Starting your first IVF cycle can be extremely overwhelming from the fear of starting the injections to feeling anxiety about how you might feel day to day. I watched almost every IVF essentials or IVF must haves video on Youtube and Googled what other things women going through treatment recommended, to understand what I might need.
High Fibre foods
One of the many glamorous side effects of IVF treament and the medication you need to take is constipation. I’d read about this side effect quite a bit so I made sure I was eating things like porridge for breakfast. Not a major problem in all but add constipation on top of the egg stimulation bloating and it can be really uncomfortable. Unnecessarily so!
Cashew Wholefoods Bars
If you need an extra boost though, I found Cashew bars a really helpful as I could throw one in my bag for work and they are less suspect than gorging on portions of prunes. I like the Nakd Cashew Cookie bars which are 51% cashew and 49% dates. You can find the Nakd bars at most supermarkets and even some convenience shops, so perfect if you are out and about. Aldi also stocks a tasty Cashew Whole Food Bar which is also a little cheaper at £1.99 for 5 compared to £2.75 for 4 – depending on where you buy them).
The idea of injecting myself caused the most amount of concern before I started IVF and whilst it’s not the most painful experience it isn’t pleasant. I have a few little tricks that helped me make the daily injection routine that bit easier.
Firstly I iced the area of my tummy for about 5 minutes before injecting, it pretty much numbs the area so you can’t feel the prick as the needle goes in. I just pop a few blocks of ice in a sandwich bag saving on mess as you can just put the ice in the sink and the bag in the bin once you are done.
Germolene Antiseptic Cream
I also picked up a tube of Germolene Dual Action Antiseptic Cream actually in the hope that I could use this as an anaesthetic for the injection areas, but I didn’t find it was great for that. However, I wipe my tummy with a five pence piece blob on a cotton pad after and it helps with the stinging. It’s antiseptic so it also makes me less worried about infection.
My IVF clinic talked about the importance of staying hydrated very early on, explaining that the stimulation phase of treatment draws a lot of water from the body to the ovaries. They recommended drinking 2-3 litres of water a day. What! I found this quite daunting but I’d seen a few pregnant Youtubers carrying round motivational water bottles, so I decided to buy one and start training myself to drink enough each day. With the idea that once I officially started the cycle I would be used to glugging that much H20.
Hydatem8 Water Bottle
You can find a range of these kinds of water bottles on Amazon which range in style and colour. To get the most out of the bottle it has to become an extension of you, by this I mean take it EVERYWHERE. Once you leave it at your desk to run off to a meeting, forget to pack it in the morning or just leave it in another room you will find it really hard to keep up. It’s actually not that much per hour, I would say around three big glugs. Happy water drinking!
Dare to Dream
I think I was aimlessly scrolling on Instagram when I first heard about this book, but it instantly caught my attention, so it wasn’t long before I made my way to Waterstones to pick up a copy. Dare to Dream is the Izzy Judd’s (Harry from McFly’s wife) story to becoming a mum through IVF.
I found it super helpful to get insight another woman’s journey with infertility and eventually motherhood. Knowing you aren’t the only one to feel low, helpless and absorbed by trying to conceive is a relief. In the book Izzy talks about her childhood, meeting and marrying Harry and how she came to undergo IVF. Her positive spin on the magical aspects of IVF are refreshing and not a perspective I’ve come across.
Dare to Dream: My Struggle to Become a Mum – A Story of Heartache and Hope
This book might not be right for you but I do think reading about other people’s experiences and stories, some with happy endings and some with devastating realities is therapeutic and for me, it has been an important part of dealing with IVF.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Whilst the fertility clinic or hospital you visit will be managing the physical stages of your treatment and you can be proactive with a healthy diet and exercise I have also appreciated taking time out to nurture my mind.
I find a combination of daily (well as regularly as I can remember) session with the Headspace app, Yoga and Acupuncture helps to balance my anxiety levels and manage the emotional side of things. Meditation is not something I would ever have thought I would be in to or even benefit from but taking time out of your day or week to breathe and acknowledge your feelings is a great way to manage stress, so I would really recommend it.
During what I call my active weeks (ovulation suppressing injections, stimulation injections, egg collection and transfer) I have also been attending acupuncture sessions with Hannah at Hannah Watson Chinese Medicine. As well as providing a mental MOT, Hannah will run through physical changes for that week and work the acupuncture points accordingly. Increased blood flow to the ovaries has proven medical benefits and I will take any extra edge I can get.
These are the things I found really helpful through my first IVF cycle, so I hope you find these tips helpful too. I’d love to hear if you found anything else helpful during your cycles, so please comment below.