It is safe to assume that all of us had a plan for how we believed our lives would unfold. I planned to go to law school, pass the bar, land that perfect job, meet that special person, and start a family. Going to law school, passing the bar, and landing a career should be the hard part, right?
Wrong. People do not talk about how, in certain circumstances, starting a family can become increasingly difficult. I grew up thinking that when I was ready to start a family, it would happen naturally, as if by “operation of law.” I thought it would be easy.
Wrong again. My husband and I had to resort to nontraditional methods in our fertility journey. We have tried many methods, including my husband and I going through rigorous hormone therapies, surgical procedures, and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Many different infertility treatment methods exist. I am no expert. My knowledge comes from meeting various doctors and finding out for which treatments I was, or was not, a candidate.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and IVF are the most common forms of nontraditional reproduction. IUI involves selecting the best sperm then inserting it directly into the uterus to reduce the distance and time it takes for an egg to be fertilized, thereby increasing the chance of fertilization. IVF requires injecting hormones into a woman’s body to produce as many eggs as possible to fertilize with her partner’s or donor’s sperm to create healthy embryos for implantation.
My IVF Regimen
I started with two nightly injections of two different medications, then added a third. I had to inject them subcutaneously into my belly, arms, or thighs. Every other morning for two or three weeks, I would get an ultrasound and have bloodwork done to monitor the egg growing process. Once the eggs were the appropriate size, I took a “trigger shot.” A trigger shot is a hormonal injection triggering the ovaries to release the eggs for extraction surgery—a quick procedure performed under sedation.
Following extraction comes fertilization. During this stage, the embryos must mature enough to implant safely into the uterus and have a high chance of growing into a baby. After implantation, it is a waiting game to see if the embryos develop.
For me, the IVF process was challenging financially and emotionally.
Before starting your IVF journey, consider the following points.
Start Sooner Rather Than Later
When you are looking at nontraditional reproductive methods, you must be patient and manage your expectations. In my experience, things do not always work out the first time, which means more waiting and treatments.
Choose a time in your life where your schedule allows for you to make this type of commitment. Consider your planned vacations and work obligations to ensure you are not going through an incredibly stressful time at work.
Be in the Right Mindset
When undergoing certain types of nontraditional reproductive treatments, your physical activity is restricted. Namely, no sex, no working out, no rigorous activity of any kind. For me, being unable to do my regular workout regimen, the added hormones, and weight gain contributed to my lack of self-esteem and sadness. These restrictions, in combination with the hormones, can take a physical and emotional toll. You must be healthy, feeling comfortable in your skin, and have a positive mindset when starting.
Nontraditional reproductive therapies are a significant investment. Plan accordingly to reduce the financial burden and stress. Research rebate programs (e.g., compassionate care) and low-interest private financing. Familiarize yourself with all options before starting.
Remember Your Support System
When you are undergoing infertility treatment, you tend to forget yourself, your partner, and everyone else around you. The process can alienate you and your partner. To overcome this, prioritize intimacy and time with your partner or loved ones. Recognize the people supporting you and thank them.
Unfortunately, my first round of IVF was unsuccessful, but my partner and I learned a lot through the experience. Maintain hope and focus on the reason you began this journey in the first place: to start a family.