Things you should know before IVF

When we started the IVF process we went into it pretty relaxed. I know several people who have had long and drawn out IVF treatments and yet for some reason I thought it was going to be easy for us. I don’t know where this unfounded optimism came from. It now seems as though it was misplaced arrogance, but really I think it was naivety.

I used to read about celebrity couples who have had IVF babies, perhaps later in life than normal, and I used to think it was easier for them because they just handed over the money and then they had a baby.

I don’t think that any more.

Now I know that when you go through the IVF process, whether you’re famous or not, it is long, it is stressful, it’s painful at times and even after all of that you’re not guaranteed a baby.

When I see the likes of Chrissie Teigan speak openly about the struggles of IVF treatment I applaud her. I wish more people spoke the truth.

Here’s a few things I learned about IVF that I didn’t know about before I started:

  • It takes a lot longer than I ever thought. There are two “protocols” for IVF treatment, a long one and a short one. If you want to know more about these I suggest you ask your doctor or read Zita West’s excellent book. In any case, my doctor used the long protocol on me so this meant 1 month of being on the pill, almost 1 month of daily injections to “shut down” my reproductive system (a bit like menopause), about 10 days of stimulation injections, egg collection under general anaesthetic, 5 days before they can transfer the fertilised embryo/s back in and then another 10 days-2 weeks to wait to see if it worked. That’s around 2.5 months. And that doesn’t count in any unexpected delays. It might even be longer in some cases.
  • It makes you feel (and sometimes look) like a whale. All those extra hormones running about your blood give you all sorts of weird physical and emotional symptoms that make you feel anything but hot. And sometimes you look pregnant which is awful because you’re not and it’s the last thing you want people to think about you.
  • You can’t have sex. Hahaha! Yes, you’re trying to make a baby but can’t have sex at times. Oh the irony.
  • You don’t want to have sex because you feel like a whale, so that’s really the only advantage to that. There is no advantage for your partner.
  • It gives you cellulite. Well it did for me anyway. I’ve always been the envy of my friends with my long, slender, athletic legs so you can imagine the trauma for me when I realised I was growing cellulite on my thighs at an alarming rate (I have suggestions for getting rid of it later by the way). Hormones are a bitch.
  • There are so many side-effects. Most of them horrible. I was constantly thirsty. Had headaches. Became horribly bloated and had all kinds of tummy/digestive troubles. And I think I got off lightly.
  • You go a bit crazy. All of the unknowns really drive you nuts. How many eggs am going to produce? How many will fertilise? Should I eat this? Is this symptom normal? Will it really compromise my eggs if I have this cup of weak tea? What if after all of this it doesn’t work and I never have a baby?   That last one is the worst.
  • IVF makes or breaks couples. It’s really tough on your relationship, but we’ve been fortunate that, in our case, it’s brought us closer together, not further apart. My husband is amazing.

This list is not to put you off having IVF, but just to give you a taste of what’s to come. So that if you do wake up one day and find a bunch of cellulite has turned up you will at least know why. And know if you’re one of the lucky ones with few symptoms then I might just hate you a tiny bit.