The urge to pee after the embryo transfer, the bloating after injections, the wait for the phone call, I remember it all. If you have gone through IVF in your life, you can probably relate to it all.
I am an Indian and, in our society, people generally don’t talk about their troubles conceiving. We lost our first baby to an abnormality called skeletal dysplasia and doctors said that there was always a 25% chance of our naturally conceived baby to have the same abnormality unless we go through IVF (in-vitro fertilization) with PGT (Preimplantation genetic testing). Wait..Wait..Wait..Don’t scratch your head.. I am going to explain to you what PGT means. It means that all the embryos made during the IVF process are examined for a range of genetic issues before transferring to a woman’s uterus.
So, with PGT in the IVF cycle, there is a waiting period between the fertilization and transfer as well.
I believe in living a healthy natural lifestyle so the idea of “making a baby” as people call it here was a complete no-no for me but the thought of facing the same problem again was also equally scary.
So hubby and I eventually decided to go down the IVF road.
The decision was taken but the fear was real. I wanted to talk to someone who has gone through it here, to know who is the best doctor, what are the implications, how does it make you feel, how to increase the success rate. But with a very limited social circle in Thailand, I couldn’t find someone who has gone through an experience and close enough to discuss this matter with.
As I was not so keen on doing IVF, the first time I visited him to discuss the matter, I was very nervous. But he was a Godsend for me. He was exactly the kind of doctor I was looking for - kind, considerate, patient enough to listen to all your concerns and someone who would explain everything in detail. He understood that our case history was complex and he told us to consult with some other specialists first and after a few months of preparation and waiting for gene test results (took more than 4 months), we started the process at BDMS Wellness Clinic instead as Dr. Poonsak had moved there.
Some of you may be interested in details about my experience with skeletal dysplasia, details about what we did before we started the IVF journey, where we did gene testing, etc. but I would like to stick to my IVF experience in this blog.
Write to me if you need any more details about that.
Coming back to IVF experience, I wanted to do everything possible to make it work in the first shot. After all, who wants to go about injecting hormones and go through the surgical process every now and then?
So, here are the 7 things I did.
I wanted to start preparing my body for this intense medical process while we were waiting for the gene test results. I happened to read a book called Pregnancy Miracle by Lisa Olson that laid down a 5-step plan for getting pregnant and having healthy babies. I made notes of things that I wanted to do. I didn’t follow everything as I thought it was not so important for me because I didn’t have any fertility issues (and also because it was not as easy as it claimed to be) but I wanted to do everything that was “doable” according to me.
One such doable thing was 3-day Juice Detox. I took 1 day to prepare my body for it as it makes the process easier. So 1 day before I had light meals - rava idli (a popular South Indian breakfast) in the morning, some lentils with rice for lunch and yellow dal khichdi for dinner (An indian dish made with rice and yellow lentils).
Then I started with my 3 day Juice Detox with this menu I created. If you google juice or soup detox, you will find several recipes but I just picked up a few combinations based on what is usually available at my home.
You will notice that besides fruits and veggies juices, I had atleast one soup and 1 herbal tea everyday. My total number of meals was 6 because that’s the number of times I eat on a normal day (3 meals + 1 to 2 glasses of milk + 1 to 2 fruit bowl) . And no compromising on that habit;-)
As I had never fasted or done anything like this in my life, it was really hard for me to just survive on liquids. So I couldn’t stop cheating! But my cheat meal wasn't that bad! Check it out below!
1st day cheat meal: Half cup of ripe papaya cut into cubes
2nd day cheat meal: 1 floret of boiled broccoli
3rd day cheat meal: 1 orange
But if you can, please avoid cheating😉 and keep yourself busy!! I remember doing a pop-up event during on the 3rd day of my juice detox. I thought it would help me keep my mind off food for most of the day but I got an ice cream stall next to me. Now that's called bad luck! But I passed that too! Yay!
Also make sure you wait for 1-2 days before going back to a normal diet after a juice detox.
I was craving for food so badly that I booked a 7 course dinner meal the very next day after my juice detox ended. That was the biggest mistake I made as I could barely have 4 meals due to loss of appetite.
2. Dietary changes
I realised that this was the time to take care of my body. I stopped eating junk food and added different kinds of seeds and nuts to my daily diet. I tried to have some green vegetables everyday, avoided refined carbohydrates to the extent possible and had a variety of fruits throughout the week. I switched to an organic cow milk brand, added almond milk and soya milk to my diet. I also ate more avocados.
As far as supplements are concerned, I took a folic acid tablet in addition to the iron and vitamin D3 tablet that I was prescribed due to deficiency. Folic acid is a prenatal vitamin which helps in preventing birth defects of your baby’s birth and spinal cord. I also had a royal jelly 222 mg tablet which is also considered a fertility super-food. I only had it 2-3 times a week for a month or so. (You could have one per day if you are sure it suits you but I like to have everything in moderation so I decided this dosage for myself.)
I bought it from the Healthy Max pharmacy in Bumrungrad International Hospital M Floor. Here is a picture of the brand I found there.
3. Castor Oil Pack
This is another thing I found that is helpful in boosting fertility and since it is a natural remedy, I thought why not give it a try? It is CASTOR OIL PACK - external application of castor oil to the abdomen with a hot water bottle or heat pack. It is recommended by alternate health practitioners to support ovarian, fallopian tube, uterine and egg health.
Though there are many ways of doing it, I chose a pretty simple one that requires just the following:
- Castor oil
- Hand towel
- Hot water bag/electric heating pad (if you don’t have any of these at home, I would recommend buying - I am green Thai herbal heating pad from Lab pharmacy Emporium.
- A pair of old t-shirt/night suit
Here's a video of a massage therapist demonstrating the process which I found useful.
The most important thing to remember is that it has to be done only during the follicular stage (from the end of your period until ovulation). Do not do this if you’re pregnant or menstruating.
4. Change in lifestyle and practicing Fertility yoga
There are different ways to take care of your body during the 2 phases of your menstrual cycle – before ovulation and after ovulation.
During Phase 1, I tried to keep myself stress-free and avoided any activity that increases heart rate. But as I was sitting in front of the computer for long hours, I had to do something to get my body moving a little. So my exercise time only involved some stretching along with fertility yoga with YogaYin.
YogaYin is a youtube channel by Allanah who is a Certified Yoga Therapist/Registered Level 3 Yoga Instructor (Physiology, Anatomy, Counselling) Specialising in Women's Health; Fertility, Pregnancy, Postnatal & Endo Yoga. She also designs customized yoga sequence for her clients depending upon their needs and concerns.
When I went for check-up during this phase, I remember Dr. Poonsak told me that the blood flow in my uterus is really good. And I gave all the credit to my fertility yoga with YogaYin.
After embryo transfer also, I continued doing yoga specially for this waiting period but I tried to stay away from bumpy car rides, hot baths and massage. I didn’t take bed rest like some people do but as I tried to take it easy. It was easier for me as I worked from home. During work hours, sometimes I would take walk breaks and call a friend and sometimes, I would just lie down with feet raised while listening to music.
Another important thing that I have seen people doing is avoiding all kind of toxins and chemicals like BPA, parabens, phthalates, pesticides, PFOA as a lot of them are linked to infertlity and miscarriage. As I try to use natural products to the extent possible, I was happy to change a few more things like my shampoo, conditioner , fabric wash, lip balm, lipstick, deodorant.
5. Getting my husband involved
Often husbands don't understand how stressful and difficult the entire IVF process is for a woman. When husbands get involved, they can relate better to what their partners are doing and take pride in contributing towards the common goal of achieving a baby. So I made a rule that my husband would accompany me in all doctor visits and will be the one to administer all the shots to me. With so many things going in your mind, this way I atleast had one less thing to handle - remembering the time of injections and appointments!
6. Prayer & affirmations
I was supposed to keep myself stress-free during the IVF process but I had so many worrisome questions in my mind - What if I don’t get enough eggs? What if the eggs are not good quality? What if I miscarry?
Sometimes you can’t help not think of the worst. Doing affirmations helped me change those negative thoughts into positive. I did them at the end of the yoga sessions (most of the fertility yoga professionals I followed ended the sessions with affirmations, that’s how I was able to make it a routine). Whatever I remembered, I would repeat one more time before going to bed.
7. Keeping myself busy
I know being idle would only make me think too much unnecessarily and make myself more stressed, so I made sure I kept myself busy throughout. My workplace was my home and I only had one colleague so it was always a happy place (If your work environment is stressful, going to work at this time is not a great idea).
I really don't know what actually helped me to succeed. But I feel happy that I tried to give it my best shot and now when I look at my baby girl Nishkka , I can just say that every not-so-happy moment was worth it.