Just like anything new, infertility treatments can instill a sense of excitement and trepidation. There are a variety of treatments out there, there are similarities between all of them, but there are also differences. In this post, we’ll go over a general “what to expect” when going through infertility treatments.
Even if you have male factor infertility only, or plan on using a surrogate, all fertility treatments follow the female cycle. The treatments can range from taking a pill orally to help support, or increase hormones, to a whole range of surgical interventions. Generally speaking, there are two types of cycles: Long / conventional and short. Long protocol is only used for IVF, everything else (timed intercourse, iui, etc.) all follow the same cycle as short protocol IVF. Many types of infertility treatments follow a similar schedule but each one will be tailored to your individual needs.
This is what separates the long from short protocols. In the long protocol, you take a drug that turns off your endocrine system giving the doctors a blank slate to work with. Generally, a week or 2 after the drugs are taken, you will have a period.
What happens during the stimulation phase depends largely on what type of fertility treatment you’re going through, what your Reproductive Endocrinologist thinks is best for you, and how you respond to the treatment.
You will at least be monitored during the stimulation phase. Typically, you’ll have your blood drawn at some point during this phase. Depending on the type of treatment you’re going through, your doctor may look at several hormone levels several times throughout the stimulation phase (yes, blood draws). Other types of cycles may not require any hormone testing during the treatment.
For some treatments, you may not take any medication during the stimulation phase, but for most there will be some form of medication to help stimulate egg production. These medications can range from an oral pill to several injections every day.
In most cases, a drug is taken to stimulate the release of the eggs, but again, in some cases, (like a natural timed cycle) there may not be any medication during this phase. If you’re going through IVF, this is where your eggs are surgically taken/removed/harvested. For IUI, this is when they use the turkey baster… kidding… but you get what I mean.
If you go through IVF, you’ll be given a schedule, and a cocktail of medications to take at various times throughout the day for the majority of the two week wait; and if it’s successful, the medication will more than likely continue for a few more weeks. If you’ve suffered from recurrent miscarriages, this might be the only part of the cycle that you will have to take medication or be monitored. For others going through IUI or timed intercourse, there may be nothing but anxiety during this two week wait.
We’re all familiar with the kind you pee on. When going through fertility treatments, you’re still expected to go into a clinic for a blood test not long after the two week wait is over. If it’s positive, you’ll go in for another one a few days later to make sure your HSG numbers are doubling appropriately.
Any round of fertility treatment will be similar yet different. You’ll take several trips to your clinic during the first half of your cycle. During the second half, you may get a little break from seeing your favorite nurse and doctor as often as your boss. Being prepared is helpful, but understand that everyone’s cycle and experience is different.