7 Reasons Why IVF Is Worth It: The View After 20 Cycles


A yes box ticked and a no box crossed

IVF is physically, emotionally and financially draining. It’s certainly not something anyone would choose to do without it being absolutely necessary and yet after over 20 cycles and one child I would like to present to you 7 reasons why I think IVF is totally worth it.

1. IVF Helps You Have a Baby Even if You Have Fertility Issues

There are a host of fertility issues that can occur both in men and women. In fact, infertility problems may be more common than you think, with about 9% of men and about 11% of women of reproductive age in the United States experiencing some infertility issue and about 12% of women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States having difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

Some causes of infertility in women are:

  • Problems with ovulation – with no ovulation there are no eggs to fertilize
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – a hormone imbalance that interferes with ovulation
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) – where the ovaries stop working
  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • Physical problems with the uterus
  • Uterine fibroids – clumps of tissue and muscle on the walls of the uterus

Some causes of infertility in men are:

  • Blocked sperm – where injuries prevent sperm going anywhere
  • Varicocele – where the veins on the testicles are too large heating them, affecting the number or shape of the sperm
  • Having too few sperm
  • Having badly moving sperm

Now not all causes of infertility are treated with IVF, there are less invasive and impactful things that can be tried first like medication, surgery and intrauterine insemination (IUI) / artificial insemination, but IVF is always a possibility and one that has brought over 8 million children into the world. Children who because of various fertility issues, would probably not have been born.

Yes, I am biased. My little boy would probably not have been born without IVF so of course I think it’s totally worth it.

2. IVF Increases the Likelihood of Having Multiples

In the US 26.4% of children born through IVF are multiples (twins, triplets or more), whereas only 3.4% of children born naturally are multiples.

The reason why you’re more likely to have multiples through IVF than when you conceive naturally is because during the transfer process, two or even three embryos may be returned to the uterus at one time. This is done in order to increase the chances of at least one successful implantation, but it also increases the chances of becoming pregnant with more than one child at a time.

Of course, a multiple pregnancy brings about an increase of health risks for both the mother and the baby, but it also means that with IVF you have a greater possibility of having more children in one go and building your family faster which may be important to you after all the delays caused by any fertility issues in the first place.

When I have the option to transfer two embryos at one time, I usually take it unless there’s a medical reason not to, for example I’m overstimulated so transferring two will increase the risk of complications during pregnancy. This decision is not right for everyone, and you should consider your options carefully, but unlike when trying to conceive naturally, with IVF there is something you can do to try and achieve a multiple pregnancy.

3. IVF Can Reduce the Chance of Abnormality

If you have fertility issues, conceiving naturally means a higher risk of having a child with an abnormality because the fertility issues could be the result of something with the eggs or sperm not functioning well. Trying to conceive through IVF in such circumstances could mean the difference between having a child with an abnormality and without, so it would certainly be worth it.

Since IVF is all about increasing the chances of having a healthy baby, every opportunity to do so will be taken. The best eggs out of all those retrieved (even at younger ages, not all of the eggs a woman produces are chromosomally normal) and the highest quality sperm are used to create a healthy embryo.

It’s even possible to do genetic screening which helps reduce the risk of the baby developing a condition for which either partner carries a gene. Depending on the country you’re living in and the clinic that you’re working with, some tests may automatically be done, while others you’ll need to ask for.

4. IVF’s Effects on Your Body Are Relatively Easy to Manage

A woman relaxing with her feet up and a drink

There are several effects of IVF on your body, but they are relatively easy to manage. They are:

Bloating

The first part of IVF is to stimulate your ovaries to make them produce and grow more follicles and eggs than during a normal period. It’s no wonder that many women feel bloated – they are.

Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS)

This is where your ovaries swell too much and leak fluid into the abdomen or belly. 3% of women doing IVF will experience mild OHSS which is not that much more serious than regular bloating, however 1% of women doing IVF become moderately or severely hyper-stimulated which is a much more serious problem because it could lead to worse complications including damage to your ovaries.

Sore Stomach

IVF requires you to inject yourself to stimulate your ovaries, block ovulation and then trigger it. That’s one injection a day for 10 – 14 days and then possibly two per day for 3 – 4 days closer to the egg retrieval, all in your lower abdomen which will end up looking bruised and sore because it is in fact bruised and sore.

Mood Swings

The injections that you’re taking also cause a large change in hormone levels which can lead to mood swings. It’s like 4 periods all at once.

I’m exaggerating of course.

It’s like 6 period all at once.

Nausea

Not a debilitating nausea but something that makes you feel queasy some of the time.

Breast Tenderness

Some women experience breast tenderness even to the point of pain. I get a slight stinging sensation for a few minutes several times a week.

Hot Flashes

These are sudden spikes in temperature in the upper part of your body. It can occur anywhere from very occasionally such as once in two weeks to even a few times a day. Personally, I just have times when my skin feels more sensitive to temperatures and pressures.

Tiredness

This is caused by all the medications you’re taking and because of all the things you have to be on top of, including but not limited to, doctor appointments, checkups, paperwork, injections, medications, blood tests, ultrasounds, the egg retrieval and the embryo transfer.

Which is in addition to all the things you already take care of such as work, household, existing children, partner, friends and family.

Stress

Is this the same as tiredness? I don’t know, but it’s definitely linked. There are three sources of stress. Being overwhelmed by all the moving parts and all things you have to do, the anxiety of doing something unnatural to your body and the disappointment of any failure.

The ways to manage the side-effects are:

For the Bloating

You won’t want the bloating to go away at the beginning of treatment because the goal is to stimulate your ovaries.

To help ease the bloating, drink plenty of fluids as that will flush the liquid you’re retaining, eat nourishing high-protein food because foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugar can make the bloating worse and if you experience a lot of pain take pain killers but not anti-inflammatory drugs as that could interfere with your medication.

Also, get plenty of rest and avoid strenuous exercise, otherwise you could make the bloating worse.

At the end of the treatment cycle when you have a period and all the hormones that caused the bloating are released and your body returns to normal, the bloating will go away by itself. If you had just moderate bloating, it’s usually entirely gone by the time you stop bleeding on your next period.

For the OHSS

Even OHSS usually resolves itself, including severe OHSS. If not, you’ll need to be hospitalized so that the fluid that accumulates in the abdomen can be drained. Either way, it’s important to be aware of OHSS and all its symptoms and to contact your doctor if you think you have it, so that it can be promptly and properly treated.

For the Sore Stomach

To help you cope with a bruised and sore stomach use ice before and after the injection (with before meaning before the alcohol swab). This numbs the area and helps reduce the risk of inflammation.

Also, when administering the injections, alternate between the left and right sides of the abdomen if you can remember, with all the injections you’re taking, which side you did last time.

For the Mood Swings, Nausea, Breast Tenderness and Hot Flashes

Resting, a healthy diet and exercise is the best way to handle all of these things. It’s also a good way to live even when not doing IVF. To manage any breast tenderness, it may also help to wear comfy, loose-fitting clothing and underwear, and to avoid any strenuous activity that results in contact with your chest.

For the Tiredness and Stress

Planning can help make life much easier during IVF treatment. This means when to do your IVF cycle and if you have a big event coming up or are tremendously busy at work, then you can postpone starting treatment until things are a bit quieter.

It also means checking out any work options that may be available and seeing if your work has any policies for women doing IVF.

It also means planning for extra help during this time by making use of hired help, friends and family. As an added bonus, depending on who you’re closest to, your friends and family or even the hired help, they can also provide emotional support too.

I have written a more detailed article on the side effects of IVF and how to cope with them here.

5. Insurance May Cover the Cost of IVF

IVF is exceedingly expensive. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars and that’s just for one cycle. It may take a few cycles of IVF treatment until you become pregnant, multiplying the cost. Of course, the cost varies, from country to country and insurance to insurance, but if most or even the majority of your IVF expenses are covered by your insurance then IVF is definitely worth it.

6. IVF Gives You More Control Over Family Planning Options

IVF can give you more control over family planning options. Eggs can be frozen, sperm can be frozen and embryos can be frozen. You can use your own eggs or a donor’s eggs. You can use your partner’s sperm or a donor’s sperm.

This means you have far more options when it comes to having children. You can have children without a male partner, and you can have children when relatively older, although you shouldn’t wait too long. Unless you’re using donor eggs, your chances of pregnancy decrease with age even if you’re doing IVF.

7. IVF Means You Know You’ve Tried Your Best to Become Pregnant

If you want a child but are having problems, you’ll want to know that you’ve tried your best to become pregnant. You don’t have to drive yourself insane, you don’t have to spend all your money and you certainly don’t have to spend every moment of your fertile stage of life attempting to have a baby. You’re allowed to be normal. But doing IVF is worthwhile as it will give you the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve tried all the possibilities available to have a child.

The Downsides of IVF but Why It’s Still Worth It

A woman lying on a couch

Despite the fact that I think IVF is totally worth it, there are a number of downsides which in order for a full evaluation of IVF, should be considered:

The Physical Toll on Your Body

IVF does have a physical toll because at the end of the day a lot of things are being done to your body and while some people may dismiss this as not as bad as the toll of pregnancy and childbirth which has a far more extreme effect on your body, they are natural and normal processes. There’s nothing natural about pumping your body full of hormones to stimulate your ovaries into producing far more eggs than usual and then extracting them with a needle.

So yes, the effects of IVF are relatively easy to manage, but they still have to be managed.

And don’t forget, they affect women differently, so while I might have felt that overall, I could manage relatively easily, other women may think differently if they feel the effects more intensely. There’s also the cumulative effect of doing several IVF cycles. What may be manageable for one or even two cycles, might feel less so after seven or eight.

The Emotional Toll

The emotional toll is huge even if you removed the part which is caused by the hormone changes going on in your body. The number of things you need to do can be overwhelming, you’re stressed about the physical toll IVF is having on your body, you’re anxious about whether the treatment will succeed or fail and if it does fail, you’ll have to deal with the disappointment which can be crushing.

Once again, I found the emotional toll manageable, but it can affect women differently, especially if you need to do more than a few treatment cycles. Yes, I’ve been doing IVF for over ten years and I’ve been able to cope with the emotional toll that it takes but that doesn’t mean everyone can.

And part of my ability to cope is the amazing support of my amazing husband so your ability to cope with the emotional toll might depend on the quality of your support.

The Financial Toll

I’ve been extremely lucky that a lot of my expenses have been paid for by my insurance and that they don’t limit the number of cycles I can attempt. Of course, there are expenses that aren’t covered by my insurance and I have needed to pay for them myself – mostly medications, but in the main I consider myself very lucky that the financial toll hasn’t been too bad.

Everyone’s situation is different. Some people are covered by insurance, some are not, and some are covered for a certain number of cycles. Either way you have to look at your financial situation and decide how best to juggle trying to have children without bankrupting yourself.

It Can Take a Long Time and It’s No Guarantee

While you’re very likely to become pregnant within three cycles of treatment, it’s important to realize that that could take a long time. It takes at least three months to do three cycles back-to-back, but if for some reason a cycle is delayed everything can take much longer.

New rules and regulations and paperwork and different issues cropping up (perhaps you should have that partial septum removed after all!) can all work to delay a treatment cycle for perhaps even months (it takes a few weeks to recover from having a partial septum removed) and of course, at the end of it all there’s no 100% guarantee.

Taking Everything Into Account IVF Is Still Worth It

Make sure you keep a firm eye on your physical health, make sure you have a good support network, make sure you don’t bankrupt yourself, make sure you take regular breaks, and make sure you don’t go crazy.

If you do all that then despite the downsides, I think you’ll find IVF is totally worth it.

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