Once you see an infertility specialist, the fun begins (insert sarcastic face here)! Going through infertility treatment can be a long and emotionally charged journey, so there are a few things to be prepared for:
1. Before you even meet with an infertility specialist, talk to your partner about your limits, both financially and physically. In some states medical insurance covers infertility treatments and in other states it is all out of pocket, so do some research (you don’t need that stress on top of everything else going on.) Write down questions you have for your doctor, and write down his or her answers, (it’s hard to remember and retain all of that info) so you can talk about details later.
2. Apart from a Past Medical History (PMH) and physical exam, you and your partner will be asked a ton of questions ranging from: “When did you start puberty?” to “What’s your sex drive like?” to asking about body hair growth (for both of you). It seems like the questions are never-ending and, quite honestly, a little strange (there is a purpose for all of them, I promise). You’ll also be asked details of when you’ve tried (i.e. at what point in your ovulation cycle), how long you’ve been trying, and be very honest if you’ve tried any herbal treatments, or any “tricks” to increase your fertility.
3. You will have some not-so-fun and highly invasive procedures, including labs drawn at almost every visit, so if you are squeamish about needles, here is your chance to get over it once and for all! You can also expect vaginal ultrasounds regularly (the first time it’s really awkward, but after ultrasound #50 you don’t even think twice about it.) You might get a hysterosalpingography, basically an x-ray with contrast to assess your uterus and fallopian tubes ensuring there are no blockages so your eggs can roll freely. Less frequently, your doctor may perform a pelvic ultrasound and/or a laparoscopy, which can give a better view of your uterus and fallopian tubes.
4. The longer you are undergoing treatments, the more high-dose hormones are flowing through your body, so expect some mood swings (think PMS x 10,000) and expect to get weepy or angry about things that normally don’t ruffle your feathers. The perma-grins on the HCPs faces, and the positivity can really get irritating; they aren’t the ones being stuck, probed, and let down month after month. It’s easy to forget that they are there to support you, and they are being positive to remind you of your end goal when you get frustrated (even though some of them appear to be staring at unicorns walking over rainbows in the waiting room).
5. Decide if you want to tell people that you are going through this process. As with anything, some people are insensitive, some are supportive, and some are just SO invasive they ask you more about your cycles and sex life than your own doctor! My advice? Keep it under your hat until you need to tell someone; there’s nothing worse than that annoying person in your life asking invasive questions baseline, and now focusing on your uterus? No, thanks!
6. Be mentally prepared that whatever interventions are done, they might not work the first couple of times; it can be a longer process than predicted…and if things happen faster than expected, SCORE! If you’ve gone through a couple of cycles of medications they may have given you to try, the weekly ultrasounds, having doctor ordered sex (as ill-timed as it may be), and you still get your period…see #4, you are likely to blow a gasket. And it’s normal to feel that way during infertility treatment, just be ready for it. Use the resources available to you through your doctor’s office, like counselors, if you are having trouble keeping it all together during this process, and use your friends and family for support (even if it’s a good weep and some ice cream, it will help you through the tough times).
7. As one of my good friends put it, “I feel like my body is no longer my own.” Indeed, infertility treatment can make you feel like you are a living science experiment. If it gets to be too much on you and your partner, take a break for a month or so, spoil yourself with massages and let your body relax. There is absolutely no law that says you need to continue forever; it’s better to get yourself back to a normal routine, and then get back on that horse … er, ultrasound wand.
Remember you are NOT alone, you are in this with your partner, and those who love you, want to help you, so let them. Whatever helps you get through each hard time is worth it, and sometimes, it truly does take a village to make a baby!