PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR ASSISTED REPRODUCTION, STEP BY STEP
In a process of assisted reproduction, each step comes with its dose of strong emotions: bad news one day, good news the following day; joy and hope at times, followed by disappointment and despair. During each step, we need to fight to keep going forward, to keep believing in our dream.
During this fight, there is nothing more valuable than the advice of mothers who have overcome this same process, the experience of these tireless fighters who made their dream come true.
THE STIMULATION PHASE
Here we go, you can finally start with the treatment. You’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time: things are getting more real and you’re a step closer to your final objective.
It is your first process of assisted reproduction?
You’ve been trying to have a baby for months, maybe years. But infertility is a new reality you must deal with: it’s hard, but you’re working on it.
As many of us, you’re probably experimenting contradictory feelings – excitement and desire to go forward with the process, and at the same time other paralysing emotions: fear of the injections, uncertainty of the results, stress, doubts.
And here’s another contradiction: the process is ultra-medicalised, doctors have explained every step of the process and you probably asked 25 questions during the last consultation. Yet, during the first days of the stimulation phase, you’re on your own and with very low self-confidence. Until the first monitoring visit, you’re doing the injections yourself and doubts assail you:
Am I doing it correctly?
There is a drop of medication left in the bottle, what should I do? Will it work the same way?
Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with these doubts! The first injections are very impressive for all of us, but they’re getting easier each day.
It makes me laugh now, but the first injection was horrible! I was supposed to do it on a Sunday, precisely the same week-end as a friend’s wedding. First, there was the stress of the plane: I had to check-in my luggage because of the needles and spent the entire flight imagining they had lost my suitcase! Then, there was the stress of the injection itself. I had decided to do all the injections early in the morning before going to work: so, for the first injection, I had to set the alarm clock at 7 am the morning after the wedding! You can imagine the little fun I had during the wedding party and how nervous I was when I woke up that Sunday morning! I was so afraid of the injection that I asked my husband to do it. Almost 10 years later, I remember it as if it were yesterday: both of us in that sad hotel room, my husband with his hands shaking and me crying nervously! After that, I gave myself all the injections, and became quite an expert.
OBJECTIVES DURING THIS PHASE:
1/ LIVE YOUR DAILY LIFE AS SERENELY AS POSSIBLE
2/ LEAR HOW TO RELAX BEFORE THE INJECTIONS
HAVE A NORMAL AND ACTIVE LIFE
Don’t put the treatments at the centre of your life. We know it’s easier said than done, and we won’t tell you not to think about it… But you’ll see that if you force yourself to be active, these few weeks will be much easier to go through.
Organise activities that can help you relax: keep working, go out with friends, have lunch or dinner with your family, go to the movies, go on a romantic trip, etc.
Incorporate the injections in your daily routine, as naturally as possible. You’ll have to do them at the same hour every day: make sure to choose a moment when you’re sure of being home, quiet, with no risk of being disturbed or in a hurry.
DO PHYSICAL EXERCISE, EVEN THOUGH MODERATELY
In the last days of the stimulation phase, you might feel some discomfort. But in general, during the rest of that phase, you can have a smooth physical activity which will help you relax both body and mind. For example: walk at least 30 minutes a day, or practice yoga. Certain yoga positions can help stimulate the reproduction organs, and you can practice them until the egg transfer and even after.
LEARN HOW TO RELAX BEFORE THE INJECTIONS
Injections will get easier every day, but it’s important that you manage to relax: the more relaxed you are, the less they will hurt.
You will find hereafter 2 relaxation exercises, according to how much time you can dedicate to it before the injections:
1- Relaxation through breathing: 2-3 minutes
Sit down comfortably and make sure you have within easy reach everything you’ll need for the injection.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, inhaling through your nose (you can exhale either through your nose or mouth, whatever is more comfortable for you). During approximately one minute, don’t try to force your respiration: listen to it and observe it. Breathe naturally 4 or 5 times, without trying to change the rhythm nor the intensity of your respiration.
Then slowly take control of your breathing, making it slower and deeper. Try to make each inhalation and exhalation last the same, approximately 4 to 5 seconds. Keep breathing like this 5 times, or during one minute.
Little by little, you can feel your mind and body calm down.
When you’re finally relaxed, you can do the injection: take a deep breath in, and inject yourself the medication as you breathe out.
2- Deep relaxation exercise: from 5 to 10 minutes
Make sure you have within easy reach everything you’ll need for the injection.
Lie down on a bed or a sofa, and close your eyes. Start by calming down your respiration during a few seconds.
The exercise consists in relaxing your body little by little, part by part, starting with the head and going down your body, with a slow, deep and calm respiration.
First, focus on your head. Take a deep breath in and with each breath out, relax one by one all the muscles of your head: the muscles of your forehead, of your eyes, of your cheeks, of your mouth, of your jaw, etc.
Imagine that with every breath out, a pleasant weight invades all the parts of your head, one after the other. Then picture the whole head taken over by a pleasant weight: let your head go, don’t try to resist and let it fall deeply in the mattress.
Then, repeat the same thing with the rest of your body, member after member, from top to bottom. Slowly and softly, with each exhalation, you will relax another part of your body: your neck, your shoulders, your arms, your elbows, your hands, your rib cage, your stomach, your bottom, your thighs, your knees, your calves, and finally your feet.
When it’s over, picture your whole body lying on the bed, relaxed, calm. You still have your eyes closed.
Take your time before coming back to reality: start moving slowly and smoothly, first the extremities and then the whole body. You can stretch out, as if coming back from a long and deep sleep. Open your eyes at the very last moment.
TAKE THINGS EACH STEP AT A TIME
It’s a long and difficult process and each step is different, with its emotions or never-ending waiting periods. Try to focus on the phase you’re living now, without anticipating the following one.
DON’T BE ASHAMED OF ASKING FOR PROFESSIONAL HELP
Many people are afraid of needles: if it is your case, why don’t you ask a nurse to come every day and give you the injections?
If you feel very anxious and nervous, different professionals can help you relax and deal with the emotions:
– Emotionally and psychologically: a coach or a psychologist can be a great help.
– Physically: natural therapies have been proven not only to help deal with the emotions, but also to optimise fertility treatments and improve their results. Acupuncture, osteopathy or other disciplines: there is no universal recipe and everyone is different. At SHE OAK we can help you find what best works for you. Don’t hesitate to ask us for advice!
TAKE CARE OF YOUR COUPLE
Too often, fertility problems end up interfering in a couple’s relationship, somehow defining it.
If you’re in a couple, don’t forget that you’re in this together: even if you’re the one undergoing most of the treatments, it’s important that you go through all this together, as future parents but also as a couple.
It’s essential that you communicate. Don’t keep to yourself any frustration, rancour or negative emotion; don’t blame one another (infertility is nobody’s fault, it is a reality that both of you would avoid if it was possible).
Finally, keep having a normal couple life: go out for dinner (trying not to speak about babies for one night); go on holidays or on a romantic week-end; take care of each other, spoil each other, protect your complicity; try and keep a “normal” sexual life, independently from the treatments (although we know there will be moments when it’s going to be more difficult).
In short: don’t let your fertility problems grow you apart. On the contrary, join your forces to fight together!
Don’t deny your emotions
Trust the experience
Ask for professional help
Take care of your body
Identify them, accept them. Don’t be ashamed of them.
Letting out your pain and your fears will help you overcome them.
You’re not alone in this. Share with people who experience(d) a similar situation.
Don’t be ashamed, a coach or a psychologist can help you.
Sport, massage, SPA with friends… Everything works as long as you enjoy it!
Acupuncture, osteopathy, etc. : the sooner you start, the more effective.