After going through three rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF), the entire process has become second nature to me. But with that first one—I remember those overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and confusion like it was yesterday.
Along the way, I've collected all the tips, tricks and ways I organized myself throughout my cycles to share with you. Here are 16 ways you can help to prepare yourself for your own IVF cycle.
1. Get Your Finances In Order
In preparation for the enormous price tag of IVF, try and pay down that credit card debt as much as you can before you start. Put together a budget and stick to it. If you can, put away as much money as you can afford into savings. A baby is the goal, but coming from someone who spent all of their money trying to conceive one, it’s no fun to be a new parent and broke.
2. Think About How You'll Save For Your Cycle
While you are getting your finances in order, think about how you will pay for your cycle. Does your insurance cover anything fertility-related? Will you take out a medical loan or a second mortgage? Does your 401K or equivalent have an option to borrow against? Do you need to start saving or hold a fundraiser? Perhaps you have a rich relative? IVF is expensive and the financial side needs to be addressed long before you actually transfer. (And just kidding about the rich relative part. But if this is you, consider yourself lucky!)
3. Do Your Research
This likely isn't a new tip, so why include it? Because everyone who has gone through IVF will tell you the same thing: You have to be your own advocate. Getting informed is your first step to being able to properly advocate for yourself. Research different clinics and figure out how the payment process works and what the success rates are for each clinic. Start to become more knowledgeable about the range of fertility procedures.
4. Make a List of Questions To Ask Your Doctor at Your Consultation
It’s overwhelming meeting your doctor for the first time when you decide to pursue IVF. Write down your questions a few days before your appointment, and make sure to bring a pen and actually write down your doctor’s answers, because your IVF consultation will probably be an overload of information.
5. Practice Your Injection Technique
I’m a nurse who’s given plenty of injections. However, giving them to myself was quite a different matter. Ask your clinic nurse to help teach you, and if giving them to yourself is not your thing, get your partner or support person on board, or find someone who has experience.
6. Ask Your Questions
Your doctor and the clinic nurses are there for you. That’s what you’re paying them for. Don’t ever feel like you’re an inconvenience, or have a stupid question. Many clinics have someone available on call for after hours as well.
7. Find Others Who Are Doing IVF at The Same Time as You
Having a “cycle buddy,” someone who is going through IVF at the same time as you, can be a life-saver. You'll have someone to lean on who is going through the same thing to bounce ideas off of or share injections tips and tricks with. Some of my closest friends came about because we were going through IVF simultaneously.
8. Keep a List of Relaxation Techniques
It’s always good to have this handy list to pull out when things are getting overwhelming. Having some ideas as to what helps keep you calm so you can avoid doing things like stress eat or some other unhealthy habit you may use to cope. Think about what will be effective for you.
9. Create a Calendar of Your Shots and Appointment Schedules
This one is so important. Most clinics have a booklet they give you with a calendar you can use to write in medication times and appointments. The injections can be given multiple times a day at different doses, and this is the best way to stay on top of things and avoid missed doses. With IVF, timing is important. Create your own schedule if you don’t receive a template, or if another method works better for you.
10. Decide If You Will Test Early—or Not
Some people start using home pregnancy tests right away and some refrain from any testing until they hear the results of their blood tests. Both are perfectly fine, but if you’re a person like me who gets a little obsessive over that pink line and drives themselves crazy, you may need to be mindful of early testing. Thinking about how you might feel in advance might help a bit with those two-week wait nerves.
11. Decide Who You Are Going to Tell
Your best people are those who will be there to uplift and encourage you. Decide in advance with your partner who you will tell about your cycle and those who aren’t supportive don’t need to know. This time is about you and it’s important to surround yourself with the positive influences in your life.
12. Nurture Your Relationship
If you’re partnered, take some time now before the flurry of doctor’s appointments takes over. Get out on dates, keep in touch with each other on how you’re feeling, and find new ways to reconnect. You will need your partner when going through your cycle.
13. Don't Plan on Starting Intense New Exercise Routines
It's not time to start marathon training or take on a crazy new routine. Walking is a great exercise for when you’re going through IVF. It's likely that you'll be advised to refrain from heavy lifting and anything that twists your body because you need to be mindful of your enlarged ovaries while on stimulation medications.
14. Take Your Vitamins And Focus on Healthy Foods
A healthy body and mind can only move you forward. Some doctors will recommend different supplements, or you can just make sure you’re covered with a prenatal vitamin. Eat fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins and try to maintain a healthy BMI. Regardless of any impact on your treatment, feeling good during the process is important.
15. Prepare For Setbacks
Not everything is going to go according to plan. Your hormones aren’t going to cooperate, you aren’t going to have perfect follicle counts, or the pharmacy will be closed when you run out of medications. Something is going to happen, so try and roll with the punches.
IVF is so overwhelming. Remember to stop every once in a while and take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
Preparing for your IVF cycle takes a lot of patience and organization. And let's be honest, can you really be fully prepared for it? Likely not! But hopefully, it will help make the road a little smoother and a lot less confusing.