My IVF Survival Kit

March 31, 2015

Anyone fighting infertility has a different story, history, path, and struggle. Here’s a few of the things (some big, some small) that helped me through my struggle and might help others too:

1. Electrolyte water/water bottle
I drank electrolyte water religiously my entire cycle while stimming (aka injecting hormone stimulating drugs) to stay hydrated, and especially so after egg retrieval. I also made sure to stay hydrated the entire month before my frozen embryo transfer and afterwards. Just don’t get dehydrated! I’d always keep my BPA free water bottle full at work even though it meant I was using the restroom 10 times a day or more.

2. A discreet bag/pouch for injections on-the-go

Sometimes there were nights when I wasn’t home to do my injections so I had to take them with me and do them wherever I was. I’ve only had to “shoot up” outside of my own bathroom twice, once in my car (so sketchy!) and once in my friend’s bathroom. So in order to carry your supplies safely and discreetly, I recommend getting a cute little purse or pouch to carry your supplies in. And keep a ziplock baggie inside to put your garbage in so you can dispose of your sharps and other garbage properly at home. I didn’t even leave the alcohol wipes behind, I didn’t want anyone to see them and wonder.

3. Ice packs/heating pads
In regards to the intramuscular progesterone in oil shots, I found the injection to hurt more if I iced the area before, so I preferred to use heat after. I would just wet a wash cloth with hot water and after the injection, let my husband place it on the injection site for a few minutes afterwards. Heating pads on your stomach are not recommended for after embryo transfer!

Also, I haven’t tried this myself but I thought about getting it: Buzzy, a physiologic pain blocker. Seems like a cool idea for those intramuscular injections. It distracts you so you feel the buzzing and not the shot.

4. Extra Strength Tylenol
I’d get horrible headaches from all the hormones so bad in the beginning of each cycle. They eventually tapered off as my body adjusted, but Tylenol is the only safe medication for pain my nurse said I could take.

5. Fertility books

I wanted to completely immerse myself in information so I found a few books about IVF/infertility that were pretty interesting and that I enjoyed. Here’s a few:

  • IVF: An Emotional Companion
  • Laughing IS Conceivable
  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility
  • The Secret (not fertility related, more for positive thinking)

6. Fertility apps/podcasts/hypnosis
I kept track of each cycle with the My Calendar app. Before IVF, it helped me pin point ovulation and cycle lengths. These are important things your doctor needs to know, so start keeping track of these things as soon as you know you are trying to conceive. I also really liked the My Day app to countdown how many days until embryo transfer.

I also enjoyed listening to Zita West’s hypnotherapy before and after my embryo transfer.

This website keeps track of statistics and success rates of all fertility clinics in the US. I loved comparing my two clinics. It was like night and day. But this might help you to choose which clinic to use, even though they tell you not to do that on the website lol

8. Stay organized with folders/boxes/calendars
Staying organized is key! There’s SO many medications, appointments, and important dates to remember so it’s important to stay organized. I kept all receipts and information packets in folders so I could easily find them when I needed them.

You can write off all infertility costs and travel expenses with your taxes (if the total is greater than %10 of your total income)!! So keep all your receipts!

I kept all my medications visible in a pretty box that lived on my bathroom counter (aka hormone headquarters) so I could see them at all times. You don’t want to go through the weekend when most pharmacies are closed without having enough medication to last you till Monday. So keep track of your medications and order refills asap.

Once things started getting crazy around my frozen embryo transfer with remembering when to start certain meds, stop others, and change doses, I wrote out all my meds and appointments on a huge calendar that hangs in the kitchen. My nurse emailed me the digital version of this calendar, but writing it out helped me to see and remember what was coming.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask for rebates
Sometimes pharmacies have deals with the medication companies and can offer you a substantial rebate. I was refunded $800 for my Menopur and Bravelle. And that $800 is what paid for most of my FET medications. Hell yea! So don’t be afraid to ask. You’re already paying a fortune, don’t worry about sounding cheap or frugal. It’s the insurance companies that are cheap and frugal! Don’t even get me started.

10. Loans and Refund Programs
Most clinics offer some sort of payment plan with a loan company. My clinic made this so incredibly easy and we were accepted fast. The loan company pays the entire cost of your IVF cycle up front and then you make monthly payments to the loan company over time. Some you can even choose the kind of plan you want, like a 2 year or 3 year loan. Of course interest rates vary based on what you pick, but having this option takes the weight off of you to have all that money right now. Who in the heck does anyway?

Also, some clinics offer a refund package program where you pay up front (non-refundable) and get 3 IVF cycles and 3 FET cycles and if you don’t end up with a live baby at the end of this, you get a substantial refund. However, if it works for you on the first time, YAY but you don’t get any money back on the other cycles you didn’t end up using so you end up paying more for that one cycle than if you didn’t sign up for the 3 pack in the first place. My clinic had this program, but we didn’t qualify as we weren’t healthy enough and didn’t meet their criteria (sperm count/morphology has to be a certain number, women have to be under 35, etc). These companies want only super healthy people to use this program so they can get their money’s worth, hoping it will work on the first time when you already paid for 3 cycles. Obviously, most people seeing a fertility clinic have diagnosed issues so….good luck with that! But it is an option.

11. Acupuncture/Relaxation
My clinic fully supports and believes in acupuncture to help with implantation and relaxation. At first I was against it as I was already getting jabbed with needles multiple times a day, but then I figured I might as well give it a try to see what it’s like. And I ended up really enjoying it. If acupuncture isn’t for you, any kind of way you can help relax yourself during this stressful time is beneficial.

12. Document/Journal everything
I found it very cathartic to make a digital scrapbook documenting every step of our 2nd IVF cycle. I took pics of my meds, pics of injecting myself, pics of our embryos. I even made video diaries for my parents so they could be involved in the process. These videos also helped my family to understand just exactly what we were going through physically and emotionally because I didn’t hold back or hide anything. I think they gained a new respect for the science of it all too. I even shot a video of Brian giving me my trigger shot in my butt. Yup, I did. No shame.

13. Organic facial scrub

With all my hormones raging, my skin broke out something awful: worse than when I was a teenager. I started looking for healthier skin care alternatives before my embryo transfer. And so I found Acure Organics which has natural and organic ingredients in their products. They are also paraben and sulfate free. It didn’t totally clear up my acne, but it did help maintain more from breaking out and I felt good knowing there weren’t any dangerous chemicals in it. Also, Yes to Carrots is also free of harsh chemicals.

14. Bio Oil
If you have to use estrogen patches like Vivelle, the residue left behind can stay on your skin for weeks if you don’t use something to get it off. Bio oil works really well. I’d slather it on before a shower, then use a wash cloth to scrub it off in the warm water. Just make sure you aren’t wearing an active patch when you put on the oil or it will make your patch non-sticky and fall off.

15. Sweatpants/slip on shoes
Do yourself a favor and get a nice pair of lounge pants because the last thing you’re gonna wanna wear while stimming and after egg retrieval are tight pants or jeans. I lived in my lounge pants and my Skechers slipons.

16. Be ready with excuses
If you are trying to keep your IVF issues under wraps, it’s going to start getting really damn hard hiding it from people with all those ultrasounds and blood work appointments you’re running off to everyday. They’re naturally going to wonder where you were or if you’re ok. I’m not advocating lying, but it’s just so uncomfortable having to explain your situation to someone. So have a series of excuses at the ready in case…. I became pretty good at blowing people politely off. “Oh, I had to grab medication for my dog that day! Oh, I forgot to turn the lights off in my car. Oh, I have a nasty headache.” Or just be blunt and maybe they’ll stop asking…. “Oh, I just got my period and have to call my nurse to tell her!!”

17. Positive affirmations for fertility
I wrote about 10 positive affirmations on post-its and stuck them on my bathroom mirror so I had to read them everyday. And believe it or not, over time, I eventually started to believe them which brought me great peace. Here’s a few of my favorites:

  • My body is smarter than my brain and I allow it to care for me
  • I release old thinking patterns based on fear and doubt
  • Stop focusing on what could go wrong, and start believing in what could go right
  • We got the cards, let’s play the game
  • I trust my doctor and nurse team
  • My embryo proved it’s the strongest and wants to survive
  • I trust in the process of life
  • Feel the fear, do it anyway

18. Have a support system
It’s hard enough battling infertility, especially alone. It’s terrifying, it’s painful, it’s expensive, it’s soul crushing, it steals away any autonomy you’ve ever had. And chances are, most if not ALL of your friends and family will have NO idea what you’re going through…even if you explain in great detail. There are just no words. They may be supportive but they really have no idea the battle you are up against unless they went through IVF themselves.

Just something to keep in mind though, if you choose to tell your family and friends that you’re doing IVF (or any infertility related procedure), be prepared for them to ask for updates every time you see them or talk on the phone. This can be very painful, especially if you’ve received bad news or a bad diagnosis and you have to tell it over and over again to each person. It’s like reopening a wound so others can see it when you just want to heal and move on.

I found great support in the instagram TTC (trying to conceive) community. I’ve received nothing but support from those ladies even when my posts were totally negative and bitchy because they get it (I have a private account separate from my personal account which I’m probably never going to share) and they don’t feel like they have to give you an answer like….”well have you tried this or this?” They just listen and offer never ending support. Plus, it was cool to find a few other women who were on the same schedule as me. We were “cycle buddies” 🙂

Some clinics have a monthly support night for couples to attend where they can meet with and talk to other couples fighting infertility. Finding someone who can relate to you and understand the process in any way feels really good.

And finally, most clinics have an infertility counselor or therapist on staff. I wish I took advantage of this, especially with our first IVF cycle that failed. It was a terrifying experience. The 2nd time around I knew what to expect so it wasn’t so bad.

19. Try not to take any comments or unsolicited advice from fertile people too seriously
If people know of your struggle, be prepared to receive a hailstorm of comments and unsolicited advice (all meant well of course, but hurtful or just plain stupid none the less) from people over the course of your journey. “Did you put your feet up in the air after? Did you try drinking raspberry leaf tea? Did you wait until the moon was full? Did you pray? Are you relaxed? God will take care of it.” You can either let this stew and eat away at your brain, or you can blow it off and focus on what you know you need to do and let your doctor take care of you.

I wouldn’t wish infertility on my worst enemy, but if you’re going through it yourself, know that you can and will make it through. I love the quote, “you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.” You will be tested in every way possible and you will surprise yourself every time you come through because you just have to. And you will be all the stronger, wiser, and better for it.

If you’ve gone through IVF, please leave your “survival tips” in the comments!

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