By Stephanie Fry
For most of us who undergo IVF, it is an all-encompassing and life-altering experience. Like any other major event, this time of your life deserves and will be well served by a little organization and preparation. Give yourself every chance to have a more positive IVF experience, no matter what the outcome, by taking these simple steps.
Understand Your Treatment
The unknown is scary and feeling like you are in the dark can add greatly to the stress of an IVF cycle. Before you begin your cycle, make an effort to understand your diagnosis and your treatment plan. Ask your doctor to explain the goals and phases of treatment and the potential responses that you may have to medications and procedures. Having a better understanding of the entire process is crucial to managing the emotional ups and downs that many patients experience.
Create a cycle management center. Keep all your important phone numbers, instructions, and cycle documentation in one place, so when you need something you will know where to look for it. Preliminary research can simplify your cycle and help to reduce stress. Find out as much as you can about cycle logistics, expenses, and any insurance coverage you may have. Research your options for monitoring facilities, testing locations, pharmacies, and complementary therapies so you can save time, money, and headaches when the need arises. If this feels overwhelming, get your partner involved by putting them in charge of researching and organizing your options.
Schedule Time for Change
IVF cycles follow a basic timeline, but each cycle is unique and will evolve over time, so it helps to get into a flexible mindset before you begin. Because each cycle step hinges on the next, one change can have a ripple effect that plays havoc on your emotions and on your schedule. Have a few back up plans in place if you think you will need short notice coverage at work or at home, and be ready to alter your plans for that extra monitoring day or unexpected early transfer.
Be Ready to Wait
IVF cycles involve lots of waiting. You wait for the cycle to start, you wait for appointments, instructions, test results, procedural results, and of course you wait for the big news. Make a list of activities you can engage in to fill up these waiting periods. Plan activities of varying length that reflect your personality and are based on your possible moods, so you will have lots of options when time seems to be standing still.
Consider Your Stress Threshold
Whether it is a tough family situation, a difficult friend, or a big presentation at work, we all have certain situations that are more stressful than others. If possible, consider re-scheduling any high stress events during your cycle. This is especially important during your first cycle or if you are using a new medication or protocol, and you can’t be exactly sure how things will affect you. The benefits of having a calm and happy cycle may be enough to make it worthwhile to skip a few events or wait a month for treatment.
Plan a Support Network
The IVF process is not easy and having access to your own personal support network can be a lifesaver when you are faced with a small bump in the road or a larger emotional or physical crisis. Your support network can include organizations, private therapy, support groups, friends, books, complementary therapies, and more. Anything that can help you cope, learn, celebrate, vent, decide, relax, or accept is a support resource. Resources should be about quality, not quantity, but as you plan a support network you may want to give yourself a few options because an IVF cycle comes with many moods and as your mood changes your needs may too.
Prepare for Your Results
Having a results day plan can serve to alleviate some of the anxiety and stress that may be associated with the close of your cycle. You should always be cautiously optimistic, but it is equally important to plan for both good and bad news. Take the time to understand testing and notification procedures, and make a plan for results day that involves being able to access a safe space and comforting surroundings should you need them. Outline specific steps to take based on a negative or positive outcome, and you will have a basic guide to get you through should you need one.
Because there are so many variables, you cannot plan the exact timing or details of an IVF cycle, but you should prepare for one. Your cycle will be less stressful if you have a spent some time anticipating your needs. With a little forethought, you will be able to stay focused on the most important thing, taking good care of yourself.
About the Author
Stephanie Fry is a former Board Member for RESOLVE New England. She is also the author of The IVF Companion, a personalized guide to surviving and thriving during your IVF cycle.
This article originally appeared in the RESOLVE New England Spring 2010 Newsletter.