Don’t buy into these common beliefs about IVF. (Getty Images)
In vitro fertilization (IVF) can be a source of constant stress for women, what with the daily needles and the anxiety as to whether the procedure — which, without insurance coverage, can cost approximately $20,000 per cycle — will yield a successful pregnancy and healthy baby. But are the infamous IVF medications themselves — carefully moderated and prescribed cocktails of injectable hormones — to blame? A new study in Oxford’s journal Human Reproduction discredits this theory, explaining that women who exhibit neurotic tendencies before treatment will maintain that state during treatment, and those who do not, will not.
In other words, don’t blame the hormones.
Yahoo Health asked Lisa Hasty, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist, infertility specialist, and one of the co-founders of the Atlanta Center for Reproductive Medicine, to debunk five common beliefs about IVF medications.
Myth #1: Not all “infertility” meds are created equally.
Reality: There is a world of difference between oral medications such as Clomid, used for treatments like timed intercourse or intrauterine insemination (IUI), and the injectable meds used in IVF — and not in the way you might think. Clomid, an oral medication that is frequently prescribed by OBGYNs to patients who are having trouble getting pregnant, “definitely causes depression a certain percentage of women” says Hasty, in addition to being shown to cause hot flashes. “It has more emotional and physical side effects than the stronger drugs associated with IVF,” Hasty says, noting that she prefers prescribing letrozole (often known by the brand name Femara) to patients, as it “does the same thing, but with gentler side effects” in lieu of Clomid.
Myth #2: All hormones make women “crazy.”
Reality: Not so much, especially when it comes to IVF meds, which are typically estrogen-heavy. “Estrogen is a “happy hormone,” Hasty explains, “and IVF drugs raise its presence in the body.” In other words — if anything, your IVF medications might even make you feel a little peppier than usual.
Myth #3: If you experience any emotional symptoms, the drugs are definitely to blame.
Reality: “It’s hard to factor what the meds are doing versus what a patient’s emotional load is,” notes Hasty, adding that many patients who note emotional difficulties during treatment might in fact be responding to “needle phobia or the emotional fear of a cycle not working.” But just because patients experience anxiety about their IVF treatment doesn’t mean that they’re guaranteed an emotionally difficult experience. Hasty found from her own experience that educating and preparing patients about what to expect during their cycle and how to administer their medications helps “most people handle it pretty well.”
Myth #4: No one else can understand what you’re going through… and what you’re going through will never end.
Reality: “It’s like studying for a final exam,” says Hasty. “You put all the time into preparing for it, and in the end it’s worth it.” IVF can feel “like a tremendous marathon” with daily monitoring, medications, and often needing to take time off of work as a result, she says. But the period of actually actively being in a cycle — and having to self-administer daily injectable medications — is both finite and brief, typically two weeks at most. Most importantly, Hasty says she always reminds patients that “a lot of people have done [IVF] before you with great success,” and that there are caregivers, from the medical team to family, who are “here for you.”
Myth #5: If you are struggling emotionally during your cycle, there’s nothing you can do.
Reality: Again, because most emotional symptoms during IVF are caused by both external and internal personal factors, talking about your feelings and experiences can provide tremendous relief. “Some people do better seeing a counselor,” says Hasty, while “some might do better talking to a friend, or just talking to someone who has been through IVF before” while others might want to seek out a support group. Hasty also notes that, should it be an option financially, many individuals find tremendous success with acupuncture.
And ultimately, if you’re undergoing IVF, you can take comfort in remembering that “many people have done this before you — you’re not the only one,” Hasty says. “If you can recognize your fears” about both infertility and the IVF process “and find good ways to deal with it,” you should have a cycle that is far from anxiety-producing.
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