IVF Tips- Before, During, and after

IVF is rough and that’s the complete, honest truth. If you’ve never been through it or if it’s your first time, there’s so much to know about the process. Unfortunately, I will not be able to get into ALL the details now (you can find that here), but I hope this list of IVF tips will help prepare you for the journey ahead.

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Before IVF Tips

There is a lot more to IVF than the process itself. There is so much prep work that happens behind the scenes. These are my best IVF tips for preparing yourself for the journey ahead. The more prepared you are, the better you will feel when you are actually IN the process.

1. Do Your Research

IVF tip number one. It’s number one for a reason. It’s the very FIRST thing you need to do when beginning your journey. You need to be researching EVERYTHING. This is going to take some time and energy, but it will be totally worth it! When looking at and researching multiple fertility clinics, you may want to find the answer to these questions to help you make your decision.

  • Will you require me to re-do any testing before we begin IVF?
  • What are your success rates as a doctor/fertility center?
  • Do you do fresh or frozen transfers or both? Do you have a preference?
  • What is the average price of a cycle of IVF at your clinic?
  • Is ICSI included in that price or is that an extra fee?
  • Do you offer any discounts? Military? Teacher?
  • When is payment due?
  • Do you let embryos grow to day 3 or day 5 (or more)?
  • How many embryos will you allow me to transfer?
  • Who will be my point of contact during the process and how quickly can I expect to hear back from them?
  • Can my partner be present for all major procedures (egg retrieval, transfer)?
  • Will I be under anesthesia for egg retrieval?
  • How soon can we begin?

Look at Other Clinics

When I was preparing for IVF, I decided I wasn’t going to settle and go with the one and only fertility clinic near me, but instead, I chose to have 4 IVF consultations with 4 different clinics and I am SO GLAD we did. We actually ended up going with a clinic and doctor out of state. I fell in love with her and I just had a feeling in my gut that she would do a wonderful job and….she did! Trust your instincts. If a clinic doesn’t feel right…don’t settle. This affects your chance at a growing family and your happiness after all!

You should also research things like:

  • What testing you need to be done prior to your cycle (I.E. ERA, Uterine Biopsy, Blood Clotting Disorder, etc…)
  • The benefits of assisted hatching
  • If you should do ICSI
  • If you will require more than the standard medication to be successful- (I.E. Lovenox)

2. Prepare Yourself Mentally

Anyone who has gone through IVF will tell you how mentally and emotionally exhausting it is. There are so many ups and downs in the process, most of which you have no control over. You’re just along for the ride, hoping and praying everything will turn out okay. It’s important to do everything in YOUR POWER to prepare yourself for this emotional roller coaster.

Rally the troops

First, everyone needs a support system. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, personality, or residence describes you. IVF is not for the faint of heart so you NEED to decide who you will share this journey with. Maybe you are reading this right now thinking that you will not tell anyone in case it doesn’t work. Let me be frank. You need to tell someone. You need to talk to someone about the appointments and injections and pain (mentally and physically). We all love our partners, but you NEED more. You need someone else. Find that someone or someones to cheer you up when you are feeling down.

I will add a word of caution here though. When you DO begin telling people about your journey, be prepared for hurtful comments. The more information you give people, the more they will feel entitled to ALL of the information so just be careful. It’s okay to guard your heart, but you also need to talk about it. Prepare yourself for these types of comments, by reading one of my other posts here.

Keep a Journal

I will be honest…I did not do this and I am so MAD I didn’t. This is a scary, but also a very exciting time in your life. Wouldn’t it be awesome to look back on how you were feeling and remember the experience? My husband and I like to look back on that time with great fondness, but it would have been really neat if I would have written it all down. So…if you are into writing or journaling at all, I encourage you to try this. It might be a great stress reliever which is also great for your mental health!

IVF tip #2- Keep a journal. This is a picture of an IVF specific journal.
This fun IVF journal might be a fun place to write down all your thoughts!

Prepare for the Worst

Of course, this isn’t the easiest topic, but you should know by now that IVF will NOT guarantee you a baby. I certainly wish that wasn’t the case because I feel like anyone who spends the time and emotions on IVF deserves a baby. You need to mentally prepare yourself for the possibility of a failed cycle or transfer. Perhaps, plan ahead. Talk with your partner to decide what the plan is in case that happens. For me, I can handle failures better if I have a plan of action going forward instead of sitting and sulking with no idea what to do next. Make a plan when you are in a good place so if and when you aren’t in a good place, you can refer back and perhaps give yourself a little bit of hope.

Be Grateful

This one is going to sound cheeeeeeeesy, but I promise it’s a good one. I have found that when I have an attitude of gratitude, my mood is always so much better. Instead of thinking about how hard the process is, think about how grateful you are to afford IVF and have the opportunity to have a baby. Instead of thinking about all the time you have invested into the process, be grateful you have that time in your life to spend.

I think you get my point. Be grateful. It will naturally cheer you up!

Get out

This can mean many different things. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the upcoming journey, go on a small trip with your spouse. (We did this after our first failed transfer and it was great!) If you can’t afford that or don’t have the time, go take a walk outside and get some sunshine. Take a break and unwind. Get out in nature and relax. You need to take care of your mental health during this very stressful time and getting out to clear your mind may be just the ticket!

3. Prepare Yourself Physically

The way someone prepares physically for IVF can vary from person to person. There are many opinions about what people should do in terms of physical preparation, but I will give you my take on it.

Don’t make any major changes and generally keep doing what you have been doing. There are a few exceptions to this. If you consume a lot of junk food, then you NEED to stop. If you smoke or do drugs, you will also need to stop doing that for obvious reasons. Any drastic changes other than those mentioned above can put a strain on your body. Also, pay close attention to your IVF calendar and guidance from your RE (reproductive endocrinologist). My IVF calendar specified when I needed to stop exercising before my egg retrieval. Make sure to always consult your doctor if you are unsure about what to do.

4. Order & Organize Your Medication

This is one of the most important IVF tips I can give you. It’s imperative to order your medication sooner rather than later. These keep for a while so don’t worry too much about them expiring. If you are worried, talk to your specialty pharmacy about it. There’s nothing worse than not having your meds when you need them. If you do not stick to the schedule your clinic gives you, there might be a chance you are negatively affecting your cycle which is never good. Don’t put this off!

Once you have all your medication, it’s important to have some sort of organization method otherwise you will have vials and syringes lying around, getting lost. I used this 5 Drawer Organizer and love it! It’s small enough to put on a counter if you wish or a linen closet or even under your bathroom sink. The 5 drawers make it easy to organize things. Here’s how I organize mine:

  • Drawer #1: Vials
  • Drawer #2: Needles
  • Drawer #3: Syringes
  • Drawer #4: Alcohol Prep Pads
  • Drawer #5: Gauze

I also want to add that it’s important to organize your paperwork & calendar. I just used a simple folder from Walmart and it did the trick, but you can also go the more cutesy route and use a decorated binder with color-coded tabs. Can you sense some regret here? ha!

5. Do Some Meal Prep

Let’s be honest, if you’re anything like me, there are just some days when I don’t feel like cooking dinner and we end up just spending more money to eat out. Spending more money probably is something you’re looking to avoid right now with all of your fertility so this IVF tip might just be an important one for you. This tip might especially be important for you during egg retrieval season and/or the first few days after your transfer when you should be laying low and relaxing. For some amazing Meal Prep Ideas, I suggest you check out MealPreponFleek– BONUS, her meals are very healthy as well!

If you hate grocery shopping as much as I do, you could even consider ordering a meal kit. Here are some of the more popular ones (make sure to look for promo codes on their sites because many sites will have one):

Blue Apron

Hello Fresh

Home Chef

Sunbasket

6. Begin Taking Prenatal Vitamins

It is never too soon to begin taking your prenatal vitamins. I would begin taking them at least a month before you begin your IVF cycle, but maybe even sooner. I began taking my prenatal vitamins a couple of months before my cycle started. My philosophy is: it can’t hurt. So, go out and get yourself some prenatal vitamins. I enjoy taking these ones because 1.) they taste good 2.) they contain the natural form of folic acid- folate. Folate helps prevent neural tube defects (I.E. Spinal Bifida). Also, if you suspect you suffer from MTHFR, you need to have Folate rather than Folic Acid in your prenatal vitamins.

During IVF Tips

1. Follow All Instructions from your Physician

This is number one for a reason. It may just be the most important IVF tip while you are actually in the thick of it. The more you get into the IVF process, the more you learn and understand just how much of a calculated science it is. If things are not done properly as your physician orders, you may risk ruining your cycle which is no fun for anyone…especially you since you’re the one paying for all those meds. Here are some tips that have helped me stay on schedule.

  • Get a pill container like this one to ensure you are taking all your pills at the correct time each day.
  • Make multiple copies of your IVF calendar and put them in prominent locations around your home to help remind you what is on the to-do list each day.
  • Set an alarm on your phone to help remind you when to take your pills and/or do your injections
  • Set events on your calendar on your phone (with an alarm) to remind you of doctor’s appointments

Always be in constant communication with your doctor/nurse. If you are unsure about anything at all, make sure you contact them ASAP. If it is after hours and you have a question, most clinics have an emergency number you can call. Don’t let the word emergency scare you. If you are truly concerned for your cycle and have a pressing question, call them. That’s what they are there for and after all…you are paying them a lot of money to be there for you!

2. Keep It FUN

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, IVF is super stressful, but you need to make sure you find time to relax and enjoy the journey. As I mentioned before, Jeff and I went out of state to do our IVF cycle. The few trips we made were some of the most fun times we have had together in our (almost) 10 years of marriage. IVF WILL consume you if you let it. Don’t let it get in the way of your social life! I will never forget the time we went to our friend’s house for dinner and brought my shots with us to do there since we wouldn’t be home in time to do them. Don’t let IVF cripple and affect your life more than it already does. Go have fun and take your mind off the stress. Here are some suggestions to keep it fun:

  • Take up a new hobby with your partner
  • Read a good book
  • Go on a short vacation-perhaps even a staycation
  • Go camping in your living room
  • Take one last BIG trip before a baby hopefully comes- IVF schedule permitting (of course)
  • Go out to dinner with friends
  • Take a weekend trip to visit family

3. Participate in Self-Care to Reduce Your Stress

It’s okay to take some time to focus on you…the way you want to focus on you! Girl, if you want to go get your hair done because you haven’t in a long time…DO IT!

  • Schedule an appointment to have your hair done
  • Call up a friend and get your nails done together (mani or pedi)
  • Get a massage
  • Go to a Sea Scape Salt Room- No idea what this is? Find out here!

I know how important going cheap is so I suggest looking for some of these services on Groupon. If you haven’t heard of Groupon, it is an app where you can find local deals on anything! From products to experiences to food, they have it all!

4. Maintain a Healthy Diet

According to the Fertility Institute, scientific studies have found improved IVF success with diets centered around the following types of food:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Plant-base proteins
  • Whole Grains
  • Fish
  • Monosaturated Fats

It’s important to maintain a healthy diet during IVF. Your body needs its proper nutrients to grow healthy eggs and later to allow an embryo to implant and grow into your miracle baby. If you have a difficult time cooking and eating healthy, might I suggest you get an IVF-specific cookbook to make it a little easier? You don’t have to find healthy meals, you can just crack open a cookbook that you KNOW will help you!

Here are a few IVF Cookbooks:

IVF Meal Plan– I know someone who actually has this one and likes it!

It Starts with the Egg Fertility Cookbook

The IVF Diet

5. Engage in Light to Moderate Exercise

It’s important to note that Light to Moderate is your focus here. If your body is too focused on workouts, then how do you expect it to grow healthy eggs and a baby? Make sure you consult your physician to see what they suggest, but here are some ideas for light to moderate exercise.

Light Exercise

  • Shopping
  • Walking Around the Office/House
  • Making the Bed
  • Washing Dishes
  • Eating
  • Stretching

Moderate Exercise

  • Brisk Walking
  • Hiking
  • Yoga
  • Roller skating
  • Gymnastics
  • Horseback Riding

Consult your IVF calendar for exercise instructions. My calendar told me when I needed to stop the strenuous activity before my egg retrieval. You can find my IVF calendar here.

6. Improve Your Sleep

This IVF tip is probably a less obvious or thought of tip. At least it was for me anyway. Sleep is an important part of your health. If your body doesn’t have an adequate amount of time to relax, your health could be at risk. Good sleep improves your immune system, reduces stress, keeps your mind sharp, and lowers your risk for serious health problems (I.E. heart disease). According to Psychology Today, women who suffer from insomnia are 4 times more likely to suffer from fertility problems.

Here are some tips to help improve your sleep:

  • Have a consistent bedtime routine
  • Make sure your bed, pillow, and blankets are comfortable
  • Turn off your electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime
  • Take a melatonin supplement to help you sleep better
  • Sleep in a cool and dark room (try to keep it around 70 degrees)
  • Limit your caffeine intake during the day
  • Relax and clear your mind before bed with a warm bath or shower
  • If you suspect a sleep condition, make sure you get checked out by a physician

7. Involve your Partner

I feel like everything is better with Jeff involved so I tried to make sure he felt included in the IVF process even though most of it had to do with me and my body. Each couple’s situation is different, but here are some ways you can include your partner:

  • If you can let go of some power, let them give you your shots
  • When you are feeling crappy during this process, let them comfort you
  • If it’s possible, have them come to your appointments with you
  • Make sure they know they are wanted and loved

Honestly, this is a little difficult because it is all about you and your body, but these are some things you may want to consider.

8. Avoid Extreme Temperature on Your Abdomen

This one may or may not be obvious, but it’s a good idea to limit extreme temperature to your abdomen. When going through the IVF process, it’s important to take care of your body. Avoid hot showers, baths, and hot tubs. Hot temperatures on the outside can heat up the temperature inside your body affecting your eggs. Just be aware of this. I am always in the thought process of, what could it hurt? And the answer is nothing, so just avoid it.

Post IVF Tips

1. Stay Positive

This IVF tip just might be the hardest one on the entire list. Every little twitch and twinge will make your brain swirl with thoughts. Sometimes the thoughts are positive and sometimes the thoughts are negative. Do what you can to not let the negative thoughts creep in. It’s not over until it’s over. So until you get a negative on your beta blood test, there’s still a possibility that you are pregnant.

Additionally, only speak with positive people or people who have had success in their own IVF journey. There is no need to unnecessarily put yourself around negative people. Nobody has time for that!

2. Stay Busy

When I say “stay busy”, I don’t mean overdo it but keep your mind busy with other things because like I mentioned above, IVF can consume you if you let it. Here are some ideas to keep your mind off of it:

  • Find a new favorite TV show
  • Work on a puzzle/crossword
  • Start a project (home, small craft, etc…)
  • Organize your house (this one came to mind because when I don’t have control over something, I begin to clean and organize my house)

3. The Progesterone Shots Don’t Last Forever

This is probably the most obvious IVF tip in this list and the title explains itself, but it’s true. There IS a light at the end of the tunnel. By this point you probably are no longer afraid of that nasty needle. You’re probably just really annoyed, but I promise the time goes faster than you think it will. They will be over in no time. Hang in there. You’re so close!

4. Choose Your Pregnancy Test Wisely (If at all)

Some choose not to take a pregnancy test before their beta test (kudos to you), but if you’re like me then…you can’t wait that long. I would caution you on what type of pregnancy test you use. If you use the lined test and have to squint to see a second line, but then you’re not sure if you’re making things up in your head, you might want to save yourself the trouble and purchase a test that says “pregnant” or “not pregnant”. There is something very important to be aware of here though. If you do not have enough HCG in your system yet, you may get a negative with this type of test when you are actually pregnant.

If you want to know as soon as you possibly can then you need to buy a lined test. With those tests, you can also see the progression of your HCG levels. Your tests should get darker every day.

*DO NOT rely solely on the results of at-home pregnancy tests.

**Also, it’s well-known that the lined pink dye tests will give you more accurate read than lined blue dye tests.

5. Stay off the Internet

This one might be the most important IVF tip I will give. You need to STAY OFF the internet and stop googling all of your symptoms. Here’s the deal. If you are thinking and feeling like you aren’t pregnant, that’s the conclusion you will come to after googling your symptoms. The same goes for a positive. If you think you’re definitely pregnant, you will be convinced of it by the internet. Instead of giving yourself a big sense of disappointment or getting your hopes up…STOP! I know it’s easier said than done…trust me. I’ve been there before, remember? Do the best you can, it will help you feel better.

You got this. I hope these IVF tips helped you. It’s a long journey, but I promise it will be worth it. Keep your chin up and never give up hope! For some more helpful IVF tips, visit the Blossom Clinic who is based in Portland, Oregon and if you have any IVF tips to add to the list, please comment below…I would love to read them!

“The Strongest Women Become the Strongest Mothers Before Their Children Are Even Conceived.”

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