An IVF Survival Guide
For some people, falling pregnant is as easy as a wink across the dinner table. For others (hello, like me), it’s years of trying, countless tearful periods and eventually a series of invasive tests and not-so-fun injections.
Me and my partner, like one in nine couples in Australia, have faced our fair share of fertility challenges. But the funny thing about IVF (well, not laugh out loud funny) is that once you start talking to people about it and going down internet wormholes, you’ll find a huge group of people going through the same thing.
I was lucky enough to discover close friends were doing IVF at the same time as me and a whole host of local Facebook support groups (if you’re in Melbourne, try IVF Support Group Melbourne Australia). The support and knowledge passed down to me from others has been invaluable; my friend Mel told me to take warm socks and snacks to my egg collection (game changer).
So, whether you’re reproductively challenged (like me and my partner), deciding to freeze your eggs, going it alone with a sperm donor, or in a same-sex relationship, chances are you’re a little unsure about the process and wondering how you’re going to get through the emotional and physical toll of IUI or IVF. This is totally normal. Hopefully my experience of IVF will help arm you with a few suggestions for taking care of yourself and wading through the uncertainty of it all.
Get Clued In
Unfortunately, some fertility specialists are incredibly time-poor and will only go through the basic ‘need-to-know’ stuff with you. Arm yourself with a little knowledge on the process of IVF and what to expect before going into your appointment. Get ready to ask questions. Lots of questions! I felt more at ease knowing exactly what would be happening every step of the way.
Go Easy On Yourself
It’s okay for your first reaction to pregnancy announcements to be that of sadness and red-hot jealousy. The person who stewed, ranted, and moped after seeing a pregnancy announcement on Instagram was my least favourite version of myself. But trust me, it’s only a temporary version of you. If you can, connect with friends and step away from your phone during this up-and-down emotional time.
The Highs And Lows Of Social Media
Before I started my injections, my friend Mel said to me, “have you even injected Gonal F if you haven’t posted a video of it on Instagram?”
Yes, she was being ironic, but she isn’t totally wrong either. I decided to keep quiet online during our IVF rounds (and if you choose the same, that's totally your prerogative) but a lot of people on Instagram are really forthcoming with the whole process, which is helpful to watch if you have no idea what to expect.
A couple of accounts that I found helpful were @lucyspeaches and @leighacampbell. Oh, and following the hashtag #ivfjourney was enlightening too.
And if you need a pick me up after some doom-scrolling, just Google celebrity couples who have gone through IVF. Counting yourself among power couples such as Chrissy Teigen and John Legend, Courtney Cox Arquette and David Arquette, and Michelle and Barack Obama will lift your spirits.Skin Support
The best thing I did for my skin during the IVF process (hello hormones!) was establish a good routine before the injections started. I didn’t introduce anything new and kept everything fairly calming. Much Brighter Skin was definitely a game changer for me, I applied every morning before moisturiser, and it helped calmed all of those crazy hormone changes.
If I needed a pick-me-up, then a hot bath (only do this pre-embryo transfer) and a face full of The Removalist would set me back on track.
Some Quick Do's And Don’ts
Do: Build yourself a cheer squad. Whether this is only your partner or a close friend, make sure you have someone in your life to be a ray of positivity. My partner nailed this brief. Even when I was on the floor sobbing, he was there with equal parts comfort and positivity.
Don’t: Look up every tiny symptom you have to see if it’s an early sign of pregnancy. (..But if you do, also don’t be too hard on yourself. I certainly couldn’t resist the call of Dr Google.)
Do: Look into alternative remedies if you want to. IVF is a huge money suck so if you can’t afford additional appointments then don’t worry. I personally found the relaxation of an acupuncture session in the lead up to and straight after my transfer incredibly beneficial. I also scheduled in a relaxing facial during the two week wait to help keep me zen.
Don’t: Worry yourself sick during your two week wait like I did. Try to book out your time so you’re busy with friends, surrounded by people and doing things you love. I can’t promise the wait won’t drag but I can promise that you will get through it. You're made of strong stuff.
I don’t know where you’re at in your fertility trek, but I do wish you the very very best and am sending you obscene amounts of baby dust.
Author's note: I know that due to current hospital restrictions in NSW and - up until very recently - VIC many people may have had their IVF cycles cancelled or postponed. This is a really tough time and I'm thinking of you and hoping that things can get back on track soon. You've waited long enough!