IVF success stories are the lifejackets that keep us afloat during our own IVF journeys. From the anecdotal (wearing warm socks post transfer) to the scientific (administering certain medications over others), each story of IVF success brings us new-found learnings that can help us get one step closer to achieving our own goal. I can now proudly add my own IVF success story to the IVF community because:
I am officially pregnant!
Our fifth embryo transfer of a single, untested embryo resulted in a positive pregnancy and we still can’t believe it’s real.
There’s certainly no “magic bullet” to IVF success and our own two-year journey is far from over. However, it was always the IVF success stories that helped me keep going on my darkest of days. They inspired me to push forward and helped me to discover new ways in which to increase my own success. Therefore, I want to dedicate this post to sharing my own IVF success tips in an attempt to help – or simply inspire.
IVF Success Tip #1: Your family medical history can tell you important things about your own. Trust it.
We have done a total of five IVF embryo transfers and we have changed our approach for each one. For our last transfer, we decided to change our protocol by adding Lovenox injections.
Lovenox is an anticoagulant medication and is also known as a a “blood thinner.” It helps to keep the blood flowing by lowering the body’s natural blood clotting proteins. An injectable medication, Lovenox is often used in fertility treatments to prevent blood clots and antibodies from forming that could hinder embryo progression – a common cause of both early miscarriages and implantation failure.
Before I knew anything about IVF, I was familiar with the drug Lovenox because my sister had used it throughout both her successful pregnancies due to a positive antinuclear antibody (ANA) marker. A positive ANA marker indicates that the immune system has the potential to develop powerful antibodies that can attack a developing fetus.
From the very start of my fertility treatments two years ago, I had asked my doctor about adding Lovenox into my protocol due to my family history of the ANA marker. Dr. M. said it was unnecessary since I had tested negative for the ANA test.
Although both autoimmune disorders and the ANA marker run in my family, I decided to comply with my doctor’s advice and forgo using Lovenox for any of my embryo transfers. However, after experiencing two back-to-back chemical pregnancies, I started to doubt that decision.
A chemical pregnancy happens when the embryo starts to implant and begins emitting hCG into the blood stream. A woman will test positive for pregnancy, but then suddenly the embryo stops its progression and the pregnancy fails.
It seemed like something was preventing my embryos from progression and given my family history, I had a strong sense that it could be my body’s autoimmune response to the embryos.
I decided not to wonder anymore. For this last transfer, I didn’t ask Dr. M. if we could use Lovenox, I told her that I was going to use Lovenox and asked her to order me the prescription. She agreed and I started my injections two days post embryo transfer.
IVF Success Tip #2: Switch up your approach and your protocol for each embryo transfer you attempt.
Each one of our previous embryo transfers brought its own set of discoveries. I kept track of each new learning and would insist that we switch up our next transfer to control for it. Here are the ways in which we switched up our transfers:
- Medicated transfers work better for my body than “natural” transfers.
- Untested embryos work better than PGD/PGS tested ones.
- Blood thinning medication helps control my body’s autoimmune response to transfers.
Whether it was the Lovenox injections, or the fact that we decided not to test the embryo, or simply just dumb luck that brought us success this transfer, we’ll never know. But I do know that it was my persistence to investigate and try all angles for each embryo transfer that brought us closer to achieving success each time.
IVF Success Tip #3: Schedule your own doctor for the embryo transfer; use the ultrasound guided technique; be your own best health advocate; and relax!
I have thought a lot about what I wish I knew before attempting IVF transfers, and the same four tips come to mind. Schedule your own doctor for the embryo transfer (not the doctor on call); make sure he/she is using the ultrasound guided technique and not the “blind transfer” technique; be your own best health advocate during the entire process, because no one else is going to speak up or push back for you, but you; and finally, try to relax.
I know that the term “just relax” makes an IVF sister want to punch someone in the face (particularly to those people who say it without knowing what IVF is like), but I swear that this advice was the best thing I did for my success (and my stress level) this embryo transfer.
My fifth embryo transfer went amazingly smooth. I was the last scheduled transfer of the day and the Operating Room used for transfers held an air of fun, informality. The nurses were joking around with my doctor and everyone was in a festive, almost goofy mood. This casual ambiance would have freaked me out during my first transfer, but for my fifth transfer, I found it absolutely fitting. This thing is either going to work, or it isn’t — there’s no point in being so stressed out anymore.
The nurse said, “You have a beautiful, textbook uterus.”
I said, “Thank you! I’ll be sure to brag about that to my friends.”
Dr. M. said, “Hey, let’s do this thing.”
And within minutes, it was over and I was wheeled out into recovery smiling, relaxed, and happy. It was the best transfer I ever had.
IVF Success Tip #4: Remove yourself from the anecdotal advice and signs during your two week wait. Instead, spend your time doing anything BUT thinking about IVF.
There’s so many wonderful things I could tell you about our two-week wait now that I know the outcome. I could tell you that it started quietly snowing outside the morning I took my positive pregnancy test; or that our lemon tree was suddenly in full bloom with bright, juicy fruit. I could wax poetic over the fact that our new rescue puppy insisted on curling up in my lap every night – sensing that I was pregnant before I even did.
But these things, as warm and wonderful as they feel, are anecdotal stories that really have no bearing on the final outcome of things. We see them when we want to, and are blind to them when we don’t.
I used to spend my two-week wait getting wrapped up in the romantic and the anecdotal: eating pineapple, wearing fuzzy socks, and scanning the world for lucky, meaningful signs.
This two-week wait I simply removed myself from all of that and put my mind towards the practical. I stayed active, I went out with friends, I threw myself into my work, and I played with our new puppy — a lot. This is such a marked contrast to my first few embryo transfers in which I spent my time nervous, scared, and anxiously reading into every single “sign” of pregnancy.
Don’t dwell on or romanticize what could be until you know what is.
IVF Success Tip #5: When a test is truly positive, there’s no guess work involved. Wait the appropriate amount of days before you start testing at home.
I’ve had enough heartbreak with home pregnancy testing that I can honestly say that I suffer from slight PTSD. Just having the box in my bathroom gives me anxiety as it brings back all those horrible emotions from our two chemical pregnancies where we were caught in the claws of home pregnancy testing hell.
This time around I spared myself the drama. I waited until eight days post transfer and then I tested without any fanfare or expectation. Afterwards, I hopped in the shower and was half way through getting dressed when I remembered: “Wait, I took a pregnancy test!” I ran back into the bathroom and instantly started to smile. The test was so blatantly positive that I could see the two pink lines from a few feet away.
When a test is truly positive, there’s no guess work involved — no squinting, no holding it up to the light, no asking Dr. Google, no praying to the pregnancy Gods for it to change. A few days later, I tested on a digital and got the coveted “Pregnant” result. It all seemed so simple and stress-free.
I have spent the past two years scouring the Internet, interviewing my friends, and even asking some colleagues to share their IVF success stories with me in the hopes of learning something new. Some stories are funny, some are sad, some are completely crazy (just like this journey!), but all are filled with such amazing inspiration, hard-fought determination, and valuable new learnings. May we continue to share our stories – and our struggles – openly, as we strive towards changing the conversation around fertility and IVF.