control pills
- Either Follicle Stimulating Hormones (FSH) and/or Human Menopausal Gonadotropin (hHMG) – both of which stimulate eggs to develop in your body.
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) – which causes eggs to mature
- Progesterone – that helps to strengthen the lining of the uterus and implantation of the embryo
These newer medicines known as GnRH antagonists require up to 10 days of injections instead of several weeks. They also shorten the time to stimulate follicles by 1 to 2 days. They offer similar success rates to long agonists and have names like Cetrotide and Ganirelix Acetate.
The Flare Method
The flare method approach is similar to the long agonist protocol but requiring only 1/6 the dose. Often, it’s with patients who have a diminished reserve of ovaries due to age or ovarian surgery. Instead of turning your pituitary gland off and replacing its hormones, like with the agonists, this protocol turns it on and tells it to release its own FSH. Your doctor then injects additional FSH as needed for maximum egg growth.
Depending on your needs, your doctor may recommend other lesser-used protocols like Clomid or Femara. These medicines alone are likely to cost less than IVF and involve the use of less overall treatment. But, on the other hand, they may not produce as many healthy eggs for you.
At this point, do you have more questions than answers about IVF protocols? Again, don’t forget, you’ll be making this decision with your doctor’s help. Be sure to ask about all of your options.
5. Try Not to Delay Starting IVF
As you may know, IVF is an involved procedure that requires time, expense, and some emotional labor. That’s why couples often try putting it off for simpler, less expensive, and often less effective fertility treatments. And it’s understandable, given how overwhelming infertility can be at first.
Still, the number of viable eggs a woman’s body produces decreases every year. If you don’t get pregnant after six months without birth control, you may want to consider IVF seriously. Other physical conditions might cause you to pass other fertility treatments and go straight to IVF, such as:
- Ovulation problems or lack of ovulation
- Fallopian tube damage
- Any other womb or infertility problems
- Male fertility problems
6. Follow Your Medication Regimen
Most of the medicines you’ll take during IVF are self-administered. Therefore, it will be on you to take your pills and perform your injections at the right times in the prescribed doses. Does that make you nervous? Keep in mind that, since the first baby was born in 1978, over eight million babies were successfully conceived via IVF. That means many mothers have stood in your shoes and walked the same path. So you’re in good company!
Overall, your IVF treatments are designed to stimulate your egg production, prevent the early release of eggs, and cause your body to ovulate at just the right time. The following list includes some of the names we’ve discussed and a few others:
- Birth control pills
- Prenatal vitamins
- Lupron – which synchronizes hormones
- Antagonists – which prevents premature ovulation
- FSH – which increase hair follicle growth
- Progesterone – a steroid that stimulates the uterine lining to prepare itself for embryo implantation
7. Self-Care is Key
Speak with anyone who’s experienced IVF, and they likely will tell you it’s as much of an emotional challenge as a physical one. Therefore it can be easy to sacrifice your own well-being in the name of your baby-to-be. But your baby needs you to be healthy, mentally as well as physically.
Here are some ways to keep you as well as possible during your IVF process:
Sleep is probably the most important of all your self-care options. When you’re well-rested, your body is best able to perform all of its natural functions, including conception. To increase your quantity and quality of sleep, try limiting your caffeine and sugar intake – especially before bedtime.
While any workout regimen you had before IVF is commendable. It’s best to limit any hard workouts and focus on the flexibility, strength, and mindfulness that yoga can bring.
Your wellness is just as much about soothing your mind as your body. Meditation will help you calm and slow your thoughts so you have time to understand them better before they can be harmful.
This ancient Eastern practice has been shown to lower your blood pressure and heart rate. However, if you consider needles especially scary, consider getting regular massages.
It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions during IVF. However, knowing that alone doesn’t always make them easy to handle. For a more active way to understand and deal with the ups and downs of IVF, try working with a therapist.
Taking a Break
Probably the simplest way to relieve the stress of IVF is through doing more of what makes you happy. For some of us, that means trying an artsy hobby. For others, it can mean an occasional weekend getaway.
Think of IVF as the Beginning, Not the End
Yes, if you’re considering IVF, you’ve already been through a lot. Whether it’s trying other fertility options or handling health issues, you’ve probably already been tested in some way. Sadly, this might lead you to believe that IVF is your last hope in your efforts to conceive.
Fortunately, there’s no need to feel alone on your IVF journey. In fact, the staff at RISE Fertility is here to guide you every step of the way. Be sure to check out their testimonials to hear what real-life patients have said about them. And don’t forget to schedule your free consult in their Mission Viejo or Newport Beach offices today!