What IVF has taught me… a second time!

Hi guys! If you were following along, you may know that I was planning on going through another cycle of IVF so that I would have more embryos to work with (right now I have only one, which is amazing but I figured I’d do another round before the famous biological clock runs its course). If you are new to IVF and are looking for a general overview of it- like the process, what to expect, etc- you can start here (via IVF! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). I think I did a pretty decent job summing things up 😉

But now, having gone through IVF a second time, I learned even more about the process! And it would be my pleasure to relay not only my experience, but also some tips and tricks I learned along the way. Because I’m technically an expert now, right?

Some advice, in no particular order:

1) Take some time to think about your previous cycles. What went well, and what could have gone better? Since hindsight is 20/20, was there anything you would have wanted done differently? Or would like to do differently in upcoming cycles? I find this to be super helpful before starting ANY cycle! Sometimes the fertility monitoring can make us feel like a mere statistic, but no. We are individuals and what works for some might not work for others. And to that end…

2) Schedule an appointment to meet with your fertility specialist in person before starting a cycle, especially an IVF cycle.  It’s nice to actually sit down with you provider and re-group to make sure you are both on the same page. If you have ideas, suggestions or questions, now is the time! Infertility has made me feel so helpless, so it is important that I advocate for myself whenever I can. I can’t recommend this enough- please advocate for yourself, and question any time something does not seem right. The worst that can happen is maybe we misunderstood something and the provider can re-direct us. The best that can happen is that we help ourselves. At the end of the day, we know our bodies best.

3) Determine the anesthesia to be used and come up with a “pain plan.” Both of my retrievals were under conscious sedation- aka I was awake and alert (even though I technically was not supposed to be alert. I was alert alright!). Both of my retrievals were painful, I will not sugarcoat that. BUT- my second retrieval went a lot smoother. Here’s why. With conscious sedation, my nurse would alternate giving me painkillers and anti-anxiety meds through an IV.  During my first retrieval, she was pushing meds IN RESPONSE to SEEING ME in pain. For my second retrieval, I did not wait for her to see me whimpering in the chair. If I felt something that hurt, I would ASK the nurse to please give me something before the pain became unbearable. And yeah, I asked a lot. Call me whatever you want, but this method helped a lot more.  Again- advocate for yourself. I would say the worst pain is at the very end of the procedure, and the first few hours after. When my first retrieval ended, I was given extra-strength tylenol. I then had a 1-hour car ride home and the pain was still there. It did get better by the time I got home, but it was not fun. So I asked my doctor what to do about pain to prepare for my second retrieval. He actually prescribed a painkiller and allowed me to take it as soon as I was allowed to eat after the second retrieval. That time around, the car ride home was fine! I can’t speak to what the experience is like for general anesthesia, but I’m sure after the procedure, there is still soreness.

4) Don’t forget about constipation! Sorry if this is TMI, but after the retrieval, everything in my lower region felt sore. Having to poop was painful especially the first few days after the retrieval (is there a more sophisticated way of saying poop?). So here is my recommendation- on the days leading up to the retrieval, eat lots of fiber-rich foods. You want to be able to empty your bowels before your retrieval because if you don’t you will feel sore AND constipated. And that is no fun.

5) Put yourself first. Please! It’s important to be relaxed, so don’t push yourself during the days leading up to and even after the retrieval. It’s okay to decline social events for a little self care. On the other hand, if social events relax you, then go all out! In case you can’t tell, I’m an introvert 😉 But seriously though- it is very important to take the stim injections around the same time every day, and you don’t want to be stuck rushing home worrying if you’ll make it in time. These medications have to be refrigerated so it’s not like you can take them with you anywhere you go.

6) Do whatever you can to make you feel stress-free. For me, it was upping my organization game. I set alarms in my phone for all the different meds I needed to take. After I injected the meds, I would record it in my planner- the cycle day, the stim day,* the medication, the dose, and the side of my abdomen that I injected. This made it easy for me to rotate sides. Yes, I could have very easily used my memory, but it was nice to have an extra backup. It’s also helpful to have a written copy of things so you can look back.  *(So if my first injection was on cycle day 3, I would record that as cycle day 3, stim day 1. And then the next day would be cycle day 4, stim day 2, etc… )

7) It’s okay to be emotional. Infertility is no walk in the park! For my first IVF cycle I was very hopeful and in a great mood throughout. But having to go through another cycle again, I felt soooo defeated.  I would have to take a step back and re-frame my thinking so that I wouldn’t go down a rabbit hole of negative emotions. It took effort, but it was better than blaming myself for feeling bad. Instead, I accepted the fact that I have every right to feel bad, but for now, let’s try to focus on the good.

8) Be prepared to constantly feel “in limbo”- this applies to anyone in the infertility process. We try so many different ways to get pregnant, and while there may be small victories along the way (nice follicle growth, good hormone levels, even a positive pregnancy test) for me, it’s not a complete victory until the bundle of joy is in my arms. I hate to end on such a cynical note, but I’ve been through my fair share of disappointments. So for now, I take everything in stride.

I hope this was helpful! I would love to answer any questions you may have!

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