How long should YOU wait between IVF cycles?
Since starting this website and even before from the people we hyave met on our journey, one of the questions that we have been asked a number of times is
How long should I wait between IVF Cycles?
Well, I am afraid the answer is it depends. I know this isn’t the answer anyone wants. Medically you should wait until you have had 2 bleeds. This would be known as back to back cycles and for some this might be right, but for others delaying the cycle might be the best decision you could make. Let’s explore this in more detail.
What you may experience doing back to back (continuous) IVF cycles
After our first cycle of IVF this is something that Rachel and I discussed in detail, we weren’t sure which option would be right for us. Rachel wanted to just keep going, but knew it would be a little traumatic on her body and I wanted to wait a little bit longer to give her body time to recover, but she knew her body best and we had an appointment scheduled with the IVF clinic 7 weeks after our first failed cycle and away we went again.
So what did we learn about this?
Back to back cycles are challenging on your body
Rachel found the second cycle a little harder. Even though she had the recommended 2 bleeds between, and the 7 weeks gave her ovaries a short time to get back to a normal size. I would say that the repeat of the medications caused her more symptoms the second time.
Continuous IVF cycles are all consuming.
For these 2 cycles we were in some form of testing or treatment for about 7 months. This takes over every facet of your life. Both Rachel and I had to take annual leave, un-paid leave and Rachel even had to take a couple of sick days, which is unheard of for her. Our social life was put on the back burner, we seemed to be driving to the clinic, the pharmacy, the GP at least 2-3 days per week.
We had calendars and reminders everywhere to make sure that Rachel took her medications at the right time. When Rachel was at work, she had to put medications in the fridge and carry needles around which meant that everyone kept asking why. It literally impacted every facet of your life.
Your mental health and relationships can suffer
IVF causes all kinds of changes in your body, you can put on weight, it can affect your sex drive, it can change the way you think. You are allowed sex at certain points but not others. All these things when coupled with you really ‘hope’ for a successful desire can do funny things to your mind and your relationship.
It made Rachel and I snappier at each other, the intimacy reduced not through choice or lack of effort on either of our parts but because most of our energy was going into IVF and work and we just struggled to find the emotional capacity for one another.
So why would you choose back to back IVF cycles?
It can have positive impacts financially, as there are some private providers who allow you to pay for multiple IVF treatment within a set time frame which can come with significant financial reductions.
If you are a teacher or in another profession where you work seasonally, then scheduling 2 cycles in your time off or summer break may mean work is less impacted. On the flip side of that if you or your partner work away from home and need to schedule substantial periods not travelling it may be easier to agree for a 6-month placement in a specific area.
Another strong reason for back to back, is if you are of a more advanced age, as you get older your ovarian reserve diminishes and your fertility drops as such you would benefit from continuing trying as quickly as you can cope with.
The final thing which I think was the main reason we chose back to back was that she was in the ‘zone’. By this I mean the emotional desire to have a child is incredibly strong throughout these times, you attach a lot of hope to your IVF cycle and stopping or delaying feels a little like giving up which can have even further negative impacts upon your mental health.
What you may experience delaying your IVF cycles
I guess you could say the complete opposite of the above, but it’s not quite true so I’ll give you a run down here.
A chance to rest and improve your body
The benefits of waiting don’t just end with you allowing your body to get back to a more regular state. But it gives you a chance to work on the lifestyle which can improve your fertility for both of you. It allows you to improve your diet, you can add more exercise into your life to get you to a more suitable weight if this impacts you. It gives more time for the supplements to work.
Essentially gives you time to work on your fertility as a couple and feel like you have done everything you can to succeed in the next cycle.
It gives you time to focus on other things.
As we mentioned above, you get consumed by IVF when you are going through the treatment. Taking a break allows you to enjoy your hobbies again, focus on your relationship without the added pressure of IVF. Taking this time to work on your relationship is one the best things you can do.
One friend who was going through IVF we spoke to had this to say:
“Taking a break from IVF meant that my husband and I were able to reconnect. I didn’t realise the damage the fertility journey had done to us and how close we were to having serious marital issues.
We used this time to find our shared loves and learn how to be romantic together without it needing to be for a reason.
It was refreshing and our relationship was stronger than ever when we did decide to start again.”
It gives you time to do more research and reassess
It’s very easy when dealing with medical situations for us to just agree with whatever out doctor or medical team say. However, we should all be more involved in the decisions about our care and this includes through IVF. Many conditions and lifestyles mean that different forms of treatment have pro’s and cons, but many clinics just follow the standard IVF protocols.
However, by reviewing the research and evidence base you can take a more informed approach about what treatment is best for both you and your partner to maximise your chance of success.
Waiting is really difficult
One of the negatives is that your desire to have a baby after years of trying naturally, months of fertility testing and months to years of IVF can be an intensely draining and all-consuming emotion. So making a decision to put this on hold can go completely against your natural instinct and feelings.
This can lead to intense feelings of guilt and anxiety and as such you need to ensure you have a support network around you who understand and support your decision.
What’s the conclusion – Do the right thing for you and your partner.
Deciding how long you should wait to start your next cycle of IVF is a very personal decision and one which shouldn’t be made lightly. You should discuss all the above with those closest to you including your partner and make a decision which will be most beneficial to your mental and physical health.
Look at the big picture if you are younger then you have much more flexibility than if you are of a more advanced age and this certainly will help shape your decision.
For us I think if we were younger, we would have liked to have waited between cycles more however weighing up all the points we discussed above we went for back to back. But we put support mechanisms and help in place to be sure that we could cope. We had to make sacrifices in our hobbies and work to allow us to do back to back cycles, but now that we are expecting those sacrifices seem insignificant.
Whatever you choose we with you the best of luck with the long arduous IVF journey. Let us know in the comments how you feel about how long you should wait between cycles and share your own stories.