What to know before starting IVF
If you’re thinking about starting fertility treatment like IVF, it can be overwhelming. You might have questions about where to start, what kind of treatment makes the most sense for you, how much it’ll cost, and when to start treatment.
Although you’ll work directly with a fertility doctor for treatment, it might be a good idea to meet with your GP first or bring it up during your annual checkup. Having a team of people that think about your health holistically can really make a difference.
While you’re in the early stages of planning fertility treatment, there are a handful of things to consider:
Think about how much you want to share… and who you want to share it with
Going through fertility treatment is deeply personal. While you’ll get comfortable talking to medical professionals about your body, hormones, and fertility, you might not feel like talking about it with friends or family. If you’re getting persistent questions about when you’ll start a family, you probably really don’t want to share your fertility journey.
Some people decide to keep their treatment private. It can help manage personal stress, plus others’ expectations and well-meaning, but ultimately frustrating, questions. Other people want to share their journeys from the very beginning, having loved ones root for them from day one.
Many people find it helpful to journal or document their treatment as a reminder of what they’re accomplishing, how much they’ve learned and grown, and their journey toward becoming parents.
There’s no right or wrong way to share information about your treatment. The bottom line: always put yourself and your well-being first. It’s not selfish, we promise.
Get familiar with the IVF process
There’s so much IVF information — and jargon! —- that it can be hard to know where to start. Some parts of IVF are covered more than others, like embryo transfer or the egg and sperm being fertilised in a lab. Some people are surprised to learn about the length of hormonal treatment before egg retrieval or the total cost of treatment.
Our suggestion: embrace your curiosity! Start a Google Doc with links you find helpful, questions you have, and things to research further. If you have a partner, encourage them to do research, too.
While nobody expects you to be an expert when you go to a fertility consultation, having a basic understanding of the process will help you ask better questions and feel confident in your clinic of choice. That leads us into the next important point…
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Whether it’s your first or fifth time going through IVF, you’re bound to have questions about your treatment. Your medical team should answer any of your questions completely, openly, and without judgement. Many clinic staff members will happily answer questions after hours by email or text — they want you to know you’re in good hands.
Monitoring appointments can be fast-paced and overwhelming, and it can be tough to remember all of your questions. Our suggestion: note down your questions on your phone ahead of time or email them to your doctor before you come in.
Make a list of your medications
If you take medication regularly, it’s a good idea to make a list ready of each medicine’s name, dosage, and how often you take it, so that your fertility doctor can make sure there won’t be any side effects with the medication they’ll prescribe. Depending on your situation, your doctor will recommend either continuing or adjusting long-term medications during treatment.
Be sure to get advice from your GP or specialist before stopping any medication you’ve been taking for some time. It can be dangerous to stop taking some medications without tapering down first.
Leave supplement recommendations to the pros
There are SO many supplements available, with many promising incredible results. At best, many don’t help, and at worst, they can harm you or your future foetus.
When it comes to supplements, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that will suit everyone. Ask your fertility doctor and GP for their recommendations based on your age, health, and goals. This is not a DIY operation.
Be mindful of your BMI
First things first: BMI (body mass index) is an incomplete measure of health. It doesn’t account for muscle mass, fat distribution, and metabolic health.
BMI is calculated using your height and weight. Most fertility clinics have a range of BMIs they’ll accept to move forward with fertility treatment. Having a BMI that’s too low or high can cause potential complications and make it harder to get pregnant.
It can be incredibly difficult and demoralising if your BMI isn’t within range for your clinic of choice. If you’re struggling with this, reach out to your GP, who can review it with you and suggest support services, if needed.
If you smoke, it’s never too late to quit
Quitting smoking is challenging, but it’s absolutely possible.
Smoking can impact your fertility before conceiving a child — and smoking during a pregnancy can cause harm to you and your child.
The good news: if you smoke, it’s never too late to stop, and there are many affordable options available to help you quit. In many cases, your body begins to recover in meaningful ways after you quit smoking. There are loads of brilliant support groups out there that can support you.
Clear your schedule… and take time for yourself
IVF takes time, effort, and headspace. Clearing time in your diary during the weeks and months ahead can really help.
It can mean taking time out of your working day for your appointments and travel time, but also your downtime.
It can be hugely beneficial to block out regular mental health breaks for yourself, including being able to decompress and socialise with people that will energise you.
Everyone’s different, but making those decisions early on (and organising your diary accordingly) can really help support your mental wellbeing while you go through treatment.
Give yourself time to digest and process everything
That’s a lot to consider. Go easy on yourself and take your time as you consider this phase. Talking to friends, family, and medical professionals can help build up a supportive community around you — and even the smallest changes can make a big difference.
Quick plug: The Gaia Community is a group of like-minded people considering and going through fertility treatment. Join the Community for support, interesting facts, and live chats and events with experts.