Mayan Uterine/Abdominal Massage

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:
  • Women starting infertility treatments
  • Women who are going to transfer an embryo
  • Women who are doing IUIs
  • Women who are struggling to get pregnant and are trying natural remedies

When I first realized something was wrong, I texted my mom my concern. Her name is “ma” in my phone. Instead of it going to her, the text on accident went to my friend Mary (who is Mexican). The text sparked a conversation and she mentioned Mayan massage. She told me her family members swear by it and have gone to small villages in Mexico whenever there was a fertility issue. Fast forward  to my IVF group and my leader mentions that she went to get a Mayan massage before her successful transfer. It sparked a curiosity in me and I made some moves and got one! Below is the who, what, where, and why of Mayan Abdominal Massage.

WHAT/WHY

Mayan abdominal/uterine massage is an ancient technique that helps move the uterus back into place and increase blood flow. Most women’s uterus is tilted one way or another from all sorts of reasons. The way you stand, how you sleep, injuries… you name it. There is no direct link to a tilted uterus to infertility. The way I see it though, there is no harm in getting things back in line. More than just aligning organs, the massage is supposed to help get blood moving.

In Mayan culture, the uterus is the center of the body and where emotions are kept. This is similar to the eastern cultures and a lot of the Mayan philosophies align to the ancient Chinese thoughts (same stuff talked about in acupuncture).

In addition to the massage the therapist also provided me a number of options to try afterwards. This included: a vaginal steam (yep!), castor oil pack, daily massage routine, and uterine meditation cd. The vaginal steam (which apparently Gwyneth Paltrow is into but with crazy technology) is meant to help clear out any old “junk.” You do this before the transfer. I didn’t have time to do it but it didn’t sound too tough. The castor oil also has to be done before a transfer. Once again, didn’t have time due to travel.

I did however maintain the daily routine. She taught a step-by-step massage. It was super interesting because I now know where my uterus is and how to identify it when pressing my abdomen. After the transfer the routine changes because you don’t want to move the uterus. You do continue a light routine to help blood flow after transfer.

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WHO

There are practitioners who are trained under other folks who have been trained in this form of massage. The massage therapist I worked with lived in South America for a while to learn the technique.

I was incredibly happy with my massage therapist because she offered me the option of an additional half hour to learn the techniques. She sat with me and explained the reasoning and purpose behind each move. She even gave me a massage ball for my neck and glutes!

WHERE

I researched Mayan Uterine Massage and read reviews of different practitioners. Most of the reviews I read mostly talked about the effects the massage had on their bowel movements (another reason people get this massage) but overall it sounded like she was a great listener and was considerate. She was indeed both of those things.

She also gave me follow up documents that included additional things to try. I took each thing with a grain of salt and kept the mindset of, “If it doesn’t hurt, why not try it.”

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THE VERDICT

I have no idea if it worked (I guess we can speculate when we the 2WW is over). I do know my lining was great but I could not say definitively it was because of the massage since I was already on my estrogen in preparation for a transfer.  The only “cost” was financial and thus I say go for it. Worse case, you get a great massage and time to chill out.

-Annie

IUI 411

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:
  • Couples who starting fertility treatments

Its been a hot minute since I had an IUI. I have met a lot of women recently who are just starting the fertility process and thus I thought it might be helpful to talk about what an IUI is and what to expect during your procedure.

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS

IUIs are a piece of cake. I say this now but I know at the time I was a nervous wreck. Although in hindsight, I had a hell of a lot more hope. I thought I would go in, wham-bam and be done with all this. IUIs seem like a breeze now because it was the beginning of it all. I know starting infertility is scary but I promise you, be thankful that you are only doing IUIs. If you get pregnant off of one, you are super lucky.

Now that that’s out of the way, what is an IUI?

IUI: Intrauterine insemination

Before heading down the IVF road, your doctor will make you undergo an IUI (or several). Insurance actually requires this. IUI is non-invasive.  During an IUI the sperm has to find the egg, think its sexy- become an embryo,  and implant. In IVF the job of the sperm finding the egg happens in a petri dish (not your body) and is carefully monitored as the embryo grows, the embryo is then put back in your body to implant. With an IUI everything happens inside of YOU. Its less lab like, only one person stares into your vagina. Like I said, in comparison its a cake walk. HOWEVER its still unfair and not comparable to creating babies the “natural” way.

If you have a limited supply of sperm or don’t react to meds, you will be fast tracked to IVF because the probability of you becoming pregnant off an IUI is 20- 25% (the same as two people just trying at home in their comfy bed (age related of course)— I imagine this is how children are made) and time and resources are precious.

Also, according to AmericanPregancy.org, you will not have an IUI if you fall into one of these categories:

  • Women who have severe disease of the fallopian tubes
  • Women with a history of pelvic infections
  • Women with moderate to severe endometriosis
CHLOMID

funny

To prepare you for your IUI you will be put on the infamous Chlomid or something like it. I have met only one woman in my life who wasn’t affected by Chlomid. Most people complain that it makes your mood insane. I personally didnt have mood issues, I had issues with my brain completely malfunctioning. During this period of my life I: yelled at strangers thinking they were friends, walked into walls, showed up to appointments that didn’t exist, triple booked meetings, etc. On Chlomid my brain was like a mush of cotton candy who flew to Phoenix for winter, it was checked out.

Once you know how you will react you can plan accordingly. Maybe you hold off from being super social for the weeks leading up to it.

DOC APPOINTMENTS

You will have a lot of doctors appointment to check your follicles and lining. Right when they think you are going to ovulate, you will have your procedure. This means you will need to be ready to drop your schedule and make it work. Its a lot of pressure because the sperm has to be perfect which means you will have to have sex on specific days leading up to the procedure. Personally for us it was weird because it completely stripped the romance out of creating a child (once again that notion is now long gone).

DAY OF PROCEDURE

When you arrive you will either have your partner provide a specimen or you will give them some from earlier that morning, or the freezer. They will clean the specimen in a machine for about 40 minutes. Essentially they are removing any extra “junk” so that its the purest sperm going towards your eggs. My recommendation, go get brunch so you aren’t sitting there twiddling your fingers.

Once the sperm is “clean”  you will go into the room for your procedure. There are a lot of jokes about being turkey basted BUT that is essentially what they do. Your nurse will place a catheter into your uterus so that the sperm can meet the eggs. This is not comfortable, shocker!

Recommendation: Have your partner hold your hand. Its the most intimate you will be able to get during this.

Once the sperm is inside of you, you will lay there with your booty in the air for 15 minutes (dreamy, right?!). You will then get dressed and wait for two weeks. Its nerve wracking but in the grand scheme of things, its not too bad 🙂

I will be honest, I can’t remember what the aftercare was like. I do know that I ran a 5K while I was waiting so I don’t think it was a lot.

 

-Annie

 

Accupuncture

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Women going through IVF

I am well versed in acupuncture for two reasons. First, I have regularly gone to acupuncture for 5 years. Secondly, at each appointment I ask a million questions. At this point I know my acupuncturist quite well, thus she knows I need to understand why were doing what we are doing in order to proceed. That being said, I am not a medical professional. Consult your doctor before pursuing acupuncture.

ACUPUNCTURE AND ME

I started going to acupuncture for pelvic floor issues that began when I was 16. I had endometriosis surgery to see if that was the root cause and after years of speculation we learned that I did not have endometriosis. By this point I had every test imaginable done and had been to physical therapy. My gyno threw her hands in the air and declared, “I don’t know what else to do, try acupuncture.” She handed me a card and off I went.

I did intensive treatments for months on end and slowly my pain started to go away. At this point in my life I only have pain right before getting my period and know through my IVF journey that my pain is linked to a fluctuation in hormones. 

When I went off the pill, I immediately let my acupuncturist know that it was baby making time. She started me on a cocktail of herbs and worked to get my body moving. Unfortunately I never got my period. I worked with her for about 4 months before going to a fertility doctor.

Throughout my first year of IVF I went before and after each treatment. At this point I think acupuncture helps to relieve stress with IVF but for me personally I cant say definitively that it helps with my lining or egg production. I don’t have anything to compare to make a conclusion. I do know that during my past two retrievals I did fewer treatments and my results were actually better. This all though is a crap shoot and I can’t really determine where the results come from.

ACCUPUNCTURE AND IVF

Many people pursue acupuncture during IVF for the following:

  • Thicken lining
  • Egg quality/ egg numbers
  • Reduce stress

I cant guarantee the first two will work but acupuncture is great for stress relief. For an hour, you chill out, relax, and may fall asleep. When you are gearing up for a procedure and your mind is racing, this time away from reality is lovely.

Many friends came to the idea of it after their doctor recommends it as a stress reliever. From the research I’ve done and from talking to doctors/acupuncturists, there is no conclusive study that says “YES THIS WORKS!” What we do know is that it doesn’t hurt to try.

WHAT IS ACUPUNCTURE?

Acupuncture is a eastern medical practice that uses very thin needles to move energy (qi) throughout your body. The acupuncturist is trained to understand the different points within your body that align to different pathways. They evaluate where you need movement based on the  body types in ancient Chinese medicine. Based on your diagnosis your acupuncturist will select locations to place needles. The needles do not go far into the skin and should not hit a vein or muscle.

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WHAT TO EXPECT

I know acupuncture sounds scary and super hippy dippy. It is not scary but yes it can be hippy dippy at times. Its important to distill what you want from it. Sometimes I am like “yes! This makes logical sense,” and other times I just have to just nod my head and smile.

People are most scared of the needles, here is what you need to know:

  • They are SUPER thin.
  • You don’t feel them.
  • You may feel a weird sensation here and there, acupuncturists chalk that up to the qi moving. 

When you arrive you will go through a series of questions. Your specialist may ask to see your tongue (go with it). They will then asked you to get undressed or remove clothing. You will place blankets over you to cover yourself. You will lay on a table and the acupuncturist will place needles in strategic locations. Ask about the locations they are choosing, it is fascinating!

Once the needles are in, you will lay for a specific amount of time. During my treatments a heat lamp is placed over my belly area to help with blood flow.

I fall asleep during my treatments, it is wonderful. After your treatment is over, your acupuncturist will come in and remove the needles. You shouldn’t have bruises.

Depending on doctors orders and your acupuncturist you may be prescribed herbs. It is super important you ask your doctor first because you don’t want to mess with your cabinet of meds for treatment.

Some insurance companies cover treatment (although this is rare). You can find acupuncture schools where they will discount the fee although if its your first time doing acupuncture I would stay away. Don’t want to add any extra stress. $60-$90 for an hour session seems to be the going rate if you go to a licensed professional.

EASE YOUR MIND

Acupuncture may or may not help. If you think it will, try it out. You have nothing to loose. The way I look at it, rule it out so you can ease your mind. If you know you may say to yourself, “Well If I just tried…” then try it and see how it goes. No harm, no fowl.

-Annie

Finding a Therapist

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples going through IVF
  • Women going through IVF

I love therapy. I believe everyone needs it because we all have our own shit. The world would be a better place if we were all a little more self reflective and proactive. But I digress!

I have been in therapy for years and along the way have changed therapists depending on what I needed. When I first started IVF I was with a hippy dippy mediative sort of therapist. While this methodology worked for some parts of my life (like family dynamics) it was not serving me well for IVF. After a suggestion from my doctor I switched therapists and it was the best decision I could have made.

I learned there are therapists who specifically focus on IVF. This means they are well versed in the lingo, know how to empathize with you and can help you navigate the process. You don’t spend your hour explaining procedural information, rather you can dive into the emotional wreck you have become.

I know switching can be daunting. It takes forever to build rapport with your therapist and when you have been with someone for a really long time they know the ins and outs of your family. To me IVF is a whole new beast and having someone who really gets it is essential and worth laying the groundwork.

WHY GET A THERAPIST:
  • They can help you sort through your feelings. Having a third party who isn’t on drugs but understands the effects of the drugs on your mental state can be super helpful.
  • IVF is tough on every and any couple. Ive never met a couple who was like “Yes IVF was the sexiest time in our marriage. It was pure joy!” Having someone to help you navigate those dynamics so you can show love to one another will set you up for long term success.
  • Sometimes you need to be put in your place. When I would get crazy about weight or why things weren’t working, my therapist was my voice of reason. She appealed to me with logic and an empathetic tone.
  • ADDED BONUS: If you can find a therapist who has had infertility issues it is even better because she will truly understand your pain. We have many a laughs during my sessions because of this unfortunate commonality.
TIPS FOR LOOKING FOR A THERAPIST:
  • Search for terms like IVF, medical speciality, medical trauma.
  • Ask your doctor for a recommendation.
  • Call your insurance company to see if they have someone in network that specializes in medical trauma or IVF.
  • Call several different therapists for a phone consult to learn about their philosophy. You are the patient and the one with the $$$, you can ask them how they work with their patients, what drives their work, etc.
  • If you dont like the therapist after the first appointment, switch! You need to be comfortable with being you in front of them.
CASH IS TIGHT! I CANT AFFORD THERAPY!
INSURANCE

In Illinois you get the best coverage for IVF with an HMO. HMOs suck for just about everything else including therapy. Through the IVF process I actually learned that 50% of my therapy costs could be reimbursed for out of network therapy. Shockingly this is not advertised. I recommend calling your insurance provider to find out all options before giving up on therapy.

HEALTH CLINIC

In Chicago there is an amazing organization here called the Chicago Women’s Health Center. When I was going through a crisis years ago and was strapped for cash they let me come in for therapy for only $15 a session! They have a sliding scale based on income. If you are fronting your IVF costs I would imagine most amazing non profits for women would consider your costs. Google women’s health clinics in your area and call to see what recommendations they may have.

-Annie

IVF Clinic - "All I want is a womb somewhere"
IVF Clinic – “All I want is a womb somewhere”

Weird Science! Genetic Testing

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples going through IVF
  • Women in their late 30s and early 40s who are retrieving eggs

Saturday I had my second extraction, almost 2 in exactly one month (off by a day). We decided to batch our eggs because we are PGD (Preimplantation genetic diagnosis) Testing.

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BATCHING: A REFRESHER

I can’t have a fresh transfer (transferring embryos right after a retrieval) because I overstimulate. I am used to waiting to have a retrieval and then transferring eggs. Some folks opt to have several retrievals in a row and then do transfers.

I have met couples who choose this route because they are older and don’t get a lot of eggs after a retrieval and would prefer to have a bunch before going down the transfer road.

Another reason to batch is it can be financially beneficial if you are PGD testing. We are in this camp. Specifically, most PGD labs will have a flat fee for 8 embryos. If you don’t have 8 embryos most people will batch until they reach this number so you can get the most bang for your buck. We are lucky and got 8 on our first try (and had one left in the freezer from last year) however since I have defied all odds thus far, we wanted to have as many eggs as possible to test. After you pay the flat fee, the price per egg seems nominal in comparison.

PGD TESTING

Science is crazy! CRAZY! After 4 failed transfers with high grade embryos we were given the option to PGD test. PGD testing is when they take a biopsy of the embryo and test it to see if it is genetically sound. They can determine which embryos will be more likely to implant using this technology. Usually older women are advised to take this route because it will help you decipher much quicker if your embryos are viable and if you are likely to implant embryos that will yield genetic abnormalities at birth.

Most companies will assign you a genetic counselor. They will go over the test in its entirety and answer any questions you have. Heck, you are paying out the nose, might as well make it worth your while.

TO TEST OR NOT TO TEST: THAT IS THE QUESTION

During our first round at our first doctor, testing was pushed on us but we declined. By all accounts, we were not the typical PGD candidates and there were no indicators that testing was even needed. PLUS TESTING IS NOT COVERED BY INSURANCE. It is expensive, very expensive. Thus we opted to go the “natural” route, whatever that means in this crazy  concoction of science.

Our second doctor also brought it up but again we decided it didn’t make sense since there wasn’t any specific reason to have it done. BUT after 4 transfers, by-the-books perfect lining and embryos, we decided we would bite the bullet and test.

THE RATIONALE

It wasn’t easy to make this decision for a few reasons:

  1. It was going to cost us a minimum of $7500, depending on the freezing fees, number of eggs, batching fee, the price just goes up and up. We are currently WAY passed this amount (by almost 2 fold).
  2. Its 93%-95% accurate
  3. Since they are testing such a tiny organism, there is a chance they could damage the embryo.

We decided to take the leap and scrounge up savings and months of salary to do the testing because:

  1. I have now defied every stat. They don’t know whats wrong with me and I want some answers.
  2. I can’t do this to my body much longer. Feeling like shit 99% of the time isn’t sustainable.
  3. I am not happy while doing this.
  4. If I am going to put my body through hell for transfers, I want to know we aren’t wasting our time.
  5. I need closure.

* Added bonus pointed out by my doctor: If all things go great and lets say we do get pregnant we will wont have to do this again. We will have genetically sound embryos in the freezer for a later use.

If you are considering testing, weigh the impact it will have for you. The PGD companies will push testing because they make money, figure out what is right for your family, sit on it for a while, and then go forth!

WHAT ARE THE ODDS

If you are healthy, the number of genetically sound embryos will vary depending on your age. For example a healthy 30 year old should have about 70% genetically sound embryos (info from our genetic counselor). My doctor approximates closer to 50%. In theory these embryos will be less likely to miscarry and should not have genetic mutations.  As you get older, the number decreases. So if you are playing on pure numbers, the more embryos you have to test, the more likely it is to have genetically sound embryos.

WAITING GAME

So here we are 9 embryos and counting (I will know the final number on Friday) and then they are sending them off to test. We should know our results in a few weeks. Once we have this information we will know if we are going to keep with IVF or call it a day. Either way, its one step closer to the end. While the end is sad because it confirms we may never have a biological child, my body has failed, and I put my body through hell for 2 years with no results… the end if comforting. It means onward to the next phase (adoption) and one step closer to completing our family.

 

-Annie

 

A shot in the belly, a dollar in the wallet.

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Women who are in a cycle or are gearing up for a retrieval

Whether you are covered by insurance or not, money is tight during IVF. Between surgeries, meds, etc. dolla dolla bills are hard to come by and so this post is here to help ya make an extra few!

A friend works within the pharma world passed along a short, easy survey from her company. If you are taking Gonal-F (follistim equivalent), carve out 5 minutes and fill out their survey. You get paid $25. Not too shabby. Go get that manicure that will help cheer you up with the cash! All of the information is below:

To take part in this survey, please use the link below to access the study. Upon successful completion, patients will receive $25.00 for their time. Checks usually arrive within 4-6 weeks

http://www.biostrategiesgroup.com/cgi-bin/ciwweb.pl?hid_bypass=1&hid_studyname=pbbn&sys_username=PABN

bioStrategies Group is a consulting firm specializing in helping clients develop and commercialize innovative technologies to better serve patients, physicians and the healthcare system. Our clients include major pharmaceutical, diagnostic and biotechnology companies.

Anyone with questions can reach out directly to:

 

Egg Retrieval Time! PART 1

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples going through a round of IVF
  • Women retrieving eggs to donate and freeze at a later time.
  • Friends of infertile folks

Today was my first day of shots and thus, retrievals are on my mind. Friday I learned I was starting another round and will have another retrieval next week. I am quite excited because this means we are one step closer to getting some answers. Because I will have had 2 retrievals within one month, the info is fresh and ripe for the taking.

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WHAT IS A RETRIEVAL?

If you are going through a cycle of IVF or freezing your eggs you need to have the eggs removed from your ovaries. Your doctor will devise a plan (according to your diagnosis) that will allow them to stimulate your follicles (the magical sacks inside of your ovaries that grow and house your eggs) so that they can remove as many eggs as possible. Your age plays a large part in the number and quality of eggs removed, however you can of course defy the odds. For example you can be young and have poor quality eggs or older with a bunch of eggs ready to go. The doctor will determine a course of action based on the stats that normally apply for your age.

A CYCLE

You will begin your medication and stay on it for about 10-14 days. Your doctor will closely monitor you to figure out how your follicles are growing so that they can fix your medication dosages along the way. The entire process is incredibly calculated  and is contingent upon time thus it requires a lot of oversight.

WHAT MEDS WILL I TAKE?

In order to get your follicles big and juicy (mmmmmmm) they will need to stimulate them. The doctor will use an injectable medication to help get the follicles to grow (I take a shot in the morning and a shot at night). The goal is to get the follicles to grow together. What I mean by this is, you don’t want one follicle thats huge, a few that are medium, and a bunch that are small. The ideal is to get a large group to grow around the same size at the same time. The reason for this is, around day 10 of shots your doctor is going to look at the size of the follicles and determine if you are ready to “trigger.” This means that within 2 days, your follicles will be at the magic size (for my doctor its about 20mm) and he/she will be able to get the most bang for their buck.

In addition to the two shots each day (or however many your doctor gives you), you will introduce a third shot late on in your cycle. Because you are growing all of these follicles, your body will say to itself, “HMMMM this is strange, shouldn’t I ovulate?” Since your body is so smart, your doctor will have you begin an additional injectable so that your ovaries will not ovulate and will wait to release any eggs. In my experience I started taking this particular shot around day 7 of my cycle.

Once your follicles are at a certain point (around 18 mm) your doctor will give you the go ahead to trigger. This is INCREDIBLY TIME SENSITIVE. Depending on when your procedure is, your doctor will give you an exact time to take your medication. This last shot lets the follicles know its go time. “The effect of the “trigger shot” is to send eggs into a reproductive division known as meiosis where the objective end point is a decrease in the number of chromosomes in the egg from 46 to 23 (half) prior to ovulation or egg retrieval.”(READ MORE SCIENCE-Y STUFF HERE). In laymen’s terms, the shot gives the follicles the go ahead to release the eggs from little sacks inside of the follicle. In the process they become mature eggs ready for the taking.

 PREPPING FOR A RETRIVAL

Your doctors office will give you a time to show up for surgery. This is a surgery, you will not be awake for it. Most likely you have a procedure in early morning and will not eat prior to it because of the sedation.

Surgery (especially when new) can be scary. Do what you need to do for yourself to relax. Your partner (or sperm donation vile) will need to be present because you will need the sperm for your freshly retrieved eggs. Immediately following your retrieval the sperm and egg are introduced to one another in a petri dish.

*** Embryo fertilization and testing will be in a post in just a few short weeks, stay tuned!

You will most likely feel pretty crappy (crampy) and tired afterwards, do not make plans. Depending on overstimulation, etc. you may want to ensure you don’t have plans the following day either. Take each day as it comes and show kindness to yourself.

This past retrieval I had a list of TV shows I was waiting to watch so that I would be occupied while I was at home. I recommend you do the same.

BATCHING

Some women opt to get multiple eggs in the bank before transferring. Last year I did a retrieval (it failed), and then did another one. My second retrieval yielded 5 embryos. I defied all odds, after transferring 4 I still wasn’t pregnant. Statistically about half of the embryos should have been genetically sound.

My husband and I decided to search for answers and pursue genetic testing. This testing will help us figure out if it my eggs are my issue. Thus, it makes sense to get as many eggs as possible before testing. This process is called “batching.” Next week I will have a fourth retrieval and finally be done with retrievals forever 🙂

Many older women batch so that they can get a number of embryos to transfer all at once because statistically most of their eggs will have gone bad.

HOLY GUACAMOLE! YOUR OVARIES ARE THE SIZE OF AVOCADOS

A very small percentage of women over stimulate. What this means is, they produce an insane amount of follicles and the result is their ovaries get ridiculously big. In some cases fluid leaks from the ovaries which is quite dangerous. The fluid could leak throughout your body and cause some major damage. Additionally, because your ovaries are so big you can twist an ovary and cause a torsion.

I am one of the lucky women who are prone to this. If you are in this circumstance you will watched even more closely. If your doctor does not mention this, put him in line NOW.

Leading up to and after the retrieval is tough because you can literally feel your ovaries. They are big and heavy. Your stomach becomes huge and you feel super bloated and heavy. Once you get your period, your ovaries will chill out and you will feel better. Waiting around though is not fun, I cant pretend it is.

TRANSFER TIME

Some women will transfer their embryos after a retrieval while others must freeze and wait. If you are doing a fresh transfer, you will be given additional hormones to prep your body for the embryo implantation.

Managing your meds and feelings is a lot. Give yourself permission to be okay with the process. I have talked to so many women and each time I am reminded that its okay that our brains are consumed by this. It doesn’t make you a bad employee, friend, or partner. Its natural, this is intense. Be nice to yourself and try to laugh along the way.-

-Annie

 

POSTS TO COME:

  • Acupuncture before a procedure
  • Make your partner give you shots
  • Overstimulation, scary stuff
  • Transfers, fresh and frozen
  • Genetic testing
  • Failed retrievals, whats next

The Pineapple Won’t Get You Pregnant.

WHO THIS IS FOR:

  • Women going through IVF (specifically transfers)
  • Partners who want to help their partner remember, they don’t have control in the sweetest kindest way.

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When you begin infertility treatments any sort of “planning” flies out the window. You become beholden to what your body feels like doing from day-to-day. Perhaps one day it doesn’t react to meds and the next, BOOM! Its all a crap shoot and because its all so uncertain you end up in the doctor’s office almost every day (prior to a retrieval). Traveling is out of the window because you have to worry about missing an appointment, something going wrong, giving yourself shots, feeling like shit, etc.

For go-getters like me, this was a very difficult pill to swallow. I LOVE planning. It gives me a road map to my goals, it provides me peace amongst the chaos. Because I had to kick this to the curb my first “round” (2 retrievals and 4 transfers) I focused on what I did think I could control, my body… specifically the food I ate. I read blog after blog about what to eat after a transfer. I learned Brazilian nuts and pineapples were the bees knees and the key to your infertility hopes and dreams. I ate the core of the pineapple and had 3 nuts a day each day during the 2WW.

The truth: it’s all bullshit.

I, like so many of you, wanted to hold onto something, anything…. but the truth of the matter is that piece of pineapple isn’t going to do the trick. The pineapple could help (who really knows) but its not going to be the ultimate decider. I realized then and now this wasnt going to be the case but when you are grasping for anything, you hope every little move you make adds up so that you see the outcomes you want. Ultimately there are so many different factors that go into a successful transfer and there isn’t much you can do (don’t get me started on the people who tell you to just “relax.”)

I bestow onto you the mantras you can use anytime to remind yourself that while you don’t have control you are doing the RIGHT thing.

MANTRAS TO HELP YA COPE WITH CONTROL
  • People who eat blue Doritos have kids.
  • People who do crack get pregnant (makes ya think twice about doubting your lack of kale consumption for the day).
  • People smoke cigarettes while pregnant (right? In this day and age?)
  • People who are malnourished give birth (keeps shit in perspective).
  • If it will ease your mind, DO IT**

*I am not saying don’t eat the pineapple. I am saying, don’t think even for a second that your choices are what caused a failed transfer. My lovely therapist reminded me, “if eating _____ will ease your mind do it, but don’t put all of your eggs in that basket” (paraphrase).

At the end of the day remember, you are one proactive bad ass who is doing EVERYTHING right. You can eat or leave the pineapple, either way you are doing the best you can and that’s all that really matters.

-Annie

Picking A Fertility Doctor

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:
  • Couples who want to seek treatment for infertility.
  • Couples who know they will struggle to get pregnant due to illness
  • LGBTQ couples who are beginning to family plan.
  • Women who interested in becoming pregnant.

Picking a gyno can be an overwhelming process, finding a fertility doctor can be downright exhausting. If you have only done IUIs or haven’t even started the process yet, my best piece of advice is go into this search with a defined set of qualities you want. Their success rates are important but its equally important to feel comfortable with the entire staff, their process, and your doctor.

THIS IS NOT A GYNO VISIT. During each cycle you are going to be at your doctor’s office between 3-5 times a week (depends on their protocol). I read on another blog, infertility is a full time job, and thats  a fairly accurate description. Because this will take up a large part of your life,  it is incredibly important you are comfortable asking your doctor questions and feel like you have a strong support system.

UTILIZE RELIABLE RESOURCES

Center for Disease Control

Since infertility is not super uncommon (despite all the hush hush) there are awesome resources out there that can be incredibly helpful. The Center for Disease Control did a big ol’ study entitled Assisted Reproductive Technology Report. Surprisingly, this report is fairly easy to navigate. You can select the state in which you are seeking treatment, find your potential infertility clinic and read all about their success and failures. Dig into your search by click here.

Resolve

Resolve- National Infertility Association is also a fabulous resource. They can help you sort through what’s important to know and help you find support groups (a future post). They have a professional services resource page that can be quite helpful. 

ASK YOUR FRIENDS/COMMUNITY

Remember, you are not alone. You may not know who in your circle has gone to a fertility doctor but its a great conversation to start having. Ask your circle of trust if they know of anyone who has gone through fertility treatments and have them connect you to their friends. Find out who they went to, what their experience was (the good, the bad, the in-between), and use this information to help you steer your search towards a decision.

QUESTIONS TO ASK THE DOCTOR TO DETERMINE IF THEY ARE THE RIGHT FIT:
  • How does staff communicate your results each day? You want an easy system that is reliable. You are going to get a lot of information each day. The less you have to manage the better, you want this to be as seamless as possible.
  • How do you contact staff after hours? You will want this information in the case you have a question about your meds, you are having bad side effects, you have a question about your upcoming procedure, etc..
  • What is their philosophy to infertility?  What I mean by  this is, find out what what drives the doctor to make decisions. My current doctor is AMAZING. In one of our long conversations he said, “My job isn’t to get you pregnant, my job is to get you a healthy baby.” His underlying philosophy  helps guide the medications he uses, number of embryos he transplants, and opportunities he presents us.

My first doctor was super caring and asked a lot of personal questions. I felt acknowledged by her. While her bedside manner felt good, bedside manner  wont get you pregnant. I felt like she would cushion information to protect my feelings. She would tell me what I wanted to hear from time-to-time rather than what I needed to hear.

My current doctor is caring and straight forward. He may not ask personal questions and know everything about my personal life, but he does give me information without beating around the bush. He uses stats to help us guide decisions and is always thinking two steps ahead. Personally I find this comforting because I know that if things don’t work out, we will have a strategic plan in place that suits us.

  • How do you contact your doctor if you have a question? A doctor who is available is the best kind of doctor. You may have questions that creep up in the middle of the night and having access to your doctor is so important.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SWITCH DOCTORS ALONG THE WAY

I speak from experience when I say, switching  doctors is scary. It’s terrifying for a number of reasons.

  • When you are drugged up and in the midst of things, having to find a new doctor is incredibly overwhelming.
  • Starting over is hard. You develop a rhythm going to your doctor each day and the thought of having to reestablish your groove can seem daunting.
  • Lastly, I felt like I was betraying my doctor. I was scared to hurt her feelings.

Despite all of these reasons it’s important to remember your end goal: get pregnant. As a friend told me, a second opinion never hurts. Knowledge is power, remember this when you are doubting your decision.

YOU HAVE YOUR DOCTOR, GO FORTH!

Once you select a doctor the questions you have to ask are going to be personal to your situation. The most important thing is, ask whatever you want. Don’t hold back, no question is a stupid question. Also, if something doesn’t feel right or sound right, don’t be afraid to push back. You know your body and you are the best advocate you have.

-Annie

 

 

What the heck is IVF?

WHO IS THIS POST FOR?
  • YOU JUST LEARNED YOU MAY NEED TO GO TO A FERTILITY DOCTOR.
  • IUI HAS FAILED AND YOU ARE BEING MOVED TO IVF.
  • YOU ARE IN A SAME SEX RELATIONSHIP AND ARE FAMILY PLANNING.
  • WOMEN WHO DON’T WANT KIDS NOW AND ARE CONSIDERING FREEZING THEIR EGGS.
  • SUPPORTIVE/CURIOUS FRIENDS!
IVF= In Vitro Fertilization

In laymen’s terms…. the sexiest way to make a baby. Real talk, IVF is assisted implantation of a fertilized embryo into a womb.

How does IVF happen?

The way families get to the stage of IVF varies. Some couples have to do IVF because of past medical history, while others are counseled to this step after failed rounds of IUI (Intrauterine insemination). There are endless reasons as to why folks need IVF, whatever the reason may be, it is the pits.

IVF can happen in two ways: fresh transfer or a frozen transfer.

STEP ONE:

Get those eggs! Whether you are using an egg donor or your own, the first step is retrieving eggs. If you are using your own eggs you will have a retrieval (ooolala!). If you are receiving a donation, eggs will be removed from a lab and will be fertilized with sperm.

Retrival (Tell me more! Sounds like a blast!)

If you are using your own eggs you must first have your eggs extracted from your ovaries. The cocktail of drugs your doctor uses will vary based on your body’s egg production, hormone levels, medical history, etc. The medications are to help with a few things:

  • Egg production/stimulation (FSH): You want to create as many follicles as possible so that you can get multiple eggs rather then just one during your procedure. Think of your ovaries as a factory for eggs working overtime during your first few days of stimulation.
  • Premature Ovulation: Once you have all of those eggs, you want to keep them in your ovaries! Heck you just worked super hard to create them all, the docs need to ensure you do not release any and ruin the entire plan.
  • Oocyte Maturation: What the what? Since you are keeping your follicles from releasing the eggs (ovulation) the doctors manipulate your timeline (between the 8th and 14th day of being on meds (source: MayoClinic)) with an HCG shot to tells your follicle friends its “go time.” Once you take this shot, you will go in for your procedure (within a very specific time frame), to have the eggs removed.

For your procedure you are put to sleep for the egg retrieval. After a day you feel decent. This of course though depends on your body etc. If you are prone to overstimulation (points to self) the days following the procedure are pretty tough because your ovaries swell to the size of an avocado or bigger, but thats a post for another time!

STEP 2: What to do with the eggs?

After the eggs are retrieved they are fertilized by sperm. Either the sperm meets the egg in a petri dish OR a sperm is shot directly into an egg through a process known as ICSI (future post in the works). Some doctors make you wait three days, while others will make you wait five-six days to see how many embryos fertilized and to measure the quality of the embryos.

Does this sound like a blast yet? Take a deep breath. It is a lot, BUT its do-able! Strong, smart women everywhere are able to get through the process. While it may suck the life out of you at the time, the feeling is temporary. Trust me, it goes away. Okay back to the process!

Fresh Transfer Vs. Frozen Transfer:

For those who are not prone to overstimulation, have a thick lining, and are cleared by their doctor, a fresh transfer will be their route to baby making. What this means is, the embryo will be removed from the lab (immediately following fertilization— day 3-5 depending on the lab) and transferred back into the woman’s uterus. The woman then waits 10 days (known as the 2WW in many IVF communities) to find out if the procedure worked.

A frozen transfer takes a lot more patience. If you overstimulated (cue me again) or have to have a hysteroscopy or have a host of other issues, you will not have your embryos transferred right after your retrieval. Rather, your embryos will be frozen after day 5 or 6 of fertilization. Your doctor will plot a timeline of transfers for you. A transfer requires a completely new round of meds, a new cocktail of drugs, and an additional procedure.

The transfers help the doctor uncover a lot about your ability to get pregnant. Transfers may help reveal if your eggs have gone “bad.”

There is A LOT to IVF. This post is just the quick version. It can be incredibly overwhelming but I assure you, having information makes the process a lot easier. Knowing why they are giving you certain meds, timelines, options etc.,  helps you gain control in a situation where you don’t have any.

-Annie

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