13 Parts of Fertility Treatment I Didn’t Expect

You’ve decided to start fertility treatment, now what? We know you are probably feeling a combination of excitement, anxiety, and maybe even a bit of fear about what to expect.

There are things that happen during IVF that aren’t in any patient booklets or information sheets. Each step in a cycle brings a new set of questions, along with a varying range of emotions and cautious optimism.

To help shed light on all aspects of treatment, we asked our patients to share some of the unexpected aspects of IVF that no one told them about beforehand. Here is what they had to say:

      1. More people have had fertility treatment than you know. All the time we hear from patients that they didn’t want to tell anyone they were in treatment because they felt ashamed. Once they achieve success and have the courage to share that their baby was born with the help of fertility procedures, they are shocked to find out how many friends and family members also needed treatment to have a child. With one in eight couples experiencing infertility, it is likely that you know several people who have gone through treatment.
      2. IVF is a time commitment. Stimulating the ovaries means a lot of monitoring appointments every 1-3 days for two weeks, then a trigger shot to start ovulation, then the retrieval itself. Next comes providing the sperm sample, fertilizing the eggs, preparing the uterus for transfer, then an embryo transfer with your physician. It’s safe to say you'll be seeing your team a lot in the three weeks or so of your cycle.
      3. Positive thinking is powerful.  It’s not all science, clinical studies have shown that positive thinking is critical for a successful outcome. Starting a gratitude journal helps ease the stress and keep the mind on positive things. Also having a support team, attending support groups, doing yoga and reading others success stories as well encouraging someone else along their journey does wonders.
      4. Medication can seem tricky. The strict timing of the medication may come as a bit of a surprise to those who aren’t used to it. Patients have shared that mixing stimulation medication in vials also came with a learning curve. We know this process is new to most, which is why our nurses will practice with you until you feel ready.
      5. Needles take some getting used to. Most of us haven’t administered injectable medication before, so the prospect of sticking yourself with a needle twice a day can come as a shock. And yes, some women bruise as a result of the injections. The good news is that the needle is tiny and only meant to go beneath the skin, so the pinch can be easier to adjust to. Most patients share that they were surprised how little it hurt and how quickly they got used to the shots. (For step by step instructions on how to do injections, click here for pictures and helpful tips.)
      6. You’ll become very close with your nurse. There is an entire team behind you rooting and working for your success - your physician, embryologists, lab professionals and ultrasound techs, but your nurse will likely become your closest confidante. That is who will show you how to administer your medication, check in with you during treatment, and ensure you have everything that you need in this process. You’ll likely be communicating via text, phone, or email regularly during your cycle.
      7. The cause for infertility may be unknown.  Even with the abundance of testing, advanced technologies and a physician team working together on your behalf, the reality is that 35 percent of patients who go through treatment are diagnosed with unexplained infertility. We find this just as frustrating as you do, but please know we are employing every tool possible towards your success.
      8. Support can be found in uncommon places.  One patient shared that her family was very judgmental, and she was unable to confide in them that she needed help to have a baby. Even many years later, her family does not know that she used IVF to have her twins. After holding it in and feeling isolated and alone, she found a surprising amount of support and caring in a co-worker. She found that it was easier to share with someone who wasn’t a close friend or family member.
      9. The two-week wait feels like two years. After going nonstop with appointments, medications, and procedures, it is a shock to the system to wait and do nothing for two weeks. It feels like forever and this is usually when anxiety and fear kick into high gear. Having support during this time is even more critical.
      10. Asking for help is hard. When treatment is unsuccessful, it is devastating. The truth is that the biggest obstacle patients face is staying in treatment until they achieve success. If you feel you are losing hope and feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to ask for help. We have three infertility-focused behavioral health specialists as well as free support groups, classes, and webinars.
      11. Being discharged to your OB can leave you feeling lonely.  Patients often share that they get so used to daily appointments and blood tests with their fertility team that they feel almost out of control when they are discharged to their OB and have four weeks to wait until their first appointment. Prepare your support team and let them know that you’ll need extra support during this time.
      12. Healing emotionally after treatment is a process.  Celebrating a young pregnancy brings its own fresh set of emotions, worries, and cautious optimism. If you’ve experienced unsuccessful cycles before, it is easy to almost expect something to go wrong. It is an adjustment to switch to the mindset of an expecting parent, be sure to be patient and kind to yourself in this process.
      13. You may have extra embryos.  With the focus on having a baby, many patients haven’t even considered what they plan to do with their extra frozen embryos. Many simply keep them frozen until they have made a decision on whether to have additional children, donate the embryos, or discard them. This can be a very emotional decision and one that will take time to determine.

Learn about our patient education program, Fertility Empowerment Series, that includes free classes, webinars, seminars, and support groups.