So, you have all your supplements down pat (you really should start these 3 months before you start IVF so quick get onto it if you haven’t), your doctor has got your meds tweaked just right for you, the nurse has gone through with you how to give your injections, you’ve purchased a cute little pineapple t-shirt and you’re in the IVF gang… now what? Cycle Day one arrives, and you have no clue what to expect. I have done 7 stims cycles now and honestly each one has been completely different. My last cycle I was exhausted from about day 3, I had constant headaches, I was in pain (due to some cysts that popped up during the cycle). All I wanted to do was lay down and I did not do any dishes until I had nothing left to eat off. This cycle, I didn’t get headaches or fatigue until day 10 and they weren’t nearly as bad as last time although they did come with nausea and the only other thing I can say really is that I have had less of an appetite. And the day before my egg collection I basically did a full house clean – mopping and all!! Every person will be different and even the same person on different cycles will be different. But here are a few things that I have used through out every cycle…
This is a must have. You will probably get crampy and you will get bloated. When I explained how I had felt during my first cycle to my fertility specialist he laughed and said ‘that is because you ovulated 7 times’. And most women will have more eggs than me. Your tiny little ovaries are working HARD!! Also from a Chinese Medicine perspective having a warm uterus is important – this is where the ‘must keep your feet warm after transfer’ theory comes from because your reproductive organs are on the same meridian as your feet (or so I’m told).
For me this was mostly for comfort and a sense of soothing. But also, they are warming (see above re. warm) and some will support various side effects too. I do not drink caffeine. The only caffeine I will have is from some dark chocolate or cocoa powder, so my teas are all herbal. I like drinking Chamomile when I need to relax. I also get insomnia sometimes – particularly around times of stress which IVF is – and I find it helps me to settle back to sleep if I am having issues. I like peppermint to settle my tummy or if I am having digestive issues. I always get very constipated during STIMS and then usually after egg retrieval I will have a really pain episode of diarrhoea – fun times I know. Not everyone will have this, but most people (that I have connected with) report some kind of bowel issues. I drink ginger tea if I’m feeling queasy, which I sometimes do during stims and definitely did during my TWW due to the progesterone. I also will drink Rooibos tea for a nice black tea alternative.
Music has been a very important focus for me during my cycles. I’m a Christian so many of the songs I listen to build my faith and help me to relinquish control. IVF is a messy ride. It’s the thing you want most in the world and you do everything you possibly can to make it work, but ultimately it’s all a bit a scientific guess to find which part will work for you. So being able to hand over my fears and trust in something other than myself has been really helpful. I do also have other non-Christian songs which boost my courage or help me focus on why I’m putting myself through all of this. As well as on overall playlist, I also usually have one song that becomes my ‘Cycle Song’.
Pre-prepared meals/Someone to cook for you
Like I mentioned earlier, this cycle I haven’t really had much fatigue and I’ve been able to keep up with the cooking and cleaning, etc. (I have a very demanding job so I don’t have a lot of spare time during my week). BUT in previous cycles I have not been able to do anything except work (even then I’ve had to finish early sometimes), shower and go to bed. I really want to keep my nutritional intake at a certain standard. So, my strategy as a single woman has been to batch cook my meals ahead of time and have yummy, healthy meals in the freezer. If you have someone around who can cook for you that’s awesome!
Do you know where the fries thing comes from? It’s about the salt. The salt is supposed to help prevent hyperstimulation, which is dangerous, painful and can delay your transfer. Somehow, this has morphed into a theory about helping with transfer but from what I’ve researched it started as a post egg retrieval thing and has evolved into a symbol of unity in the IVF community to post a Macca’s fries pic on transfer day. Hydration and electrolytes (which support hydration) are super important!! A few days after my last transfer I had an insatiable thirst – I drank 10 litres one day! And then I started feeling unwell. I purchased a ‘gastro’ electrolyte formula and drank that for a few days, and it helped with the thirst. I also had another cycle where I had ‘resistant’ ovaries that were repeatedly flushed during the retrieval. The trauma to my ovaries caused extreme pain from the moment I woke up in recovery. They pumped me full of fentanyl and sent me home. After sleeping off the pain killers all afternoon I woke up still in agony, unable to pee and fainting because my blood pressure tanked. I ended up in hospital for 2 days on an IV drip and pain meds. If you want your fries go for it (I always get a Grill’d burger and chips after my retrieval because it’s my favourite and I deserve it!), but for the benefits I’d prefer to go with something a little more scientifically backed than the humble (but awesome) Macca’s fry. Electrolyte solutions generally have more to them then just salt. So, I generally just take a dose or two after my retrieval (and make sure I drink a lot). And then I will have them for post transfer this time too. A sports drink will have similar impact but most of them contain far more sugar than I want to be consuming.
Show to Binge Watch
I know lots of people say they are fine after retrieval, but I usually need at least a few days to recover. There is also potentially a lot of time where you will not have the energy for much more than laying on the couch watching TV. I either try to pick a series that is long enough that it will take me through my cycle, or I pick a theme! Last time I watched 90s movies, another time I watched classic musicals.
Friend on Speed Dial
There will be moments when you will not have it all together – if you do please contact me and let me know how you did it. The hormones amply everything! Sometimes you will just need someone to vent or cry with. And not to knock all those amazing friends and family members out there but honestly, I think having someone who has gone or is going through IVF is helpful. You really can’t understand IVF unless you’ve been there so sometimes well-meaning friends and family say unhelpful things which may be upsetting when you need someone to help you through the low moments. I have some of each.
Oh, my goodness! The constipation is real! Please do yourself a favour and keep up with the fibre. I make up my own mix of psyllium husks and ground flax seed.
Corrie Ten Boon, who’s family was captured and imprisoned by the Nazi’s in World War II for hiding Jews in their family home, said that she was grateful for the mosquitos because they kept the Nazi officers away from their barracks. So in the spirit of Corrie I am going to be grateful for COVID-19 in allowing me to be at home (in close proximity to my bed/couch) during my IVF cycles and the ability to wear active wear and oversized jumpers to work! I did 3 cycles, commuting 3 hours a day, in office attire last year and I have no idea how I did it! My bloated tummy appreciates active wear, that’s for sure. I had actually purchased some really floaty dresses for work for this year but never got to wear them. Just think comfy, whatever that looks like for you.
Gau Sha Tool
My acupuncturist has me hooked on Gau Sha. In the beginning of COVID restrictions my acupuncture clinic was open but anywhere to get a massage was closed. I was stressed, I was working in not ideal ergonomic conditions due to the rapid start to working from home and my neck was a mess. Gua Sha saved me!! I get a lot of headaches during my IVF cycle and it’s so nice to grab a little oil, my gau sha tool and give my neck, jaw and the top of my shoulders a good loosening – particularly when you want to avoid pain killers (it would be even better with a partner who could reach more spots!).