This is the second in a two-part blog series to offer insight into what the IVF process is really like, told by women who have been through it. Read Part 1 here.
We spoke to six women for this two-part blog series, and asked them, “What do you wish you had known about IVF in the beginning?” I hope their responses will help in some small (or big) way as you move forward in your journey.
Our panel of IVF “experts” includes:
Candace Wohl is a freelance digital marketer, writer, speaker, infertility advocate, mother through surrogacy, and co-author of the blog, Our Misconception, along with her husband. The couple started blogging after their second IVF cycle, and has told their story of cancer, a hysterectomy, failed adoption, and a failed surrogacy.
Kelsey Whitham is an elementary school teacher. She and her wife started their journey with a sperm bank and eight IUIs before becoming pregnant with their son, who is now two years old. Hoping for a large family, they’ve begun trying for a second baby with six IUIs and have now moved on to IVF.
Marquita Lizotte has done two IUIs and is in the middle of her first IVF cycle.
Stefanie Miller writes her blog, Making A Miller, from her home in Orange County where she lives with her husband. She is currently pregnant with their first child as a result of IVF.
Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo: After years of unprotected sex, failed timed cycles, inseminations and several IVFs, Jay Palumbo is the mom of two boys and an infertility advocate. She is a freelance writer, infertility and women’s rights advocate, former stand-up comic, author of the blog, The 2 Week Wait, and proud IVF Mom.
Karen has four years of infertility treatments under her belt, including four rounds of IVF. She and her partner live in Illinois.
What the Doctors Don’t Tell You
You’ll Probably Be Exhausted
Your body is doing a whole year’s worth of work or more in one IVF cycle. It’s physically exhausting. After the first cycle, I realized that I had done too much. I would come home after being on my feet teaching for hours and I’d keep going washing dishes and getting ready for the next day. I realized that the next cycle, I needed to accept help. Once I took it easier on myself, the physical symptoms were much easier – even though I was on a higher dose of meds.” (Kelsey)
The Discomfort is Temporary
It helped to remind myself that the worst of the discomfort was very temporary. An IVF cycle is six weeks start to finish, but there’s two weeks where you’re getting stimulated and monitoring. Only two weeks. It’s temporary.” (Kelsey)
The 5-Day Wait is Brutal
The 5-day wait between the retrieval and transfer is worse than any two week wait for a positive pregnancy test. You and your body have done all this work, and then you can’t do anything about anything. You just have to wait. The clinic calls every day to give you an update, and I had anxiety about the phone ringing and wondering: will they have bad news or good news?” (Kelsey)
The most difficult part was not the shots or going under for the retrieval… it’s that two weeks waiting to find out how many eggs were retrieved, how many matured, and how many advanced. You have so much riding on those little eggs, and you can’t check in on them personally, and you’re just waiting on your clinic to give you that phone call. Some days they were busy and didn’t call me until 3 p.m., and those extra hours were torturous.” (Stefanie)
Your Meds: What You Might Not Know
No one told me that you have to clean out the Crinone every couple of days. Or to stop doing the Crinone after a certain number of days. Most IVF clinics will tell you to call them either when you get a positive pregnancy test or you get your period. But you don’t ever get your period on Crinone so you just keep taking this medication unnecessarily.” (Karen)
Where you give yourself the progesterone shots matters. If you do them too low, then you’ll have knots that last a long time. If you do them higher up, you don’t get that. Giving yourself the shots is kind of horrible, but you can make it less horrible. Finding the right spot is trial and error. Experiment a little.” (Karen)
My first IVF, someone on Twitter told me to ice the area to give myself the injections for hormone shots. It numbs the area. No clinic, nurse, doctor told me that. It was brilliant because it’s true – it doesn’t hurt as much. Whenever anyone tells me they’re doing their first IVF, that’s one of the first things I tell them.” (Jay)
When I was taking Menopur, I got an odd taste in my mouth after doing the injection. It wasn’t one of the official side effects, but when I spoke to other people who had taken that medication, they all experienced the same thing. So I would chew gum or have a mint when I was doing the injection.” (Jay)
Find Out What Your Real Costs Will Be
I knew it would be expensive but didn’t know exactly how much it would be. My medications alone were a copayment of $1,100. My insurance did cover a lot of it, so I was lucky, but it was still a lot.” (Marquita)
Plan to Be Flexible with Your Schedule
Often you will get one-day notice to come in the next morning for an appointment. It helps if you have a flexible schedule, and you’re prepared for last-minute schedule changes.” (Marquita)
There’s a Lot of Waiting
There’s a lot of waiting with trying to conceive and going through infertility. I didn’t realize how much waiting would be involved in IVF. It seems like it should be cut and dry, but it’s really nuanced: waiting for the next cycle, monitoring in between, hoping you have enough follicles to go through the retrieval, and not knowing when the retrieval date will until the last minute.” (Stefanie)
IVF Can Be a Diagnostic Tool
There is some debate as to whether IVF diagnostic. But even with a great protocol, you can’t predict everything and the doctors learn stuff as you go through the process. In my case, they kept retrieving like three eggs and I would only have one embryo. It was only when we started the IVF process that we realized there was another problem. The first cycle, someone may produce more or less embryos than expected or maybe find out they have a uterine lining issue, follicle size, or other issue. There’s no way to know all of that before you go through the process. There are so many factors, and you learn more with each cycle.” (Jay)
Who to Tell?
Really consider your comfort in who you share your journey with. People care and they want to know how you’re doing. If you tell 20 people, you then need to call 20 people to tell them if you get a negative beta. Don’t tell people unless you’ll be comfortable telling them if it doesn’t work.” (Jay)
It’s Not as Scary as it Might Seem
As I was going through the process of trying to have a baby, and having it not work, IVF seemed like this big scary monster looming in the distance. I was afraid to consider it as an option for us. But when the time came to make that decision, it became way less scary than I thought it would be. A lot of my fears of getting shots, going through retrieval, etc. kind of disappeared. I just got in the mindset: OK, these are the steps, and this is what we need to do.” (Stefanie)
Alternative Therapies Can Help
Western medicine is very much just about the body – taking all of this medicine. Some doctors don’t think about the mind piece, and that is the biggest thing for me. Acupuncture has been so helpful for me. I started going seven years ago for migraines and it really helped with that. Once I started trying to conceive, I went to a fertility acupuncturist and it’s been really helpful. I go once a week and it’s an hour each week that’s just for me. My only job is to relax. For that hour, I put everything aside and relax. It’s helped a lot with symptoms.” (Kelsey)
Try Circle + Bloom’s guided visualization and meditation program for IVF and IUI to help you feel calm, relaxed, and positive during your journey – including special sessions to listen to before, during, and after your IVF/IUI procedure. Or for a more general introduction to Circle + Bloom, download our free fertility relaxation program.
With love & gratitude,