I know many people are curious about IVF (in-vitro fertilization). Since I’ve now been through the experience, I figured I would a quick Q&A for anyone who is interested. I know some have reached out privately so hopefully this can be helpful for others. Let me preface this by saying…it’s all from memory and I’m did not do research for this post…it’s just from my brain!
Why did you decide on IVF?
I knew nothing much about the procedure when we first went in to learn about our options. After being told we were not good candidates for less invasive procedures, like IUI (inter-uterine insemination), we were give two options: Natural cycle IVF or Stimulated IVF. I had never heard of natural cycle before and was more familiar with traditional IVF procedures. We chose IVF because we could not get pregnant naturally. We did (and still do) consider adoption as an option but felt like we wanted to try and see if pregnancy was a possibility for us. We chose Dominion Fertility, a nationally reputable clinic in the DC-area with 4 main doctors. We also considered Shady Grove fertility but liked the smaller, more family style atmosphere of Dominion.
What is natural cycle IVF?
Natural cycle IVF is something that isn’t offered in many clinics around the country. Our clinic did offer it. What is it? Instead of taking fertility drugs to produce lots of eggs, the clinic uses the one egg you naturally produce each month (assuming the woman has a healthy cycle in this case). The egg is combined with the man’s sperm to produce an embryo, which is then transferred to the woman. Natural cycle is less expensive but chances of conception are much lower because you rely only on the one egg and just hope it works.
It was an attractive option to me, but we wanted to give it everything we had, so to speak, and go for the best chance of conception. Therefore we option for stimulated IVF over natural cycle.
What was stimulated IVF like?
The process starts by ordering lots of fertility medication. Yes, there are injections, but they really don’t hurt much. We had to have a nurse come to our house and show us how to mix the medicine and do the injections. I was VERY nervous we were going to do it wrong. It seemed like a lot of pressure to have all this very expensive medication at home and be told to mix and administer ourselves, everyday. What if we did something wrong? Well, Rick was more confident than I and did most of the mixing.
The medicine is to force your body to start producing extra eggs. As you are in this process, you go back the doctor’s office like every other day so they can check the status of the follicles and know when they are ready to be taken out. When it’s time, you get a new shot called a trigger shot that gets your body ready for the eggs to be taken out.
For that process, you are put to sleep for a few minutes. It’s important that you don’t move when they take them out. Once the eggs are out, they mix them with the sperm and wait to see how many of eggs fertilize successfully. Of those that do, they wait up to 5 days to see which of the fertilized eggs lasts. And…then, you’ve got your embryos in waiting. Many people go through process of the transferring the strongest embryo back into the uterus within a few days. But my plan was to wait over a month while the embryos were frozen and my body got back to normal hormonal levels. Some women are advised to wait even longer — it all depends on your personal plan and doctor.
How did the drugs make you feel?
I was worried the drugs would make me a crazy girl, but I didn’t feel emotionally affected by the fertility drugs at all. I didn’t feel much different at all and in fact, was surprised that the only thing I didn’t like was the injections (and the waiting). Everyone is different, though, and some people can get very depressed or emotionally all over the place. Once you do the embryo transfer, you start taking progesterone and that…was another story. I got very depressed when I started on the progesterone, which, unfortunately had to be taken until up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. It was a struggle and combined with my miserable morning sickness, my first trimester was very rough.
How long do you wait to find out if you are pregnant after the embryo transfer?
They did the procedure on a Monday and we had to wait until the next Monday to find out. They recommend not taking a pregnancy test because there can be false positives and false negatives. So we waited the full 7 days and I went in for a blood test to discover. They do not tell you right away…but, you wait for about 5-6 hours until they call you to tell you what’s up. Talk about excruciating! We got the call around 1pm the day of the test (which I took around 7am).
This was taken during the 7-day waiting period 🙂
How much does IVF cost?
The price can vary greatly. Luckily, many clinics do take insurance — or partial insurance. It also depends on if you choose to do one round of IVF, natural cycle IVF or a plan with multiple rounds. If your clinic does take insurance, things may not move as quickly as you’d like. It will take getting approvals and doing less invasive procedures until they are satisfied. For example, had we used insurance, we would have been forced to try up to 4 IUIs before they gave us approval to try for IVF. Since we had the wrong insurance at first, we had to switch and would have had to wait 3-4 months to get initial approval, THEN to the 4 IUIs, THEN move on to IVF. Clearly, this can all take more than a year before you are able to actually do IVF. Then, you have to see if it works! Since we had already waiting over a year in order to save money, we did not want to wait MORE time to get started and chose to move forward without insurance coverage.
One cycle of stimulated IVF probably costs around $10-14,000 including the fertility drugs (depends on how much medicine you need, where you go, etc.). One cycle of natural cycle IVF costs around half that. Many clinics offer multiple plans, though, so you pay more money for more tries (with a bit of a discount). We opted with the “guarantee” option, which means you pay up front for 4 cycles of IVF and if at the end of all 4 cycles, if you don’t have a “live baby,” you get your money back. However, you don’t get the money you spend on the fertility drugs back and after 4 cycles, that will run you over $20,000 alone. No matter how you slice it, it’s not cheap. The plan we chose cost $23,000 up front and we also paid about $5,500 for drugs.
How is IVF pregnancy different from regular pregnancy?
Once you are pregnant, not much. After we found out we were pregnant, I went back to Dominion weekly for monitoring until I was 8 or 9 weeks. The one good thing is you get an ultrasound each week at first, something “normal” pregnant people don’t get to see. It was cool 🙂 After 9 weeks or so, they tell you it’s time to move on to a normal baby doctor and say good bye to the fertility clinic. However, you are considered more “high risk” and the doctor may refer you to a specialist to be seen for extra monitoring and ultrasounds throughout pregnancy. I will probably end up having like 6 ultrasounds total in the end.
This is our very first ultrasound, when I was maybe 5 weeks or less:
What about the frozen embryos that weren’t used?
Like most people that do stimulated IVF, we had more than one embryo. Those are frozen right now and we will probably use another one or two for more kids in the future! There are many ethical questions revolving around these frozen embyros — and it’s not something I take lightly. One reason many pro-life people like myself choose natural cycle IVF is to avoid creating multiple embryos. I did not choose this route and therefore am left with the decision of what to do with any embryos we don’t use. There options are to 1) freeze indefinitely 2) donate to science 3) destroy or 4) donate to embyro adoption. Because I believe each embryo is a potential life (though it’s not certain that any would survive an implantation), we plan to donate them to an organization that works with couples who cannot conceive on their own. There’s a whole, big conversation around this subject that is meant for another blog post but that is the route we have chosen.
What would you say to someone who is considering IVF?
First of all, I would say make sure you fully understand every option and fully understand the costs. One thing I would have done differently is had a better understanding of how the insurance aspect worked. Had we been fully informed about insurance, we could have switched the correct insurance when we initially started looking into IVF. But we were not informed and therefore, ended up not having the insurance we needed. Talk to someone who has gone through the process before you make any decisions. I still look back and feel like I was not fully informed.
Make sure you fully understand the repercussions of your decision. For example, I didn’t even realize we would have multiple leftover frozen embryos when we first started moving forward. They don’t talk about that at all, or act as if it is a big deal at all, so it’s up to you to understand what you are doing. I was shocked that the the presence of extra embryos wasn’t discussed at all!
What about that huge cost?
We could have taken out a loan and moved forward right away, but decided to be smart about it and save money first. We saved as much money as possible for a full year before moving forward. Obviously, we were very blessed to be able to save most of what we needed (add with other savings). But you can take out a loan if you need to. It is a LOT of money but we thought about how much money we pay for cars (perhaps around the same price!) and how having this baby is worth MUCH more than that to us. It’s priceless! So handing over the money wasn’t hard. I must acknowledge that we are extremely fortunate to have good jobs and gave us the ability to save. Additionally, I was able to pick up an extra freelance job that contributed greatly to our savings. It was truly a gift from God…we felt He presented this opportunity to me in order to give us what we needed to move ahead.
I am thankful that IVF exists and that it is becoming more and more successful each day. I hope that more people can get the financial help they need through insurance or their workplace to create the families they cannot create naturally. The doctors at Dominion were all phenomenal and you really get personalized care with them — not just with nurses or office staff. There’s a reason I cried leaving my doctor’s office for the last time when I was 9 weeks along! Even if you feel like you don’t have the financial means right now, look into your options and see what you can do. Overall, I had a great experience. I can’t say it wasn’t emotionally overwhelming at times. One thing I did say is that I wouldn’t have even wanted to go through it 4x (as we paid for.) The hoping and waiting and praying can become really tough mentally. But it’s certainly worth it in the end if it works out.
If you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments or email me at email@example.com.