50 top tips for IVF and Fertility Treatment
Going through IVF can be one of the most challenging life experiences. It’s affecting your body, your emotions, your work, your relationships – absolutely everything!
When you’re preparing for IVF or an embryo transfer, you want to find ways to be in the best possible place. That needs to be mind AND body.
So here we’ve compiled our top tips for IVF on both the practical side and the emotional side.
Watch our video to hear me talk through some of the top tips
Top tips for IVF: Your Body
- Diet –A fertility-friendly diet includes lots of fresh vegetables, protein and good healthy fats. Think of a ‘mediterranean diet’ as a good guide. Check out The Fertility Kitchen for some inspiring healthy recipes
- Be hydrated – water is SO important for your body. It can genuinely help your body be in a better place to conceive so make sure you are drinking a good amount each day
- Exercise – Being active makes us feel good so it’s important to keep moving and active when you’re preparing and going through IVF. The general advice is to not do ‘vigorous’ or strenuous activity but it’s still good to get your heart pumping a little. At some points in IVF, you may be asked to rest more but you can still partake in walking and gentle yoga at these times
- Weight – This isn’t a one-size fits all situation (excuse the pun!) but generally being at a healthy weight for you is important going into IVF. If you start working on the above points, it’s likely your body will respond and help you get to a healthy weight. Being underweight is also problematic so find out what is the optimum weight for you and aim for that
- Balance – “Some days you will eat salads and go to the gym, others you will eat a cupcake and stay on the sofa!” Go easy on yourself – you can’t be a diet and exercise angel every day, particularly going through the stress and appointments etc. Find a balance that’s right for you
- Eliminate – Cut out alcohol, smoking, caffeine (as best you can!) and speak to your doctor about any prescription medication you are on
- Supplements – There are several vitamins and minerals believed to boost your body for IVF. It’s important to get a personalised plan as not all supplements are right for everybody
- Herbs – Similar to supplements, I would advise you to get specific advice ideally from someone who specialises in fertility on this as some can actually be harmful at certain times in your treatment
- Reduce toxins – Many of the plastics and chemicals in our environment can actually be toxic for our bodies. We are learning more about this area all the time, but already we know that plastics (BPA) and phthalates as well as strongly perfumed goods like air fresheners, perfume and nail polish work as endocrine disrupters (yes they actually disrupt our hormones). Don’t go all out crazy throwing everything out your house, but it’s important to be aware and perhaps make some subtle changes to your cleaning, skincare and plastic products
- Egg & Sperm quality – Many of the above things can actually help improve egg and sperm health given time. Read our article on improving your egg and sperm health and also read Rebecca Fett’s book ‘It starts with the egg’ is a great resource
Top tips for IVF: Your IVF clinic or doctor
- Choosing a clinic or doctor – do your research first then allow all the information and opinions to settle before making a decision based on your own instinct. Reviews and recommendations can be misleading – trust your own decision and back yourself
- Location of clinic – you will be travelling to the clinic often. Sometimes daily and before work so factor the location of the clinic into your decision
- Specific specialities – some doctors specialise in male-factor infertility, recurrent miscarriage or immune disorders. If you have a specific diagnosis, it might be worth seeking out a specialist in that area
- Keep testing – if you have a nagging feeling you don’t have all the answers push for more tests. Often clinics will only offer certain tests at certain times e.g. testing for the MTHFR gene is not standard nor is natural killer cell testing. If there is something you want to eliminate as a possible reason – push for tests but always know that in the end you still might not have a specific answer (I know that’s hard!)
- Know all the costs up front – get a full list of all the costs and potential costs for your cycle including your medications and work on the worst case scenario so there aren’t any nasty surprises
- Don’t be passive with your doctor – Ever since you were little you had to be ‘good for the doctor’ so we’re socialised to be in a passive role. However, this is far too important in your life to be passive. Speak up, ask questions, set parameters etc. If something is worrying you or you don’t understand – always ask. IVF Nurses are amazing people and can often be your first port of call for information but you can also write down all your queries and take this list with you when you see your doctor
- Every doctor and clinic is individual – Hopefully, you have a really caring team around you but if not and you’re ever feeling just like a number – that’s not good enough. Listen to episode 14 of our podcast on just this topic and what you can do
- Second opinion – It never hurts to get a second opinion on your situation. It may bring up some new ideas and approaches but even if it doesn’t it can help you to feel more comfortable with your path
- Changing protocols – One of my clients once quoted Einstein saying ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result’. You might need to change your protocol or tweak it after an unsuccessful transfer.
- Changing clinics – There’s nothing wrong with changing doctors or clinics. Trust your instincts and back yourself. You never know it could be just the change you needed
Top tips for IVF: Your Medications
overwhelm– at first it may feel like you’re never going to cope with all this. I promise you – soon you’ll be a pro! Of course, it’s overwhelming at first with everything you have to learn and do but you will settle into it. If you have any queries though, always ring your clinic
- Organise your medications – If they are sent in the post it can be very overwhelming when they arrive. Break them down into the days and create a system to help you remember it all. Use your phone reminders or diary to help you.
- Cost of medications – understand the full cost of medications and if you can allow some extra funds for this area as sometimes things change a little and you might need something different or more than you
- Needle phobia – injecting yourself can be super scary at first. Watch our video for our top tips for IVF injections
- Get a needle buddy – You don’t have to do this alone. Get your hubby or partner involved. You can even make it a nice time where you connect and talk about things (sounds funny, but give it a try!)
- Ice the injection site – you can use a cold pack to numb the area or even a topical anaesthetic cream. Just make sure whatever you do that the area is clean/sterile for the injection using an alcohol wipe
- Relax your muscles – it doesn’t hurt as much as you think it will (I promise) so breathe and try to relax your muscles as it will be easier
- Specific stimulation meditation – Check out our IVF Thrive meditations which are specifically created for each stage of IVF. There is a specific meditation for during the stimulation phase which helps you relax and for your body to stimulate your ovaries to just the right amount. There is also one for post-egg retrieval to help you release the excess medications and recover after egg collection
- Travelling with medications – Sometimes you might need to travel during this period or just take your medications to work. You can buy insulated lunch boxes and cold packs to help you keep your medications cool and private from others
- Be aware of your body – be aware of how your body feels. Notice any side effects or bloating and just keep a mental tab of everything. That way you will know if your symptoms aren’t normal and you could be suffering from OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome)
Top tips for IVF: Your IVF / IUI Process
- Things change – Even with a ‘perfect’ cycle, you won’t always know the dates for egg retrieval or embryo transfer. It’s hard as you want to plan life around it but you need to be flexible to respond to your doctor’s advice
- Have an overall plan – Be flexible but also have an overall game plan. I always tell clients to have a plan of how many cycles they’re prepared to do, what they will do with a BFN or BFP etc. Plans aren’t set in stone and you can change them as you go along but it brings a degree of comfort and control when you have some parameters
- Your egg numbers will go down – this is a big one and you need to be prepared for it. The number of eggs they collect will almost never be the number of embryos you end up with. After egg collection, only some will fertilise, only some will make it to day 2 then 3 & then 5. It becomes all about the numbers. Listen to our specific post egg-retrieval meditation from IVF Thrive to help you manage this time emotionally
- PGS / PGD testing – you may be offered the option to screen your embryos. This has many benefits as it allows the doctor to know they are transferring a viable embryo. We know that most miscarriages and failures are due to the embryo so it’s a good option to test them if you can
- Be prepared for multiple cycles and transfers – Of course, the hope is you get pregnant from the first transfer but that’s by no means guaranteed. It’s important to know that you might need frozen embryo transfers (FET) and full cycles before you succeed
- Aim for stillness at Embryo Transfer – Make sure your bladder is only comfortably full not bursting full as this can cause spasms. Use our specific embryo transfer meditation from IVF Thrive to help you relax and be still in mind and body at the time of transfer to help a successful transfer
- Think about circulation – to be in your optimum state for IVF we want healthy blood flow to your reproductive system so eat good food, keep warm, keep active and relax to help your hormones and blood flow optimally
- The Two-Week Wait – After embryo
transferyou have to wait at least 10 days before your doctor will test for the HCG pregnancy hormone. During this time, all the ‘doing’ is done (and there’s been lots of that!) and it can be an agonising wait. We have lots of support and suggestions and a specific meditation for this time in IVF Thrive
- Home pregnancy tests – It’s up to you if you want to take
a HPTbefore your official results. My advice is not to just in case you get a false reading. There have been cases of getting negatives when a day later the full test shows pregnancy and vice versa. I know it’s super stressful to wait but it’s also stressful assessing if that is a faint pink line or not and not knowing for sure!
- Make a plan for both a positive and negative outcome – I want you to actually visualise what you will do on test day and the days after for both results. It doesn’t matter how silly or detailed you go – having an actual plan will really help you to feel more resilient about results day. If you get a negative, it’s ok to shut yourself off for a few days to cry and heal. Perhaps set a time limit (e.g. 24 hours, 3 days) so you know you can have that time and give yourself a push to come back out of it (but go easy on yourself!)
Top tips for IVF: Your emotions
- The rollercoaster – trying naturally is enough of a rollercoaster. IVF, IUI and fertility treatments are like the next level! You need to be strong and have a good team around you to manage this crazy ride! You need to find ways to relax and support yourself. This is exactly why I’ve created our unique online guide – IVF Thrive – because so many women need more support during IVF!
- Stress, stress, stress – IVF is very stressful and unfortunately we know that for some women high stress can actually decrease IVF success rates. The good thing is that stress is something we can change. It’s not easy and you need tools but you can reduce your stress levels and go through IVF in a better way. We go into this in-depth on this and give you practical stress-reduction techniques that work in IVF Thrive
- Life outside IVF – Unfortunately, work, friends and all your other commitments are carrying on alongside your treatment. It’s ok to cut back on things, but also remember to keep and put in things that make you feel good
- Relationships – Your primary relationship is the most important right now but if you’re going through this as a couple it’s doubly hard because the other person is just as invested in this process as you but is perhaps dealing with it in a different way. Try our relationship listening exercise – it’s super powerful and can transform how you communicate with your partner or loved one
- Cry – You will cry a lot. Fact! It’s actually good to release and let it out. The hormones can even make you cry at the silliest things but just go with it. You will always feel so much better afterwards!
- Your support team – Who are your cheerleaders? Assemble a team of your loved ones, friends, IVF buddies, fertility coach and complementary therapists e.g. acupuncturist, naturopath etc
- What brings you joy – IVF is taking out of you all the time. What builds you back up? What makes you feel good? Do it! Get creative, laugh, socialise when you feel like it – just do whatever feels good
- Sleep – How much sleep you have will affect everything and if you’re not getting enough sleep your emotions will be heightened. Aim for a regular bedtime and switch off screens one hour before bed to allow your body to unwind. If you have trouble sleeping, listen to one of our free meditations in Your Fertility Toolbox
- Those nasty emotions – When someone announces their unplanned pregnancies or a baby shower invite comes in the mail, you can feel emotions that you don’t want to feel like anger, jealousy, shame, bitterness etc. This is normal. Don’t judge yourself for feeling this way and let the thought go. You are not your thoughts – you’re not becoming bitter and twisted, you’re just going through a hard time!
- Expectations – have a healthy, realistic expectation of IVF or IUI. Recognise that it might not work this time but put all your energy into positively believing it will. Don’t be scared to think positively – it won’t make a negative any worse to deal with but it will make all your time worse if you’re in negative town and telling yourself it won’t work
Visualise what you want and it will help you put the 50 things above into place. Keep that visual of you with a healthy baby front and centre to remind you of why you’re on this crazy rollercoaster and believe you will get there one day. Infertility is not a permanent situation. You will find your way through and out soon and we’re here to support you all the way!
Until then, stay strong and reach out for support. You can’t do this alone. Please feel free to contact me to have an experienced fertility coach walk this journey with you or get lifetime access to IVF Thrive so you can always access tailored support for every stage of IVF and your own IVF Toolkit to help with the emotional side.
Wishing you love and light as you journey through. Karenna x
Fertility Coach, Founder of Your Fertility Hub
Karenna Wood is an international fertility coach, founder of Your Fertility Hub and passionate advocate for more emotional support and information for women trying to get pregnant. She’s an expert in mind-body tools and when not blogging, podcasting, coaching or speaking is…fast asleep!