In honor of Infertility Awareness Week, and after going through a failed IVF cycle, I am sharing my advice on how to help someone going through IVF.
For the past two years I have been a silent supporter of Infertility Awareness Week. I found comfort and support in the words of women who had a similar struggle, and now I want to add my voice in hopes of helping others.
How to Help Someone Going Through IVF
Going through IVF is unpleasant, stressful, and time-consuming. 99% of the responsibility falls on one person. Doctors just need a cup of sperm from the man, then his job is done. For the woman, the IVF process becomes all-consuming. For me, it was like a part-time job that required weekly doctors appointments and endless hours of my time for many months. It can be hard for friends and partners to know how to help someone going through IVF. I thought it might be helpful to share some easy ways to lessen the burden and stress of IVF.
Sometimes just acknowledging how much they are going through is nice. Say that you understand that IVF is stressful, painful, and time-consuming. Say that you appreciate that they are going through, and say it often.
Take things off her to do list
The number one thing that you can do – other than provide emotional support – is to take things off her to-do list. The array of medicines can cause fatigue, and the numerous doctors appointments take time out of her days. I felt like it was hard to keep up with my work and what needed to be done around the house. Even though I live only a mile from my doctor’s office, it still took at least 60-90 minutes from my day every one of the 30+ times I had an appointment. Sometimes I was at the doctor’s 3-4 times in one week.
You can step up by taking some things off her to-do list and giving her some time back. Go to the pharmacy and pick up prescriptions. Do the laundry. Take care of the grocery shopping. Find little things that you can do around the house. Something as easy as making dinner or just ordering take out will be very appreciated. Ask her what you can do to help, and take care of any assigned chores without complaining.
The saline ultrasound is terrible, go with her
Go with her for her saline ultrasound. The doctor made it seem like this was no big deal, but I was in so much pain I could barely get into an uber on my own. I was mad that the doctor didn’t tell me to bring my husband with me. My friends describe similar experiences. Even though you aren’t required to be there, be there.
Deal with insurance and bills
Make sure the medical bills get paid, and track your expenses since you may hit an out of pocket maximum. You might be able to claim expenses on taxes too.
Be nice, even during mood swings
Suck it up. Some of the medications I was on made me hormonal and crazy. Especially Lupron. Just suck it up. Be nice. It isn’t her fault. She knows that too, but she can’t control her emotions when she is on half a dozen meds each with their own side effects. Be kind even when it may be hard.
Plan something fun to do
Life isn’t very fun when you are in an IVF cycle. Planning something fun to do is such a nice gesture, especially since a woman going through IVF is juggling so many responsibilities that planning something fun is the last thing on her mind.
Spend time together
There was a three week period of time when I had nightly progesterone in oil injections. You don’t feel like going out when you need to ice your butt. I had some lovely friends that would come to hang out after the injection.
Give help with injections
Giving yourself injections is scary. Be there the first few times, do it together. Eventually, I did all of my own injections into the abdomen, but I wanted help the first week.
Do not expect her to give herself injections into her butt. She isn’t a contortionist, and the injections that go into the butt have longer needles and are harder to give. It isn’t pleasant and it isn’t reasonable to expect someone to do that on their own. Charles hired nurses to come help with my progesterone in oil shots when we was unable to. For reference, my IVF cycle involved about 6 weeks of injections, some for the retrieval and some for the transfer.
Do your homework
Your doctor will probably give you a link to video tutorials with instructions for the injections. Watch them in advance, and write down any questions you may have so that you can ask the doctor before the time comes to do the first injection. This is an easy thing that you can do that will show you are invested in making the process easier.
Supplies that she may need
Make sure she has everything she needs. I made a list of all the things that I needed during the IVF process. The point of this post is not to tell you to buy things, but I wanted to share the items that made my life a little easier.
- Zip up sweatshirts or cardigans. If it is winter these are convenient to have since there are so many blood tests, and the process is a little quicker if you can easily pull your arm out of a sleeve.
- Pull-on pants. Leggings and pants with a high elastic waistband are the best for times when someone is doing injections into the abdomen or butt. The waistbands won’t irritate the injection site and it is nice to have something with some give since bloating is to be expected with some medications.
- Slip-on shoes. Because taking shoes on and off for ultrasounds is annoying.
- Warm socks. These are needed for the retrieval and transfer.
- Sweatpants. She will live in these after the retrieval and transfer.
- Purse snacks. They take a lot of blood at some of those blood tests. Some blood tests need to be done when you are fasting. She will want to have a snack, like a granola bar, in her purse on those days.
- Ice packs and an insulated lunchbox. Some of the medications need to be refrigerated and you will need ice packs and a lunchbox if you need to take them somewhere. Ice packs are also important before progesterone in oil shots, you can ice before and after to ease the pain.
- Dark underwear. Sometimes IVF protocol involves progesterone shots in the butt for weeks. The injection site might bleed a tiny bit and dark underwear won’t get bloodstained.
- Hot Pad. Again, this is only really needed if progesterone shots are needed. These are the worst of the injections and they hurt. The hot pad helps to ease the pain.
If you have any more suggestions for how to help someone going through IVF, I would love for you to share in the comments.