You have been trying to get pregnant for a while, but it is not happening. Or you have experienced multiple miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies. Perhaps, you tried the ovulation-promoting drug Clomid or intrauterine insemination. But they all failed to give you that much wanted baby. You are thinking that now it is time to call in the “big guns”, otherwise known in the Assisted Reproductive Technique world as In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). These methods are used in situations such as low sperm count or abnormally shaped sperm. The prospect of an IVF or ICSI may make you feel excited and hopeful. Perhaps, you are overwhelmed and scared about the potential side effects of IVF drugs and/or the possibility of failure – both ends of the spectrum are completely normal as is feeling a mixture of both.
Before starting an IVF cycle, it is necessary to evaluate the underlying cause of infertility (if it is unknown) and to assess how your ovaries may respond to treatment. Therefore, you will probably be asked to do some tests. The main tested hormones are:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
- Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH)
- Luteinizing hormone
There is a correlation between these hormones’ levels and treatment outcomes, such as the number of eggs collected, the quality of those eggs, and whether or not you will get pregnant. However, hormones are only one of the factors that may contribute to fertility issues. Other important factors are age and having prior successful pregnancies. Another test you may be asked to take is the “antral follicle count”, which evaluates your ovarian reserve – your supply of eggs for the future. Your partner will usually undergo a semen analysis, regardless of whether the problem is suspected to be sperm-related.1
Getting in Shape for IVF
If you have a few extra pounds that you have been meaning to get rid of, now is the time! Studies show that women who are overweight (body mass index [BMI]> 25 kg/m2) or obese (BMI>30 kg/m2) have an impaired response to treatment, a harder time getting pregnant from IVF and, subsequently, a higher risk of miscarriage.2,3,4
There is no scientific evidence that adhering to a restricted diet (for example, a gluten-free diet) improves IVF outcomes in women with the recommended weight range.
It is hard to not get your hopes up before undergoing IVF/ICSI treatment and it is normal to expect getting pregnant following your first cycle. However, for most women, it generally takes at least 3 or 4 cycles to become pregnant. So, don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time around! The first cycle will provide your doctor with important information such as:
- how you respond to the medications
- whether the treatment regimen used is the correct one for you (there are several IVF regimens)
- the quality of your embryos
Depending on these data, your next cycle might need some changes compared to the first one.
If you are feeling extremely stressed out about your upcoming IVF cycle, it might be a good idea to incorporate de-stressing exercises, such as meditation or yoga, into your daily routine. Perhaps, you should avoid travelling or anything too active during the upcoming IVF cycle. If your partner can’t or won’t cook dinner during treatment, prepare meals in advance to be frozen and then eaten during your IVF cycle.
Above all, remember that IVF/ICSI does work for the majority of women and, often, it is not a question of if, but more a question of when.
Have you gone through IVF/ICSI? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
You may also want to read the following related post in Pregistry’s blog: Why Not Every Woman Struggling To Get Pregnant Ends Up Seeing A Fertility Specialist.