Continuing Your IVF Journey | Fertility Out Loud

Continuing Your IVF Journey: 5 Things to Keep in Mind

By Connie Stark, RNC, C.P.C., Lead Fertility Coach on Fertility Outreach

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult your doctor, or a mental health professional, for the most appropriate treatment.

For some, an in vitro fertilization (IVF) journey may be the next step for aspiring parents when planning their family after an infertility diagnosis. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the updated definition of infertility is, “a disease, condition, or status characterized by any of the following: 

  • The inability to achieve a successful pregnancy is based on a patient’s medical, sexual, and reproductive history, age, physical findings, diagnostic testing, or any combination of those factors.
  • The need for medical intervention, including, but not limited to, the use of donor gametes or donor embryos to achieve a successful pregnancy either as an individual or with a partner.
  • In patients having regular, unprotected intercourse and without any known etiology for either partner suggestive of impaired reproductive ability, evaluation should be initiated at 12 months when the female partner is under 35 years of age and at 6 months when the female partner is 35 years of age or older. 

Nothing in this definition shall be used to deny or delay treatment to any individual, regardless of relationship status or sexual orientation.” 

Understanding your “why” for needing IVF treatment is essential, and includes learning about the medical terms, treatment options, and procedures to help navigate the details needed to move forward. This article explores the importance of maintaining a proactive mindset throughout the IVF journey and how it can positively impact your physical, emotional, financial, and social well-being. Here are 5 things to keep in mind.

1. Mindset: Understanding the IVF Journey through Terminology for Decision-Making

A proactive mindset involves informed decision-making, discussions with your fertility specialist (Reproductive Endocrinologist or RE), and having a clear treatment plan. To navigate the IVF journey, it’s essential to understand the terminology involved. Words and definitions used throughout the process may have different meanings depending on where they’re used, in what context they’re used and with which type of patient they’re used. 

Some key terms used during an IVF cycle include:

  • Protocol: the medication and monitoring process and timeline given to you ahead of starting your cycle, typically focused on stimulating follicles (eggs), and includes things to do at-home (such as taking medications) and in-office (such as blood tests and ultrasounds)
  • Egg Retrieval: the procedure in which follicles (eggs) are retrieved from the ovaries
  • Fertilization: the process in which the eggs retrieved are fertilized with sperm in a laboratory
  • Embryo Transfer: the procedure in which an embryo (fresh or frozen) is transferred back into the uterus
  • Implantation: the process in which a fertilized embryo that was transferred implants into the uterine lining (to hopefully become a viable pregnancy)

Additional considerations, such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and preimplantation genetic testing (PGT), may also be part of the decision-making process during an IVF cycle and should be fully understood. Back-to-back retrievals, embryo or egg freezing, sperm or egg donors and male factor considerations may also be important to understand and discuss when considering success rates and planning for the number of children you desire. 

Once you have all of the knowledge of what’s involved in your specific IVF journey, you will be better able to proactively move forward with a mind that’s ready for what’s to come.

2. Physical Well-being: Nurturing Your Body Throughout the IVF Process

Taking care of your physical health during the IVF journey is essential. Some ways to do this include maintaining a healthy diet and healthy weight, taking a daily prenatal vitamin (typically with folic acid), exercising regularly, stopping unhealthy substances (like tobacco and alcohol) and keeping your environment safe (avoiding toxins and chemicals). There may be additional supplements that your doctor recommends, such as vitamin D and CoQ10, that can improve your overall physical wellness in preparation for fertility treatment. Always speak with your healthcare provider before starting any supplements.

Understanding the physical demands of IVF and how you can nurture your body throughout each part of the process, from injections to retrievals to transfers and everything in between, should be added to your list of questions to discuss with your fertility doctor when planning. Also make sure to ask about any potential side effects that you may experience at each step so you’re prepared. 

Prioritizing physical self-care during the IVF planning process will help as you continue your journey to grow your family.

3. Emotional Resilience: Managing the Rollercoaster of IVF 

There’s no denying that your emotional health can go through all sorts of ups and downs throughout the IVF journey. For many, this path to parenthood involves stress and anxiety mixed with hope and excitement. Proactively managing your emotional health becomes crucial. Engage in activities that promote relaxation and reduce stress levels, whether that’s hiking, yoga, acupuncture, dancing, or journaling. The first step is to proactively find the right activity or technique that works best for you.

Building a strong “IVF team” can also help with emotional health. Focus on building a strong relationship with your fertility nurse and clinic team to ensure you have a reliable support system. This becomes very valuable when managing and planning the IVF journey. Your team may also include the support of a mental health specialist. Professional counseling may be most helpful if you and/or your partner are feeling depressed or anxious. As the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) states, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so get help early before problems arise.” 

Understanding the emotional impact that a fertility journey can have, from planning your IVF cycle to any potential challenges you might face to anticipating pregnancy test outcomes after a two week wait, may help turn the emotional rollercoaster ride into a smooth journey with balanced emotions. 

4. Social Connections: Building a Supportive Network

Maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner and building social connections are essential aspects of improving your social well-being throughout the IVF journey. Try to proactively communicate with your partner, friends, and family about your journey. 

As mentioned, nurturing a relationship with your clinic team and nurse can create connections and foster a supportive environment. These people will help manage your timeline and protocol alongside your fertility specialist, allowing you to hopefully feel more taken care of. 

Fertility coaches can also be helpful for social support, as they offer personalized guidance and support that focuses on you, your needs, and your healthy living. Support groups are another great option for peer-to-peer connection, and to help you feel less alone on what can feel like a lonely journey. Just ensure the group has a facilitator with fertility expertise, ideally someone who can offer credible resources and information.

5. Financial Planning: Budgeting for IVF Success

The financial part of the IVF journey is a reality that cannot be ignored. Proactively plan for costs associated with this type of fertility treatment, such as medications, appointments (monitoring or otherwise), procedures and any other potential “additions” that might come up once the cycle has started. Most of the time, when it comes to fertility care, the patient is responsible for covering the costs of treatment. In some instances, health insurance can help. Be sure to fully review your health insurance plan ahead of starting fertility treatment to see if anything related to fertility is covered. If it is, you may need pre-approvals before starting treatment (including ordering medications, attending appointments, or moving forward with any procedures). 

Discuss budget constraints and explore financing options with your fertility clinic. Having a clear understanding of the costs and a well-thought-out budget contributes to a sense of financial stability and reduces stress and anxiety associated with the financial aspect of IVF. Also seek out additional financial resources, such as grants and loans, that may be available to you to help cover costs. 

Maintaining a proactive mindset during your IVF journey is key to achieving optimal changes in various aspects of your life. Whether you’re considering physical well-being, emotional resilience, building social connections, financial stability, or overall well-being, a proactive approach empowers you to engage and manage the challenges of IVF with strength and optimism. These five key aspects can enhance your overall IVF experience, help you restore and feel your best self while planning to grow your family.   

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