Science is an incredible thing. Thanks to years of advancements in infertility treatments, and IVF in particular, pregnancy is now possible for tons of women who otherwise may never be able to conceive.
With infertility affecting 6.7 million women of childbearing age in the U.S., advanced reproductive technologies are pretty game changing. When it comes down to it, IVF is the most common and most effective type of assisted reproductive technology, according to the CDC. But that doesn’t mean it always comes easy. IVF actually involves a lot of commitment, persistence, and potential roadblocks.
If you’re considering IVF to help you conceive, here are some important things you need to know.
1. IVF is very time consuming.
A full course of IVF usually takes between four weeks and two months, depending on how quickly your body responds to the various medications. And in that time, there’s a lot you have to do.
The first part of IVF is suppressing the natural menstrual cycle, which is typically done with a daily hormone injection or a nasal spray—some protocols use hormonal birth control. This lasts for about two weeks. The next step is ovarian stimulation, in the form of self-administered shots, one to three daily, for anywhere from eight to 12 days. Then, your doctor will administer a shot to prompt the eggs’ release, and see you again in about 36 hours for the egg retrieval process, a short outpatient procedure that requires IV sedation. The collected eggs are then immediately fertilized and left to grow for six days. Finally, one viable embryo is chosen, and implanted into the woman with a non-surgical procedure, done using a catheter. A little over a week later, your doctor will test to see if the embryo implanted successfully.
It’s important to note that on top of the medications and various procedures, you will need to be constantly monitored, with doctors appointments, blood tests, and ultrasounds, throughout the whole process.
2. The whole process can be very stressful.
While IVF has become a very streamlined treatment, it’s still a very stressful process. Which is why Alan B. Copperman, M.D., director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Mount Sinai Hospital and medical director ofReproductive Medicine Associates of New York, says he encourages patients to always ask questions. “The best way to combat stress is with information, it gives a sense of control,” he tells SELF. Doing research about the process and asking your doctor anything and everything will make you feel empowered and help ease the uncertainty and stress that’s typical during the process. “It’s stressful to get up early and get to the doctor’s office and potentially be late for work,” Copperman says.
3. But contrary to what you may have heard, being stressed out is not going to make it harder to get pregnant.
While past research has leaned both ways, it’s understood now that psychological factors contribute very minimally to fertility (if at all). “Stress doesn’t really cause infertility; infertility causes stress,” Copperman says. “If you have a healthy embryo, it’s going to implant in a healthy uterus,” Copperman says, whether you had a crazy day or spent hours meditating. “Civilization wouldn’t be around if times of stress and hardship caused an embryo to not stick.” Research does suggest that stress can lead to unhealthy habits like smoking that impact fertility, and impact overall well-being, so it’s important to get stress levels under control.
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