Here’s a link to an appearance by Mr Serhal of The Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health (formerly the Assisted Conception Unit at University College Hospital) on ITV’s This Morning programme on Thursday 16th October 2014.
As it’s Sunday 3rd November and the last day of Infertility Awareness Week, and also that of The Fertility Show in London, here’s the last part of the A to Z of IVF feature. I hope the article has been informative. Look out for more posts in the future not only about IVF, but also on pregnancy and life with twins.
A sugar alternative – it looks and taste just like it, but is much, much healthier, not just for your teeth but for your hormones too. Found in small amounts naturally in our bodies, it is commercially available from plants, usually birch or more often corn cobs. A study in May 2013 showed that there may be a benefit in a lower sugar, higher protein diet for patients going through IVF[i]. It’s only one small change but it might be worth considering.
Not always easy, but do try to be extra kind to yourself. You are still a person, not just a baby-making machine, and with your mind so preoccupied with all thoughts of IVF and your eyes on the prize at the end, it is very easy to lose your sense of self. You still have all your other hopes and dreams, they’ve just taken a back seat for the time being.
You’ll probably feel as though you’re living in one, what with all the probing and poking by doctors and medical staff at what seems like countless hospital or clinic appointments. You may also feel as though your whole life is on display too, and that you’re being judged by people you don’t even know. Rest assured this is not the case – at least not from the medical professionals’ point of view. Whilst the IVF experience is highly personal to each couple going through it, it isn’t always conveyed that way by the doctors and nurses involved in the process. With regard to friends, family or even strangers, try not to take it personally, especially when you hear comments from others voicing their opinion on IVF when they have no knowledge or experience of the subject. Practically you could also give meditation a go: if you’re lucky enough that your head allows it, it’s the ultimate method of attaining a calm and peaceful mind. If it all sounds a bit too ‘New Age’ for you, do it anyway. If it works that’s a bonus, if it doesn’t you haven’t lost anything. Try to live in the moment as far as you can, and experience every aspect of your treatment as and when it happens. Keep optimistic, but stay realistic.
[i] Low-Carb Diet Improves In Vitro Fertilization. Medscape. May08, 2013
On your part, understanding the treatment cycle, what it involves and some of the technical and medical jargon and procedures behind it can help you to feel slightly more in control of your destiny than you would otherwise. On the part of your partner, family and friends, they need to understand that you’ll require as much support and consideration they can give, for as long as you need it. Don’t be afraid of telling them that – the onus is on them to be concerned about you, not the other way around.
As well as taking time to visualise yourself being pregnant, and ultimately holding and being with your baby, it also helps to envisage each step of the treatment cycle too. Think about what’s happening to your body when you take the hormonal suppression drugs, picture the follicles producing the eggs when you’re on the stimulation phase, and during the two week wait visualise the embryo implanting and growing inside your womb. There are special CDs that can facilitate this if you find it difficult to do. Try the cliché of visualising yourself on a desert island surrounded by gently lapping waves when you find yourself on the treatment table before egg collection and transfer. It’s cheesy, but it can work.
You’ll feel as if your whole life has turned into one long wait. You seem to spend your time just waiting for this that or the other to happen, then when it does it’ll be replaced by another version of the same. Know and accept that it will be a part of your life for quite some time, especially the dreaded ‘two week wait’. Implement your plan for relaxation whenever you know there’s a defined period of waiting approaching – or make a point of keeping your mind occupied. It makes everything go by much, much quicker.
Uplifting or relaxing, music can play a large part in your IVF treatment cycle. If you’re feeling stressed the right music can take you away to a place where you can forget about everything going on around you, at least temporarily. Music therapy has been used for years to help improve mood and restore energy, and soothing rhythms can calm your mind, regulate your heart rate and help you to breathe easier. I found it an invaluable tool in coping with the stress of IVF.
Eating well is an absolute must. That’s not to say you can’t afford yourself the odd treat – we’re humans not saints after all! It’s important to remember though that what we put in our bodies really does affect us physically, mentally and even emotionally. It’s probably a good idea to avoid too much junk food in general, but a burger every now and then isn’t going to make any difference whatsoever, especially if you make one yourself at home using organic meat if possible. It goes without saying that the bulk of your diet should come from the usual suspects – vegetables, fruit and grains. Don’t forget a small amount of dairy too. It’s never a good idea to omit complete food groups – just go for moderation. If cooking isn’t usually your thing why not buy a cookbook with easy and quick to make recipes? You’ll have fun putting ingredients together and maybe learn a new skill too, and that’s always a good thing.
In the beginning you’ll probably be full of positivity and optimism hoping that your very first cycle will be successful. Often it is, and the emotional risk of multiple treatments is minimised. If, however, your first cycle is negative you may find that optimism starts to wane, just a little. The longer it takes and the more treatment you have, the harder it can get to remain in a positive frame of mind. Whilst cautious optimism is recommended, try to also be a realist. Your chances do increase with each cycle i.e. the more you do, the greater the odds of success. Keep that in mind and it will help to balance your view when you’re feeling low.
P Plan B
It’s a good idea to make alternative plans for if your treatment doesn’t work and you find yourself unable to carry on with further cycles for whatever reason. Hopefully you won’t need one, but having something else to focus on so that you know there is something new and exciting in your future regardless is a huge help. Try and make a plan that involves something you wouldn’t normally do otherwise, but that is still achievable. If your treatment is successful that’s fantastic, but if not having something alternative to work towards can be beneficial.
So, this is my new blog for all things fertility, pregnancy and twins. That’s a lot to be going on with! And what better way to start than with my new promotional video for my book, Twin Stars and a Mother From Mars due out in October 2013. Take a look and share as much as you can – the UK’s very first National Infertility Awareness Week is coming up in October/November 2013 too and I’d love as many people as possible to know all about it!