Beginning the long road of IVF treatment can be very a very daunting time indeed. For most couples, having a family is a pivotal key point in their lives and their very future will be shaped by the children they may or may not have.
Prior to starting the procedure, it is wise to seek help before IVF so that you fully understand what is going to happen to you. This makes the whole process so much less daunting and can help reduce your stress level, which in itself is believed to be a fertility detractor.
Although IVF treatment is often successful, it usually takes more than just one try. Indeed although some women will conceive on their first cycle, many take several to conceive.
Before you actually begin, be aware that it is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Just thinking about what is about to happen in terms of the medical procedures such as ultrasounds, bloods, injections etc can leave some couples feeling worried. For some women, it is worth mentioning that the drugs you will be taking can sometimes adversely affect your moods and so being prepared for this to possibly happen is beneficial. In terms of help before IVF treatment, just being mentally prepared is a huge help
Help Before IVF
Although the protocols will vary from clinic to clinic and certain procedures will be tailor-made for the individuals, there is a general step by step method for treatment and the basics are below.
- Before the treatment cycle, you might be put on birth control pill as these are thought to reduce the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation and may improve your chances of success
- You may be asked to monitor your ovulation (by basal-body temp or using a kit). Following this, you may be placed on a treatment to help control subsequent ovulation cycles.
- The first “official” treatment day is the day you get your period. On the following day, you are likely to have an ultrasound and blood tests. This gives the doctors a baseline. The doctor will check your estrogen levels via your bloods and check the size of your ovaries via the ultrasound. If all looks well, then treatment can move forward
- The next step is to stimulate the ovaries with fertility drugs. This might mean up to 4 injections for between a week to ten days. (You will be given help before IVF injections so you know how to do this yourself)
- During this time, your ovaries will be monitored and medications adjusted if necessary. Once the largest follicle is between 16-18mm in diameter, your doctor might want to monitor you on a daily basis
- Next, you will be given a shot of hCG to trigger maturity. Timing is crucial and will be based on your blood tests and ultrasound. If it looks like all is not progressing well, and there is a chance of hyperstimulation, the cycle may be cancelled and alternative meds tried on the next cycle. This cancellation happens during about 10-20% of cycles, with the likelihood rising with age
- Retrieval of the eggs happens around 34-36 hours after you have received hCG. Prior to this, you will be given some medication to help before IVF retrieval which will mean you relax and most women do not find the procedure too stressful. The doctor will use ultrasound to guide a needle through the vaginal wall and into your ovaries. The needle will then gently suck up the fluid and oocyte from the follicle. There is once fertilized egg (oocyte) per follicle and the average number retrieved is between 8-15. After retrieval, you will be asked to rest for a few hours. You might experience light spotting and mild cramps.
- You will then return home and back at the clinic, the retrieved fluid will be checked for eggs and the quality assessed.
- Providing the eggs are suitable, your partner will provide a sperm sample the following morning and this is prepared prior to fertilization. One way to help before IVF treatment is to ensure that your partner stops drinking and smoking and eats a healthy diet to improve the sperm quality. The embryologist will select the best sperm and around 10,000 will be placed in a petri-dish with each suitable egg. The dishes are inspected after 12-24 hours to see if fertilization has taken place
- In general, about 70% of the eggs will have been fertilized and after 3-5 days, a pre-decided number of embryos will be transferred back into the womb. This number is usually between 2-5. The procedure is done via a catheter which is passed via the cervix. Some women will experience mild cramping. Afterwards, you will be asked to lie flat for a couple of hours before being allowed to return home. Any “spare” embryos may be frozen for future use
- After transfer, not too much happens and many couples find this very stressful. You are given much help before IVF but immediately afterwards, some feel as if they are suddenly lacking the support they had beforehand. This is not the case, it is simply that this stage is a waiting game until you know whether or not you are pregnant
- Usually, a pregnancy test is done 9-12 days after transfer and after that, you will continue to take progesterone supplements if the test is positive. You will also have follow-up ultrasounds and blood tests from time to time. Of course you will be monitored for signs of multiple pregnancy, with decisions needing to be made if you have 4 or more fertilized eggs
- If pregnancy is unsuccessful, then you will stop taking the progesterone and decide on the next step in consultation with your IVF clinic.
- If failure happens, bear in mind that this is common and does not mean that your next cycle will not result in a pregnancy. Try to remain positive and get as much help before IVF begins again as possible in terms of moral and emotional support.
Knowing the process as detailed above will be of significant help. However, there is much you can do before you actually get to the process itself. For example, much help before IVF relates to your diet and lifestyle. It is important to eat well and try to maintain a bodyweight which is within the healthy range for your height. Additionally, some doctors believe that eating organic foods can help as can avoiding trans-fats and foods with additives and that this can give particular help before IVF treatment if started up to 6 months before the first cycle. Other steps include stopping smoking and drinking alcohol and caffeine.
Read more about preparing for IVF treatment
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