**This post discusses, fertility treatment, drugs and injections. It’s intended to be helpful but if you feel you’ll find any of this upsetting, please don’t read on.
The information comes from my own experience and that of the women in the support groups I’m part of (they gave their permission of course)**
The day after my first IVF injection felt like an out of body experience. I was taking part in a fashion show at the Festival of Vintage and spent most of the day hiding out in the make-shift changing room, trying to feel normal. I can’t put my finger on what was wrong – I was just completely out of sorts. The day after that I cried. I cried on the train on the way to work, held it together in the office and when I got home that evening I cried for three straight hours.
Beth was the only one at home with me for most of that time. She brought me a cup of tea, covered me in a blanket and then climbed underneath it with me. She stayed there by my side until Phill got home and I cried with him too. He gave us a both a much needed bear hug and basically sent me to bed. I have no idea why I was crying that day but it certainly wasn’t because I didn’t feel loved.
It was something of a baptism of fire for our family and I wish I’d had more insight into how IVF may affect us.
I like to know things…not knowing makes me nervous. I often say I could handle the end of the World as long as I knew what time it was going to happen! I know that there are others like me so on the off chance that a soon to be IVF lady is reading this, I’m going to tell you, as honestly as I can what to expect.
The first stage of IVF (for most women) is down reg. This is where you give yourself a daily injection to switch off your normal monthly cycle and as the clinic’s often describe it ‘make everything quiet in there’. While going through this stage:
- Somedays you might feel completely normal
- Somedays you might feel nothing at all – a lot of ladies say they feel quite numb
- Somedays you might feel like you made a mistake starting this process
- You may find that you’re hotter than usual (think menopause)
- You may find that you feel the cold more than usual (think menopause)
- You may find that your skin behaves strangely – rashes, itches, redness, spots (think menopause)
- You may find hair in places you’ve never had it before (think whiskers)
- You may find that your hair is thinning or even falling out (try not to think about it!)
- You may find yourself feeling a little more tired than usual
- You may be a little forgetful
- You may feel like you have PMT
- You may find small things more emotive than usual
- You may experience bruising at your injection site (I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t, so it’s not inevitable)
- You may have a much heavier and more painful period than usual
- You may experience nothing out of the ordinary at all!
Things that help:
- Timing – as the injections are taken at the same time every day, don’t do them early morning or midday. Choose a time when you’re usually at home and comfortable.
- Patience from loved ones.
- Warm baths with lavender to calm you
- Comforting warm drinks
- Treats. It’s hard work feeling like you have a case of PMT for a good few weeks so be kind to yourself. Buy that new lippie, eat that chocolate cake and go on that big night out.
- Plans! it’s perfectly fine to crack on as normal so make plenty of plans with friends and family and stay busy. You can still have a drink at this stage so why not arrange a nice meal or girl’s night – you deserve it!
- Work – again being busy helps and gives you something else to concentrate on. It’s up to you whether you tell people about your cycle. A lot of women can get through this stage without people thinking anything’s amiss.
- Talk. Talk to your partner a lot! Tell them how you feel and talk to them about how you’ve felt throughout the day. Find other women who know what you’re going through. The internet is awash with support groups and I’ve found them invaluable. If you feel you can, tell a few select friends. There are low points but highs aswell and you’ll want to tell someone that knows what it means to you. I had a secret Whatsapp group of 4 girlfriends that helped me through.
Once I got over the initial fear of stabbing myself(!), the first set of injections (mine were Buserilin) weren’t that bad. I didn’t bruise and once I’d got used to being a bit sluggish, questioning my emotional responses to just about everything and removing hair from my chin – it wasn’t that bad! It just felt like a bit of a backward thing to be doing. I wanted to get pregnant so I was ‘switching myself off’?? Like most women I was counting down the days until down reg was over and I could start the next stage…stimming!
Firstly just incase you haven’t had enough menopause talk, let me tell you what the stim medication is made from….the urine of post-menopausal women. No I’m not joking! IVF ladies really freakin’ want a baby!
You’re asked to start the stim phase when your clinic is happy that your womb etc is ‘quiet’ and you have some follicles on your ovaries that look as though they’ll produce decent eggs. You start injecting the new medication (mine was menopur) every day, at the same time as your down reg. The down reg stops your body getting over excited and ovulating and allows the stim medicine to make you grow lots of lovely eggs, while the clinic keeps control of your hormones.
This part kinda sucks.
Firstly the injections are a little more painful. The medicine is thicker, so it’s harder to push the plunger down, you get a slight burning sensation and if you haven’t bruised already, you may do now. This medicine is intended to stimulate your ovaries to create lots of follicles containing lots of mature eggs. Guess how that feels!? If down reg puts your body to sleep, stimming wake it up, shakes it, screams in it’s face and call it names! While going through this stage:
- You may gain weight all over
- You may feel overly emotional
- You may be quick tempered
- You may feel isolated
- You may suffer from migraines
- You may suffer abdominal cramps
- You may get spots
- You may get severe hot flushes
- You may feel faint
- You may struggle to sleep
- You may have upsetting dreams
- Your hair may become very brittle
- Your skin may become dry
- You may find dark patches on your skin (notably hands and forehead seem to be the most common?)
- Your abdomen may become swollen
- You may experience nothing out of the ordinary at all!
The combination of down reg and stims does weird things to your mind and body. Imagine your car has clamps on but your revving the engine. One day a huge bodybuilder strolls over and starts pushing the car forward. Each day they’re joined by another body builder who pushes the car even harder. Your car wants to move forward more and more each day but it can’t…eventually it feels like it might topple over. That’s what this phase felt like for me – like my body was being pushed really hard but the brakes were on. You have to be kind to yourself during this phase. It’s very difficult and stress is something that you just don’t need.
Things that help:
- Everything that helped during down reg times by 10!
- Quiet time and extra sleep – at this point you might need to say no to some invites as you may feel very tired
- Pain killers – check with your clinic as to what you can take, most say to avoid anti inflammatories
- Warm baths – not to hot though, you have very important eggs growing 🙂
- Comfortable clothes and flat shoes
- Try to laugh and if you feel great, do ALL THE THINGS! Go out for tea, enjoy yourself, because stims can be sneaky and make you feel rubbish just when you thought you’d dodged the symptoms *raises hand* like they did to me!
- Coconut oil – great for dry skin and rubbing onto sore, swollen abdomens
- Acupuncture – this is highly recommended but make sure you get recommendations and go with a practitioner that’s worked with IVF ladies before.
- Taking supplements can help you feel pro-active about egg quality. I took a prenatal vitamin and Phill took a zinc supplement for months before we started and we both took CoQ10.
- Take a trip to the hairdresser. Mine knew about my IVF and it was great to go and just allow myself to talk about it. They never made a comment about how horrid my hair had become and just made me tea and gently did what they could! Often they’d do something extra, like curling my hair or creating a fabulous up do – anything to make me feel glamorous. When I found out I was pregnant, my hairdressers, Jill, Lindsay and Jen were some of the first people I told. Ladies I know you’ll read this – once again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
- A baby purchase – this is controversial as some IVF ladies would advise against this. However there is a school of thought that feels you deserve to make a small purchase and feel the joy of finally doing so. I did it and it helped me believe that the process might just work – it made the imaginary baby a little more real.
Stims normally lasts around 10 days but everyone’s different. Once your clinic are happy that you have sufficient follicles enough to produce a good supply of eggs, they’ll tell you to take your trigger shot. This will probably be the shot that you’re most happy to give yourself and hopefully it’ll be your last injection for a long time!
**Following my trigger shot I developed OHSS which is a potential side effect of IVF. I found this very traumatic and at one point my IVF cycle was cancelled to protect me. I know I talk about everything and anything but this isn’t something I’m ready to do publicly just yet. If you have any questions that you’d like to ask me privately, please feel free to drop me an email**
Your trigger shot tells your body to ovulate. It’s timed very carefully because exactly 36 hours later the clinic will collect those eggs that you’ve been working so hard to grow!
…to be continued
PS. If any IVF veterans have anything to add to this then please do 🙂