16 key tips on preparing for IVF cycle number one

When Nathan and I had been trying to conceive for years, gone through fertility testing and then finally been told we needed IVF, we decided to just accept that this is what life had decided to throw at us. Our first cycle we were completely unprepared for.

You can do a lot with

‘you got this’ and positive attitude,

but it doesn’t hurt to make things a little easier.

The IVF cycles that we went through were full of physical and emotional demands. Your body is pushed to it’s limit, which takes it toll physically and can impact all facets of life as you know it.

Those day’s of crying at cartoon dragon’s because they were sent home (I cried at How to train your dragon movie in case people haven’t seen it or don’t get the reference) became more common and Nathan got the brunt of my emotions, but he dealt with them admirably.

But by the second cycle we knew what to expect and how it would impact our lives. So, we want to share what we learnt to help you whilst preparing for IVF as effectively as possible. We hope this can reduce your stress and how make things as easy as possible.

Tips fpr emotionally preparing for IVF

Tip # 1 – Tell at least a few people that you trust what you are about to embark on

IVF is hard work, you are likely going to need some support outside of your partner through this. If you want to learn more about the emotional impacts of IVF check out our article. So find people in your life that you trust or join online support groups to help you through the process, one I found particularly helpful was the Hope Squad on Facebook .

Tip # 2 – If possible, schedule some leave from work

I know this is not always possible for everyone and taking the full 5-7 weeks off is unlikely to be practical for almost anyone. But if you do have some annual leave then scheduling it from your hCG trigger through to 3-4 days after implantation will likely be beneficial for your mental health.

Although remember this is an intense process and some of the side effects can be intense so if you are not feeling well either emotionally or physically your GP will likely be able to sign you off work if it’s appropriate, so don’t be afraid to take the time you need.

Tip #3 – Buy an IVF diary

You will go through so many feelings and emotions and for me, my memory seemed to get worse through IVF which has also happened during pregnancy strangely. So, using a diary to keep track of my appointments,  medications, how I was feeling, what I was thinking and what I was thankful for was amazing.

I now look back on these diaries with pleasure and enjoy reading about an experience which somehow now feels distant. It also helps me remember all the good things that happened during the process and how wonderfully supportive my friends and family were.

Tips to help prepare for the physical impacts of IVF

Tip # 4 – Stock up on frozen water bottles, gel ice packs and cold water

All of the medications list hot flushes as side effects and over 80% of women experiences this at some stage of IVF treatment, so make sure you’re prepared. I put water bottles in the fridge for drinking, ice gel packs in the freezer for my head. Also remember that you can use a water bottle filled with very cold water for cooling instead of its usual use.

Finally, as a last resort running your wrists under cold water for 3-5 minutes can reduce your body temperature, because the blood supply is so close to the skin there.

Tip #5 – Understand the process and the medications you will be taking.

The IVF process and the medications can be quite intense for the unprepared, do your research to help you know what to expect from the IVF process and the meds. You can check out our articles on the IVF process and timeline and what can you expect from IVF medications for more information.

Tip #6 – Consider acupuncture and or massages

I used acupuncture and hot stone massage for my successful IVF cycle. Now I cannot be sure if this impacted the result. But what I can be sure of is that it certainly helped me relax.

I came away from my massage and acupuncture appointments feeling chilled and ready for the day, which helps not only physically with tiredness and general aches and pains but also emotionally because I felt ready to continue.

X Tips for preparing for IVF practically

Tip #7 – Stock up the fridge and freezer with balanced nutritious foods

During this process you will not feel like a 2-hour trip to the shop for food and spending an hour and half each day preparing food. So, do this in advance.

Cook some nutritious balanced meals which are easily frozen in single or double portions which you can simply put in the oven or microwave for those days you are feeling particularly bad or just too tired to cook and shop.

Try and include a balance of nutrition and that you have a good portion of fruits and vegetables. We’re not a believer of miracle foods and diets for fertility and IVF as the evidence isn’t there. Although, some foods do contain a good number of vitamins and minerals which have shown benefit for fertility so, be sure to include these. They are evidenced in the Harvard fertility diet research which indicated 4 things are shown to have a positive impact on fertility:

  • folic acid
  • vitamin B12
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • healthy diets

Tip #8 – Prepare for travelling

One thing people don’t always consider is the amount of travelling you will do with IVF, you will be at the clinic for appointments, tests, ultrasounds and treatment. You will be going to the pharmacy and maybe your GP, this means that you will be in the car a lot if your clinic isn’t next door and many of the clinics are in big cities so traffic can be a problem. These are some things to remember:

  • Have plenty of change for parking or have a apps on your phone
  • Have a positive and relaxing playlist for the journeys
  • If you can choose your appointment times, try and fit them outside of rush hour this will mean the journey is less stressful.
  • Leave in plenty of time as running late adds pressure to an already worrying period.

Tip #9 – Clear space in cupboards and fridge

You will need space for your medication. Some need to be kept in the fridge and others you need a walk-in wardrobe just for storage. I jest, but you do get a lot of medications and storing those, your sharps box ad everything else took an entire kitchen cupboard for us.

Tip #10 -Get some looser clothing

This is a big one, I wish someone had told me when I was preparing for IVF! I found that the medications and hormones made me feel and physically bloat, it was like period bloating on steroids. I actually had to go and buy a load of loose-fitting clothing and a couple of tops and trousers a size up, so make sure you have a few of these in your wardrobe for those days you seem to swell up like a balloon.

Tip #11 – Get a good water bottle that you like and enjoy

I know this sounds like a silly one, but I experienced increased thirst on a number of the IVF medications, furthermore, evidence shows that a good water intake does improve fertility and the chance of implantation.

Stay hydrated!

I used a nice bottle which showed how much water I had drank so I could make sure that I was getting enough even when busy.

Tip #12 – Have a calendar that both you and your partner can see

Be this on your phone or your normal home calendar. Having one you can both see where you can list all your appointments so you both know what is happening and what time you both might need off work is really helpful.

 

Tip #13 – Expect change

Especially around stimulation, dates can change, you may need more ultrasounds to check follicle growth, retrieval day may move back or forward in date depending on your response to the medication. So, be ready for change. If you can, ensure some flexibility in your diary around these dates in case you need to move everything around. I was lucky that my work rota team were very understanding, and I work a job that has shifts so when my retrieval day moved forward both times, I had ways and means of changing my shifts around. If you are comfortable enough to, telling someone at work, particularly your manager can really help with this and reduce your stress. Worse comes to worst though, you may need to take a sick day or two to cover these eventualities.

Tips from Nathan for how men can prepare for IVF

Rachel asked me to think about how I prepared and how I could have done it better. Men your role is an emotional support one, but don’t underestimate how hard this can be and how it can impact you.

Tip # 14– Find some support for you!

If you need some support but don’t know anyone who has had fertility problems – which is very common for those in their first cycle, then join a men’s fertility support group so that you can talk to people who have also been through this to help you deal with the emotional impacts of male infertility or supporting a partner through treatment.

One of the groups which helped me and is  a men’s only group on Facebook can be found here. Being able to vent, rant and explore your feelings can mean you can support your partners more effectively

Tip #15 – Schedule some fun or relaxation

This one is important, you will have some time when the impacts of the medications are minimal, you don’t have an appointment and you’re not at work. When this holy trinity of great things come together you should go out and have fun together.

This helps keep your mind off things, helps you both relax and most importantly, helps keep your relationship strong which IVF and infertility can have unexpected impacts upon.

Tip #16 – Expect the unexpected

By this I mean Rachel said and did some very strange things during her IVF treatment which were out of character, so don’t take them to heart. But also for you.

A little story. On our first cycle of IVF Rachel very kindly got a me a little card that she gave to me just before I had to give my semen sample on the day of egg collection, which, innocently said

“the most important wank of your life”

I didn’t expect this to do anything but when I went into that sterile white room, it’s all I could think about and worry set in. Now I have had a lot of SA’s(Semen Analysis) so I’m a pro at creating that sample.

But that day it took me 38 minutes a lot of chaffing and a dripping brow. You only have 45 minutes and then you have to explore ‘other options. So be prepared that even if ‘normally’ you have not problems, that mental state can have surprising results. 

We both hope that some of these tips help you both in preparing for your IVF cycle. It’s an exciting and terrifying time in equal measure so a little bit of preparation can make things substantially easier.

We wish you all the luck in the world with your IVF treatment and we hope you get the result you are dreaming of.

If you have any tips which you think people should know about leave them in the comments and we will be sure to include them in these tips and tricks.

If you got this far then I hope you have found at least a couple of these tips will be useful. If you are on this article then it’s likely that you are about to embark on a really challenging journey and we think these articles might help you:

IVF process – This is a quick guide to the IVF process what you can expect we’ve put the ivf timeline on this post (to the right for desktop users or to below for mobile). This takes you step by step through each stage of the IVF cycle.

IVF medications – This is a big one. The IVF medications can have side effects and impacts you might not be expecting. Learn what you can expect from your meds and how they impacted me.

Evidence based tips to improve sperm health – Men, you’re IVF journey is a little less involved than your partners; although this is not to be trivialised; making sure your sperm is the best it can be is important.

Self Advocacy and Informed consent in IVF – Make sure you are asking the right questions and that you fully understand the treatments and it’s risks. This is an area that is less commonly considered before embarking on IVF.

The costs of IVF – If you are having your treatment privately then this article gives you a detailed breakdown of the costs of IVF

IVF Addons Series – This is the central article for advice on all IVF addon treatments, their evidence and whether they’re worth it for you.

Our journey – If you haven’t already give our journey a little read to understand what we experienced through the IVF journey.

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