two three fresh IVF cycles and one frozen cycle, I feel like I have a pretty good idea of what it takes to get ready. I thought I’d share my top tips on how to prepare for IVF as smoothly and stress-free as possible.
1. Keep a running inventory of your medications.
It can be hard to keep track of all your medications. The last thing you want to do is run out of a medication without realizing it. Make an inventory of each medicine and your supplies. Update it each day (or at least every other day), so you can get any necessary refills without stressing or rushing. Get yourself a fun new notebook and make sure you’re always on top of your medications.
2. Make a medication calendar.
Once you’re clear on which meds you have, you need to make sure you know when to take each one. Many clinics provide patients with detailed schedules. If yours doesn’t- ASK THEM FOR ONE. You’re paying them a lot of money, and they should be willing to help you.
If your clinic can’t or won’t give you a calendar, you’ll need to make one yourself. If this feels too complicated, you can always just write out your times and dosages on a calendar you already use. Set a timer on your phone or computer if you’re worried about forgetting.
3. Clear your schedule as much as you can to allow for relaxation and positive things to distract you.
IVF makes you tired. I’ve battled fatigue during both my fresh cycles and my frozen cycle. Practice self-care and eliminate all unnecessary events and responsibilities from your calendar. In addition to my regular job, I teach a few piano lessons each week. I’ve already decided to cancel my lessons during my upcoming March IVF cycle.
4. Allow yourself extra time to do the things you can’t clear from your schedule.
If there are things on your calendar that you just can’t clear, make sure you give yourself extra time to do them. Depending on which meds you have, it can take several minutes to do your injections or take your pills / suppositories. You don’t want to rush these things, so build in buffer times to your schedule.
5. Delegate when you can.
Even if you can clear your schedule and give yourself extra time, you’ll still have tasks and chores that just have to get done during your IVF cycle. Hire a housekeeper for a week or two. Drop your laundry off at the cleaners instead of doing it yourself. If money prevents you from hiring help, see if you can round up a few family, friends, or co-workers to help you out. Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. Even something as simple as having a friend pick up some groceries for you can really help ease your stress.
6. Carefully consider who you tell about your treatment.
It’s important to have supportive, understanding people around you during your IVF cycle. But you’ll want to think about how many people you tell about what’s going on. Keep in mind that if your cycle fails, you’ll have to relay the news to everyone who knows. I know from experience that those are tough phone calls to make. If you do decide to tell a lot of people, consider asking one person (in advance) to call other people for you if the cycle fails. That way you won’t have to go through the agony of telling and re-telling the results to multiple people.
7. Document your journey
It’s important to document your cycle in some form. You can do something as simple as keeping a written journal (I’ve heard wonderful things about The IVF Journal by Stephanie Fry), typing up notes, or blogging. Writing will provide you with an emotional outlet, and it has the potential to become a handy reference if you do future cycles. More importantly, if your treatment is successful you’ll have memories you can one day show your child.
8. Stock up on healthy snacks at home and at work.
I don’t know if it’s the progesterone or all the extra hormones, but each time I’ve done an IVF cycle (including my frozen cycles), I’ve been RAVENOUS the entire month. My workplace is notorious for having cookies and sweets available, so I had to be very intentional about bringing healthy snacks to eat. Buy easy-to-eat snacks like pre-cut veggies, nuts, fruit, and cheese, and keep them at work and home. Remember that healthy eating and nutrition can only increase your odds of success.
9. Make sure you have loose, comfortable clothing.
If there’s one word I’d use to describe the stimulation phase (“stims”) of IVF, it’s bloat. Within a few days of starting my injections, I got very bloated. I had a visible pooch and found it very uncomfortable to wear jeans. Combine that with my incessant hunger and eating, and my pants no longer fit! I didn’t weigh myself so I can’t be sure, but I estimate I gained about 10 pounds and went up one pant size during my last IVF cycle. Do yourself a favor and buy some looser-fitting sweat pants, fold-over top yoga pants, or leggings you can wear at home. I have a few pairs of the high-waist leggings from Daily Ritual and they are AMAZING! (Bonus: they are also great during post-partum if you are fortunate enough to get pregnant).
I recommend also stocking up on flowy tunics (I like these, these, and this one) if you can. They’re great for hiding the IVF bloat, and they also are great for pregnancy! For work, a dressier tunic blouse like this one would probably be your best bet.
10. Start tapering off caffeine a few weeks in advance.
Many people like to reduce or eliminate caffeine during IVF cycles. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I do rely on my cup of tea to get me going each morning. For my first IVF cycle, I quit caffeine on the same day I started stims. Big mistake. I began to experience caffeine withdrawals at the same time I started feeling the effects from the IVF meds. Let’s just say I was a very unpleasant person for a few days. If you’ll be cutting caffeine, learn from my mistake and start tapering off ahead of time. I tried this strategy during my 2nd IVF cycle, and it was much easier.
BONUS TIP #1: Prepare for constipation.
No one likes to talk about constipation. I got surprised by it during my first cycle. It was so bad that my husband called our RE’s cell phone on a Saturday afternoon because I was on the floor in the shower, crying from the pain. Make sure you ask your RE in advance about some ways you can prevent and treat constipation. Mine subsided when I switched to a no-iron prenatal vitamin and started drinking prune juice, but some people may need other remedies. As always, ask your doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements.
BONUS TIP #2: Talk with your spouse and doctor about “leftover” embryos.
Many couples are so focused on getting just one good embryo during IVF that they don’t stop to think about what happens if you end up with more embryos than you need. This happened to me and we were not prepared. It’s very important to talk to your spouse and your doctor about what you will do if you have “leftover” embryos.
What is your best IVF tip? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
Also, be sure to check out my book, Preparing for IVF: Approach Your IVF With Confidence and Courage. It’s packed with all my best IVF tips and ideas on how to feel organized, prepared, and confident about IVF.