IVF has the potential to be an emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting experience due to the “high stakes” and “end of the line” nature of this treatment. Thus, patients need to consider thoughtful preparation before beginning the process. If you are a patient about to begin a cycle, here are some tips to help get ready for IVF:
1. Gather information and plan ahead – Good decision-making involves being well educated and informed about your body, the IVF process, and your clinic/treatment program. IVF is an anxiety-producing experience, and one of the best antidotes for anxiety is information and knowledge. The more you know and understand about the process, the less stress you may feel. Look for articles and other reading materials about IVF. If your practice runs educational IVF classes, attend as a couple and talk to others who have been through IVF.
2. Prepare for decision-making – It is important to anticipate decisions that may occur during IVF and discuss your options ahead of time. Sometimes these decisions may have moral and religious implications which you will need to consider and discuss. You will need to decide how many embryos will be transferred while maximizing your chances for pregnancy and minimizing the possibility of multiple babies. You will also need to decide what you will do with extra eggs and/or embryos, i.e. freeze, dispose, or donate them. If there is a possibility that donor gametes (sperm or egg) will be used in the cycle, it is important that you carefully discuss the issues involved in raising a donor-conceived child before starting the cycle. Counseling can assist you in exploring these issues and is a recommended treatment guideline of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine.
3. Tend to your psyche and your relationships – A long struggle with infertility may have taken a toll on how you are feeling about yourself, your marital relationship, and/or your relationship with others, causing distress and isolation. You will want to be in a good place emotionally and have your relationship on solid ground before starting an IVF cycle. Facilitate communication with your partner by setting a limited amount of time to talk about IVF, possibly 20 minutes every day, and then putting infertility talk aside. Discuss ahead of time your hopes and expectations of each-for example, whether you want to be together at appointments, on the day of the pregnancy test, and when you are expecting a call from the doctor. Counseling can be very helpful when you and/or your partner are feeling depressed, very anxious, emotionally stuck or in a rut. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so get help early before problems get too big. Garner your supports – Friends and family can be your best support or they can be your worst. Decide in advance who you will tell about the procedure by identifying who will give you the support you need. In hindsight, patients often wish that they had not told so many people at the start as it sometimes adds to the pressure. It can be helpful to designate a friend/family member as a “spokesperson” who will let others know, when you are ready, what is going on. In addition, look outside your usual support network to those who truly understand-other infertility patients. If it is available in your medical practice, consider joining an IVF support group, or check out other infertility self-help organizations, such as Resolve. The internet is, also, a ready source of infertility support and information, through various websites and “chat rooms”. A great deal of healing can come from others who understand.