Lately, I have been getting a TON of questions from you guys on how I prepare for IVF and, more specifically, the ever-dreaded egg retrieval / egg capture. And I love that you guys know that you can always come to me for these things because I really do want to be there for all of you. I know how scary and lonely IVF can be on your own, and it honestly makes me happy knowing I can help you, if only in some small way. And that won't change just because we FINALLY found success and our first little is on the way. The past four years aren't suddenly erased from my memory now that our dream is coming to reality. We did this, it happened. And I am always here for you guys, no matter what.
It took us a long time though (three egg retrievals) to find success and bring this little dream angel of ours into the world (in six weeks... holy cow)! And it certainly wasn't an easy process. So today I thought I might share with you all how I prepared for my final (and most successful) egg retrieval.
How To Prepare for an Egg Retrieval
Store Up Your Strength and Stock up on Positivity
Trust me, as hard as it is, the absolute most important thing I can recommend to you is to just chill, try to stay stress-free and keep your spirits high and hopeful. I know IVF is insanely scary and ridiculously daunting, but you just have to learn to accept it and roll with the punches, rather than fight back at them. You know, it is what it is. Develop a positive attitude and just remember to smile, laugh and relax (aka breathe) along the way. This will help you release those feel-good hormones that are important for your body: they will help you feel less tense and relax further, improve your digestion, lower your blood pressure, maintain healthy blood circulation, and many many other benefits that will help your chances of producing those high-quality eggs you need. So get outside in the sunshine, do something for YOU every day (be it acupuncture, getting your nails done, a massage, buy that dress you've been wanting) and try to spend some QT with your honey whenever possible.
Also, repeat this mantra: 'this too shall pass.' This lifestyle won't be permanent. It's just a little bump in the road but it's nothing you can't handle. And soon, thanks to all this hard work you're about to put in, you'll be holding that little baby you've dreamt of.
But here's why I think relaxing is so important: I had three egg retrievals and the first one was one of my worst (we only got eleven eggs and only six of those were mature) because I think I was just way too nervous, stressed and worried about every. little. thing. And I get it, it was my first time going through IVF and I had no idea what to expect and everything was so new and unknown and just made me cry and worry. But I honestly think it was to my detriment. It wasn't until my third egg retrieval that we finally had success (21 eggs and all 21 were mature). And one major difference between these two cycles (aside from an adjusted meds protocol), was my attitude. I had finally gotten to the point where I had accepted IVF into our lives as just another part of the daily routine. No longer did I dread our 8pm shots schedule. I had realized, it just is what it is. And truly, I am grateful to have the opportunity to be able to work with doctors to help our dreams of starting our family come true. Because the thought of going at it alone without the help of science scares me more than having to take a needle here and there or waddling from uncomfortable bloat. In the end, our future babies are worth every pinch and every ache.
Take Your Vitamins
To help maximize the health of your eggs (and future pregnancy), it's important to take your vitamins. My doctor had me take my prenatals as well as folate and 250 mg of CoQ10 (with VESIsorb for increased absorption of bioavailability) throughout my entire IVF cycle (and continued throughout pregnancy). I usually take an additional 2000IU of Vitamin D3 daily as well, which is said to help increase your chances of achieving pregnancy during IVF.
Have an Ice Pack (and /or a cuddly puppy) on Hand
I gotta be honest, the meds that you have to take during an egg retrieval cycle aren't that much fun. The Lupron was never that painful going in for me, but the Menopur, Follistim and Neupogen injections can sting a bit (especially when you have to do all of them in the same night), so I always like to ice the injection site both before and after, close my eyes, squeeze our puppy Wookie and just take it (quickly) like a champ. It helps ease the sting a bit.
Revamp Your Diet and Maintain a Healthy Weight
There's something to be said about being at your body's optimal weight. They say if you are over or underweight, it can predispose you to certain risk factors, like not ovulating or having an improper hormone balance, which can mess with your ability to become pregnant. Thus, it's important to try and maintain a healthy weight for your age and height. I am obviously not a doctor so I can't say where your weight should be, so I recommending chatting with your doc about it like I did.
But you should also try to eat the right foods. And now, I am not talking about going to some extreme diet lengths. I am just saying that you should try and eat as you would if you were pregnant and taking good care of that little precious life inside you. Your food is your fuel and you need to fill up your body with that premium gas. So none of that refined sugar crap. And trust me, that was a really hard one for me to give up. As was coffee... because I used to be a two-cups-a-day-kind-of-gal. But your body needs those vegetables, yummy fruit, and that healthy, lean protein. By eating right, you'll feel more energetic too, which can go a long way when you're feeling the weight of those added hormones you're taking.
Get your ZZZ's
Sleep is important, we all know this. You'll feel so much better after a good night's rest, but it's important to sleep in the right type of environment. I like to sleep in total darkness and keep my iPhone off of the nightstand by leaving it downstairs. Those artificial lights can lower your melatonin production (melatonin is the sleep hormone and it can help boost your fertility). So I like to turn out those lights and turn my phone's 'night shift' mode on every day from 8pm to 8am. When it comes to my fertility, no text or call is more important.
Find Someone You Can Talk To
Honestly, sometimes you just need to air it all out. Get out that sob you've been holding in, vent your frustrations to your mom, find a friend you can lean on or ask questions to someone (like me) who can relate.
Sometimes Ben would come home from work and I would just collapse in his arms in an illegible cry. He would just hold me and remind me, 'it's ok, sweetheart' and that he's there for me - and I would honestly feel better just releasing all that pent-up emotion. The hormones can sometimes bottle up and you just feel like you need to explode... and, that's ok. It's ok to be a crazy person for a while... just remember to brush it off at the end. After a sob over something silly, like dropping the milk, I couldn't help but laugh at myself. You just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and let it go.
And another thing, I can't tell you how incredibly therapeutic it has been for me to share my struggles, heartbreaks, and frustrations with all of you, who in turn has shared all of yours with me. It's honestly liberating. I felt so much less alone and freer after sharing our infertility with you all. Not only did it save me from having to answer those utterly destroying questions of, "when are you two going to have kids?" questions... but it also allowed me to connect with others who are going through the same or a similar struggle - and to just not feel so damn alone.
Now, I am not saying that you should all go shout from the rooftops that you're undergoing IVF, because everyone's journey and comfort level is totally different. But don't be afraid to find someone you can talk to. Whether it's your mom, a professional or even me. I find it helps to just talk about it. And if you can find someone who can relate, all the better. My sister in law had undergone IVF and she was an invaluable resource for all of my millions of questions... as were the nurses and my IVF coordinator at our doctor's office. They probably were so annoyed with me because I emailed just about every other day with a list of questions... but I find that knowledge is power. The more I knew, the better and more comfortable I'd feel, and that's definitely a good thing.
Head to the Grocery Store and Stock Up for those Post-Egg Retrieval Aches
I had a pretty rough recovery after all of my retrievals, I am not going to lie. I hyper-stimulated (OHSS) on my last two egg retrievals and it's not something I would wish on anyone. My belly was so incredibly bloated and distended as a result of fluid accumulation in my abdomen that I could hardly move, let alone stand up straight. To give you an idea, right now I am 33 weeks pregnant and I was BIGGER after our retrievals than I am right now, which is crazy! It was the most uncomfortable I have ever been.
To combat the bloat, my doctor always recommended recharging post-op with both sodium and electrolytes. So I like to stock up on Smart Water, coconut water, and even Gatorade to replenish those electrolytes and let my "healthy diet" fly out the window for a bit. I am talking high-sodium soups, salted french fries... the works. But try not to go too crazy... because what goes in, must come out... and that's where I would always run into problems. Yup, I am talking about constipation, my friends.
I remember one morning I tried to eat a little breakfast and immediately started groaning in pain because there was simply no room left in my abdomen for anything else, including food. So I found that resorting to prune juice, magnesium citrate or Miralax is a home-remedy essential post-egg retrieval. As soon as the floodgates open, I always feel 75% better! I promise you will thank me later.
Quit Wearing Scents
They say that scented products, like perfumes and lotions, can affect the quality of your eggs because they are incredibly sensitive, so you're instructed to not wear anything (even deodorant) the day of your egg retrieval. However, I usually take it one step further and begin avoiding them at the beginning of our cycle. What you put on your body goes into your bloodstream, and I'd rather not chance it. So I cut out scented lotions, stop wearing perfumes and even nix the nail polish (mostly to avoid having to use the remover) all together before an egg retrieval cycle.