Going ahead with IVF treatment is a big step, and although an exciting one, the fear of the unknown can be quite overwhelming, especially when you start to think about how treatment is going to leave you feeling
Each person goes through their own unique emotions and there are many different protocols, but we’ve put together a brief guide on what you may physically feel at each of the common stages of the process.
Preparation prior to treatment
In order to tailor your treatment to your body, your doctor will need to do some tests to assess your ovarian reserve and the health of your reproductive system. This will involve some blood tests and ultrasound scans.
The ultrasound will be an internal one, where a probe is inserted. It’s a similar process to having a smear test but it should feel less uncomfortable.
Pausing your menstrual cycle
Depending on the results of these tests, your doctor may decide that suppressing your menstrual cycle is the best way to begin your IVF.
This means that you’ll be given drugs to temporarily shut your ovaries down that you take each day, putting you into temporary menopause. These drugs may be oral, via a self-administered injection or through a nasal spray. Your doctor will discuss your best options with you.
You may start to experience the symptoms of the menopause including mood swings, headaches, hot flushes and night sweats. These should only be temporary during this part of your IVF cycle, which is normally around two weeks.
The next stage involves kickstarting your ovaries back into action again so that they produce more eggs than usual (usually, they produce one egg a month). The idea is to stimulate them so that they produce as many eggs as possible.
This stage usually lasts around 10-12 days, and each day you will need to self-inject the combination of hormones and drugs that your doctor has prescribed for you. Throughout this stage, you will need to visit your fertility clinic regularly, possibly daily, for close monitoring with blood tests and ultrasound scans.
Your clinic will show you how and where to inject. It’s usually in the stomach or upper thigh, and our guide will give you more help in administering that first and daunting injection.
You may experience some bruising at the site of your daily injections, but you can minimise this by choosing a slightly different site each day. You may also notice a tiny bit of bleeding after you’ve injected but this should clear up quickly.
These drugs can also cause emotions and mood swings similar to PMS. More seriously, these stimulation drugs can cause a rare condition called Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome, or OHSS, where the ovaries are overstimulated and produce too many eggs.
This can cause a mild bloated feeling but in serious cases can cause pain, vomiting and blood clots. Your regular clinic visits should prevent this from happening – if your medical team see any sign of OHSS developing on your blood test or ultrasound results, they will discuss your options with you.
If your ovaries produce ripe eggs, then the next stage is egg collection. This is done under sedation where you’ll feel sleepy.
Your doctor will pass a long, thin needle into your vagina, through the wall of the vagina, and into each ovary using ultrasound to guide them. The whole process usually takes around 20 minutes but you may experience some cramping similar to bad period pains during the procedure and for a day or so afterwards. You may also notice some vaginal bleeding. It’s advisable to rest for a day or two after your egg collection procedure.
Once your eggs have been collected, you can choose to have them frozen. If you’re going ahead with fertilisation straight away, your eggs will be inseminated with your partner’s or your donor’s sperm.
They will then be checked the next day to see how many have fertilised. If you have fertilised eggs, they will be left and checked each day for up to five days to see if they become blastocysts, or embryos, ready for transfer into your womb. During these few days, your doctor will prescribe progesterone in the form of daily injections or daily vaginal pessaries which will help to prepare your womb for embryo transfer.
At this stage you can also choose to have your embryos frozen.
If you’re having a fresh transfer, one or two of the embryos will be transplanted into your womb. This is a process much like a smear, where your doctor will insert a long, thin instrument into your vagina, through your cervix and into your womb. Your embryo(s) will be transferred into your womb in a process that takes around 15 minutes. You should only experience some mild discomfort, if any, during this procedure.
The two week wait
You’ll then have the two week wait to see if your embryo(s) have implanted. During this time, you will continue with your daily progesterone injections or pessaries. Your clinic will be on hand regardless of whether your IVF has been successful or not, to help you through your next stages.
We wish you all the luck in the world, we’re here for you. If you have any questions if you’re considering fertility treatment, just email us at email@example.com