What I wish I'd known before starting fertility treatment

What I wish I'd known before starting fertility treatment

Like so many experiences in life, it’s hard to know what fertility treatment will be like for you before you go through it. 

I naively thought that it “Couldn’t be that hard” despite mountains of evidence that indicate it is incredibly emotionally, physically, financially, and mentally draining  - as well as thoroughly taxing on your relationship. 

Looking back, it’s clear this denial was just a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with the (very) real challenges that lay ahead of me. 

That’s why setting expectations before going down an unknown path like fertility treatment is incredibly helpful. And, having just finished my first round of IVF, I’ve realized that these are a few things I wish I had known before starting my journey. 

1. Everyone’s fertility treatment experience is different

Fertility treatment is an incredibly personal experience, from the medications you’ll be prescribed and the side effects you’ll experience to the processes your clinic follows to your chances of success. 

I had friends going through IVF at the same time as me who had wildly different experiences. One woman who went to a different clinic in the same city had completely different medications being prescribed to her. Many of the side effects I experienced weren’t shared by other women I spoke to, and some had reactions to drugs that I’d never heard of.  Another woman, who lived overseas, said her clinic didn’t offer PGT testing or conduct embryology reports to grade the embryos - something considered almost standard in North America.  

I soon learned that because of all these variations in patient needs and how clinics and doctors provide fertility treatments, every single fertility experience is inherently unique. 

I had initially assumed that fertility treatment was a routine procedure that followed a defined process with clear outcomes. But nothing could be further from the truth. Had I known that these experiences were individual rather than universal, I would likely have focused less on what happened to others undergoing treatment and paid more attention to my own fertility experience. 

2. Fertility treatment statistics require context

Many of us want to make logical sense out of what is, in many ways, a very emotional experience. What are my odds of success with IVF? We want cold, hard data. But the thing is, most fertility statistics include data from fertility patients with various medical issues and infertility factors ranging from mild to severe, which won’t necessarily apply to your specific situation. 

These fertility statistics can also be confusing as some are per cycle, while others are per transfer. Someone may only have one embryo to transfer, and it may fail, or they may not have any embryos at all, which means this data skews per cycle rates to be much lower. Without context for these data sets, it can result in a distorted view of overall success rates.

While statistics may seem comforting, they won’t give you an accurate picture of your specific odds of conceiving, which is all that really matters. 

3. You’ll need more fertility support than you think

I’m the type of person who thinks I can do everything by myself (spoiler: I can’t), and I thought that my clinic would provide enough support for me throughout my fertility treatment. However, I quickly learned that while clinical teams can provide crucial guidance, most are incredibly busy and aren’t available at all times to answer questions and address concerns about your fertility care. 

This is where additional support services can be so valuable. This includes financial support if you need help financing your fertility treatment, like help with loans and managing payments with your clinic and other service providers for drugs, procedures and additional fees for testing, storage and other medical expenses. 

Having a pharmacist that understands fertility medication (because not all pharmacists do) and can explain why you’re taking your medication, as well as provide information about possible side effects (which I did not receive from my clinic) will also provide genuine peace of mind when you start your course of fertility drugs.

 

Partnering with a fertility specialist who can provide personalized advice and support to complement the care you receive from your clinic is also incredibly valuable when you need answers about your specific treatment plan quickly and from an expert in the field. 

That’s not to mention all the emotional support you’ll need. I started seeing a therapist who specializes in infertility and provides professional mental health advice to guide me and my partner through this process. 

And, of course, there are friends and family who you will most likely need to lean on to provide comfort during what will be an emotionally draining time. 

4. Approach online infertility forums with caution

Online fertility communities can be a godsend for people experiencing fertility issues. Connecting with people going through the same challenges you are - and who have a shared experience when it comes to fertility treatment - can provide genuine consolation during what can be an overwhelming time in your life. 

But the darker side of these online forums is that they are rife with misinformation. As mentioned above, because every clinic, doctor and fertility treatment is different, what worked or was prescribed for one person will not necessarily work for another. We know how easy it is to believe everything we read online at first glance, but taking medical advice from strangers online can be perilous.  

So while these communities are great at providing emotional support, it’s best to only take medical advice from your care team. 

5. Don’t let your infertility experience take over your life

This one is easier said than done, but if you’re going through fertility treatment, it will likely seem all-consuming. The appointments, the medication, the tests, the protocols - you will feel like you eat, sleep and breathe IVF, which is why it’s so important to prioritize your overall health and practice self-care. 

Take time for yourself, see friends, connect with loved ones and stay active. Allow yourself to experience all the ups and downs of the process and give yourself time to process your feelings, but make sure you’re not losing yourself along the way. 

While there is a lot you can do to help your chances of success, so much of it is also out of your control. Surrendering to this uncertainty (which will feel impossibly hard) will allow you to regain some semblance of normalcy in your life. 

Getting complementary help during your fertility treatment

While I wish I had known these things before I started my fertility treatment, I also know there’s no way I would have been able to fully prepare myself for this experience on my own. If you need support as you take the first steps in your fertility journey, take a look at Hera Care+ to see how our team of fertility experts can help guide you through this process.

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