How to support a friend who's starting IVF
Less than 30 years ago, IVF was not a household word, but today over 200,000 babies have been born since 1981 with the procedure. Still, many do not understand what exactly IVF is and what women have to go through to have a child with this procedure. Beyond Infertility site creator Nicole Witt is here to explain.
Your friend is going to start IVF cycles, but you aren't entirely sure what this means. You know she has been trying to conceive for a long time and this may be a solution to help her build a family. To be there for your friend during this invasive and exhausting time, it is important to know the specifics of IVF and what she is going through.
Choosing IVF, or In-Vitro Fertilization, is not an easy path to parenthood. First, couples usually go through every other fertility-inducing option available, including:
- Fertility drugs
- Diagnoses of various fertility-blocking conditions
- Surgery to correct fertility problems
- Artificial insemination
Going through all of these fertility assessments and possibly receiving bad news about her infertility means your friend has already been through an emotional and physical roller coaster. IVF is the next step and the ride does not get any smoother.
IVF is often confused with artificial insemination. With artificial insemination, the sperm are placed in the uterus by a doctor and the process of conception hopefully follows. IVF is more complicated, invasive, and expensive. Only five percent of couples with infertility choose IVF for these reasons.
In short, IVF involves combining eggs and sperm, either the couple's or donated from a sperm or egg donor, outside of the body. This is why, in the past, babies born from IVF were called "test tube babies." An embryo (or multiple embryos) will form to be inserted into the uterus.
Seems simple, right? But the process to get to embryo insertion is long and arduous. Your friend is going to go through many steps and stages that will wear her down and make her ill at times.
- Your friend will go through blood tests and ultrasounds to figure out what is going on with her eggs. This multitude of appointments can wreak havoc on her work schedule which adds more stress to the whole process. During this time, she will also meet with a financial counselor for the sticker shock price of IVF. Each cycle of IVF can easily cost $15,000 and there is usually no insurance coverage. She and her spouse will even have to meet with a psychologist.
- She will meet with a nurse who will teach her to how self-administer fertility drugs. These fertility drugs are injections that have to be completed multiple times per day. The hormones in this carefully planned injection plan will alter her moods and could make her sick.
- Your friend and her spouse have to carefully schedule their appointment to have the eggs extracted and a sperm sample collected. Your friend will be heavily sedated so the eggs can be extracted without pain. However, your friend will experience cramping and pressure following retrieval. The eggs and sperm will be combined in a lab.
- Three days later, your friend has to go back to the doctor to get the embryos placed inside of her. This part of the procedure, although uncomfortable, is relatively painless and feels like a pap smear. After this stage, she will either have to take a daily progesterone suppository or her spouse will have to give her daily injections of progesterone in the butt to help embryo implantation.
- If after two weeks your friend is not pregnant, she has to go through the entire process all over again.
Many couples who use IVF have to go through multiple rounds to find success. So your friend will most likely have to endure the pain of daily injections, the side effects of the drugs, the financial hardship, the disruption to her professional and personal schedule, and the fear, worry and hope that goes along with the entire process over and over.
This experience is not pleasant. The difference between a joyous positive pregnancy test after privately trying to conceive in the bedroom and this scientific, cold approach to conception is numbing and exhausting. To be there for your friend, do everything you can to make her feel comfortable and try your best to keep her positive. It can be easy for your friend to fall into negative thinking after all she has gone through, especially if an IVF cycle fails. Just letting her know that you are there for her will help make the process easier to cope with.