What I Wish I'd Known About IVFAug 16, 2023
Starting IVF can be a relief.
We think “finally, at least this will get me pregnant.”
But what we don’t talk about is: more often than not, it doesn’t.
IVF is incredible – it’s science at its most impressive. The challenges you’re able to overcome are mind-blowing, and the hope that’s given to couples around the world is priceless.
Clinics are quick to show you their success rates and doctors’ offices are filled with baby pictures & smiling families. Most clinics will now give you a live birth rate of 65-70% with a genetically tested, normal, embryo.
But what does that mean? And how likely is it you’ll actually get to that stage? What about all the cycles where there aren’t any eggs available to collect? Or no embryos that survive to the testing stage?
When I started my first IVF cycle in 2017, I was so excited. I felt like someone had finally given me a solution to a problem with no end in sight. I just knew it was going to work!
But it didn’t. Of the 3 cycles of IVF I went through, only 1 was successful. And the process was much tougher than I imagined.
So here is what I wish I’d known beforehand:
IVF doesn’t solve every fertility problem
IVF works best when there is a physiological problem with the egg meeting the sperm (like blocked tubes or low sperm count). This was the original reason for IVF & it gets around this issue well. But when the problem is a little more complicated than that, IVF isn’t always the answer.
Clinics are quick to start cycles without extensive testing. They’ll do a basic hormone panel, full blood count, a semen analysis and an ultrasound of your uterus. But what happens when you have the mysterious “unexplained infertility?” Or the problem is around immune function, genetic compatibility or poor ovarian response? Usually these issues are only investigated further once there has been an unsuccessful round (or multiple rounds) first.
During my first round of IVF, my ovaries didn’t respond to the (very high dose) stimulation medication. I had heard of IVF not being successful for people, but it was starting to look like it wasn’t an option for me at all. My doctor basically shrugged her shoulders and suggested we just try again.
However, on further investigation, I was given alternatives and some hope. Getting a second and a third opinion, as well as some more thorough testing, was something I wish I had done sooner.
The first round is basically a “test round”
We all go into our first IVF cycle thinking it will work. But I’ll never forget my doctor’s exact words in our follow-up appointment after first cycle was unsuccessful:
“Well the first round of IVF is basically a test round to see how you respond to treatment.”
I’m sorry, what? I understand this, but it’s a very expensive, physically demanding and emotionally draining “test.” A heads up would have been good.
The injections are the least of your worries
I was terrified of the injections. Like most people, I hate needles and I had no idea how I would manage the twice-daily series of injections.
But that was the least of my worries.
The needles are generally small & quick (with the exception of Clexane/Lovenox & PIO) and you’re given a thorough tutorial by the nursing staff around how you’ll administer them.
But the thing that got to me the most during IVF was the waiting. That part was torture.
Waiting to see if any of my follicles would grow. Waiting to see if they’d grow to the right size. Waiting to see if any others would catch up. Waiting to find out if there’d be an egg collection. Waiting to see how many eggs were mature – how many fertilised – and how many would make it to day 5. And all of this is before you find out if you’re pregnant. That’s the longest wait of all.
Sometimes, your doctor doesn’t have the answers
Unquestionably, you doctor is essential to the IVF process. Nothing compares to their knowledge and expertise.
But it’s not a holistic process. It’s based completely around medication & surgery. However, there are so many other complementary therapies available which are scientifically proven to assist your IVF cycle. Therapies such as acupuncture, naturopathy and counselling. Each will have a slightly different approach to fertility treatments.
For me, it was a combination of all these things that made the process so much more manageable. Acupuncture was an immediate stress relief. Seeing my naturopath got my body is the best shape prior to IVF, and seeing a counsellor (which I was lucky enough to access via my fertility clinic) was a much-needed way to break constant thoughts of negativity.
It really sucks – but it was worth it
It still blows my mind that people fall pregnant every day by having sex. Without having to think about it. And they get to do it for free, in the privacy of their homes.
If you’re one of the unlucky ones that needs IVF (or any kind of fertility treatment) to fall pregnant, I know it’s been a long and difficult road to get there. All of that really sucks.
But you know what? I’d do it a thousand times over if I had to. It was worth every moment.
If you’re going through IVF or about to start the process, please know you’re not alone. It’s more common than any of us realise.
You can reach out to me or join our community of support any time.
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