Mala and Karan, aged 31 and 35 respectively, were married for five years without a baby and had almost lost hope for experiencing parenthood. They had been trying naturally for the first two years and had visited various gynaecologists since then. Due to continuous pressure from family and friends, the couple finally decided to go for IVF (in-vitro fertilisation) to conceive. However, the stress and the disappointment over the years of not conceiving naturally had taken away their happiness. Post several counselling sessions, they realised that they had to be mentally and physically fit before undertaking the treatment and this required planning.
Over the past few years, the uptake of assisted reproductive techniques (ART) to conceive has grown exponentially in India along with the rise in infertility cases. Studies reported that more than 100,000 IVF cycles are performed annually in India. Today, advancements in technology enable conception and childbirth in infertility conditions that were previously thought to be untreatable. Conditions which were considered hopeless before like aspirating sperms from testes, giving pregnancies to women with absent ovaries, or women with menopause and genetic defects are now treatable.
In spite of achieving the impossible, success in IVF cannot be assured completely as the implantation and growth of a healthy embryo in the mother’s uterus is a complex process involving numerous blood connections, tissue developments and immune reactions. It is important for the couple to understand the process of IVF and plan their treatment accordingly. While 70% of the couples visiting the centre have a fair idea of IVF treatment, its procedure, the side effects and the finances involved, very few are aware that they have to plan and prepare well ahead of the treatment.
How to prepare for an IVF cycle
Proper preparation before each cycle of IVF will increase the chances of a successful outcome, reduce the side effects from fertility drugs and help the mother’s body to quickly recover afterwards. The planning for IVF can to be classified in three keys areas, namely, nutritional, physical and mental.
Nutritional: A healthy diet and adequate hydration ensure that the body is in good shape for the treatment. Taking necessary vitamins and minerals improves metabolism, which in turn brings on good quality sperms and eggs. For instance, folic acid is known to significantly help in building foetal tissues.
Physical: Being overweight or underweight can affect the chances of getting pregnant through IVF. Overweight or obese women often have problems with ovulation. Obesity in men has detrimental effects on sperm motility and erectile function. These issues should be rectified gradually in order to conceive healthy baby. Regular exercise in complement to a balanced diet helps with keeping one’s weight in check.
Mental: There are various changes that an IVF cycle brings about in a woman’s body and life. Reducing the levels of stress through adequate sleep and meditation is helpful. Spending quality time with family and providing emotional support to each other help keep both partners relaxed before and after the treatment. Alternatively, couples can opt for counselling for anxiety as panic attacks disturb the hormonal balance and affect the quality of life in general.
The importance of the couple being prepared from emotional stability to health and finances is very vital to attain a successful pregnancy through IVF. Some guidelines to follow before an IVF treatment are given below.
- Learning about the IVF process is the first most important step. Do not shy from asking again and again about the procedures, timings and finances.
- Time management and balancing is the next big step as happy hormones improve overall success. This can be achieved by proper sleep and rest.
- Counselling by the specialists helps the couple understand the importance of IVF as a treatment modality. Often the years of trying in vain and the constant trips to the doctor’s office make couples impatient, hence making IVF a scary treatment. Proper counselling helps avoid these negative thoughts. However, it is important that couples should plan a meeting with a fertility specialist after having visited and done a routine check-up with their gynaecologist. Many couples are heading to fertility clinics directly as these places are now being made keeping in mind the various needs of infertile couples, which may affect the wellbeing not only at physical level but also at psychological and emotional levels.
- Start procedure with positive thoughts and with a realistic understanding of IVF procedures. The embryo needs the mother’s uterus for further growth into foetus until it is delivered as baby after nine months. So a positive environment very much improves the chances of a successful pregnancy and birth.
- It is important to know about the success rates of treatments and be mentally prepared for failure too. Understanding the reason behind a failed IVF cycle and looking for the next treatment option with a positive attitude and hope should also be a part of the plan.
In short, proper diet, positive thinking, healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and support from family and friends help the couple who is undergoing the treatment to prepare well in advance to handle the stress and pain during the journey of IVF.