You may not know it from the title, but I am a very positive person. I wear my proverbial fertility cheerleading skirt every single day. My intent with this article is not to be a downer. Quite the opposite. What I want is for you to be informed about what IVF can and can’t do for you. Isn’t most of life’s happiness about setting appropriate expectations? I want to help you understand the limitations of IVF so you’re not making any assumptions.
Are you ready to hear more? Great, let’s do this!
1. IVF doesn’t make something out of nothing
I can’t stress this enough. While I’d like to guarantee you a healthy pregnancy with IVF, guarantees are not possible. I am only a medical doctor. I can only use science and your biology to give you the best chance of becoming a parent. No fertility doctor can turn bad eggs into good eggs or turn less eggs into more eggs. We can only work with what you have and hope for the best.
Believe me, I like to think I have a special sauce and with a little hocus-pocus combined with supplements and my individualized protocols, I can give my patients the very best results. I do everything in my power to get my patients pregnant, but I can only work with what people already have. I am an MD and that doesn’t stand for medical deity.
How do I assess what you already have? I look at fertility levels, sperm counts, evaluate the health of your uterus, do implantation testing, advanced DNA tests, and more. These are all things that you can do before IVF. Check out my TUSHY method and BALLS method to learn more.
Here’s the good news. People still get pregnant despite low fertility levels. It’s why I remain positive and encourage my patients to do the same.
Keep this in mind: low doesn’t mean no.
Why is this? Your fertility levels (egg count and quality) are just part of the bigger picture. Factors like your age, follicle count, genetic profile, environment, sperm quality, and uterine health all play an important part in your fertility health.
2. IVF does not improve your self-esteem
You need to nurture your relationships, especially the one you have with yourself. I recommend to all of my patients that they find a fertility friend and join a support group. I think an acupuncturist can be a very helpful partner to have on your fertility team. These are the things that you want to think about BEFORE your IVF cycle. Don’t consider them after the fact if it didn’t work out and you’re drained and feeling down.
We all need a bit of support at times during our lives. If you’re going through fertility treatment, there’s no better time than now to get the support that you need.
3. IVF does not improve your mood
Finding ways to improve your mood can be as simple as drinking from an inspirational mug or wearing a t-shirt with an encouraging quote. I have a mug that says “Yoda Best Fertility Doctor” with a picture of baby yoda. It makes me smile. I also wear special lucky socks and surround myself with daily written inspirations. There are so many different things you can do. Whatever it is, do what you can to get yourself in a good mood while going through the fertility treatment process. It’s good to have the expectation that you may physically and emotionally feel pretty lousy going through IVF. Anticipate that and equip yourself with both a positive mindset and a team (consider talking with a therapist) to help you.
4. IVF does not improve your sex life
Odds are you’ll have many people telling you when to have sex and when to abstain. That’s not fun. This is something we talk about openly in my office. I’m always a fan of outercourse that leads to orgasm. That’s always allowed. And yes, I did just say outercourse. If your doctor recommends that you should abstain from sex, remember, that doesn’t mean orgasm.
5. IVF usually does not result in twins
Many years ago when I’d mention IVF people would react and presume it causes multiple births because of the buzz around a very famous pregnancy that resulted in 8 babies. This doesn’t happen anymore. Before you do IVF realize that IVF results in twins only if you transfer more than one embryo. Rarely does one embryo split into two. This is seen in about 1 percent of IVF pregnancies.
6. IVF doesn’t give you frozen embryos unless you’re planning what we call a frozen embryo transfer
You have 2 options when doing IVF: fresh or frozen embryo transfer (with or without genetic testing). A fresh embryo transfer means your embryo transfer is scheduled right after your egg retrieval. A frozen embryo transfer means your embryos are frozen until you are ready to transfer them at a later time. Depending on your situation you may want to consider freezing embryos. This helps you secure options for growing your family in the future. Before your fresh embryo transfer be sure to talk to your doctor about what you learned from your cycle so far and whether you have enough embryos for the family size that you want. If not, consider freezing embryos and doing another IVF cycle before transfer.
7. IVF doesn’t give you guaranteed relationship satisfaction
IVF can cause a lot of tension in even the strongest and healthiest relationships. If you have any doubts about the strength of your relationship before IVF then it’s good to talk to a lawyer before you sign a forever agreement together. Sadly, there have been situations where women were forced to discard embryos after a break-up. I don’t want anyone to suffer emotional harm due to a failed relationship after embryos have been created. Consider egg freezing first and ask your fertility doc for referrals to attorneys and psychologists that specialize in fertility to help you.
8. IVF doesn’t make your sperm better
You need to make sure your sperm is in the best shape possible before you do an IVF cycle. There are a lot of ways to put your sperm through what I call a “sperm fitness challenge”. Exercise and weight loss in addition to starting male fertility supplements can improve the quality of your sperm. You want to make sure that your testosterone level is normal and that all is well anatomically by getting examined for a varicocoele by a urologist. Finally, there is a way to potentially pick a better sperm cell to use for IVF and that process is called PICSI. Talk to your doctor ahead of time to ask about the best strategy for you. Be sure you’re starting with the healthiest sperm possible.
9. IVF does not cause cancer
IVF does not cause cancer, but it may cause emotional distress and PTSD. What you want to do is set yourself up with the appropriate emotional care and support before going through IVF so that you’re prepared, if and when, things don’t go as planned. You want to put in place a support network to help you along the way.
10. IVF with PGT-A doesn’t predict everything and there’s no such thing as a designer baby
PGT-A is a pre-implantation genetic testing for aneuploidy. It’s a way to look at the chromosomes in an embryo to make sure they’re normal before transfer. However, chromosomes aren’t everything. There are limitations to the technology. I teach my patients the differences between normal, abnormal, and mosaic embryos, and discuss the limitations of PGT technology. I also encourage my patients to talk with a genetic counselor.
Remember, people don’t come to me for a “designer baby.” They come to me because they want the highest chances of pregnancy.
Thank you for joining me to learn more about what IVF will not do for you. In my experience working with thousands of fertility patients, it’s ALWAYS better to know as much as possible before starting IVF. I hope this helps you set your expectations accordingly, and reminds you to embody a positive mindset while you’re doing so!
As always, please comment below or send me a note if you have any questions about this show or if you have a suggested topic for a future show.
You can also catch more of me and topics like this through The Egg Whisperer Show. The episodes are live-streamed on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter and on Wednesdays at 7 PM PST. Subscribe to the podcast too!