In response to a poll I posted a while back. Here is the low down on the way Mrs IVF and I tackled this whole IVF nightmare. We did 4 cycles at a clinic in New Jersey USA and 1 cycle currently at the (in)famous CCRM in Denver. All comments are just from our journey and who knows what happens more broadly.
Many, (most?) folks get pregnant doing none of these changes, but we lived by the rules of “well, it can’t hurt” and were very strict on ourselves. Maybe too strict. I’ll be honest and say I am gobsmacked of people “having one last burst” of whatever fix they need just before a stim cycle, (boys and gals). We just don’t get it, but again, we have been ultra conservative and each to their own. In our mind, IVF is a long term medical issue and your body doesn’t purge the booze or caffeine as fast as you think it does. Also – while I don’t need to do many of these things, I decided I will do them anyway as a way of supporting Mrs IVF (ie. keep off the chocolate). I am not sure what other guys do here, but, well, that’s what I do.
I only write this as I have seen other spermally challenged guys or other general IVF sufferers get out of this maze and get pregnant, and wondered what they did on the lifestyle front and when they did it. Generally we lived by the belief that we needed to do these things over the long term if they were to have any benefit. So, for example, I used to booze between cycles, but after 3 attempts realised that that boozing was in the 3 month window for my next session, so in the end gave up booze all together. Here aare some of the things we did
* No chocolate for Mrs IVF. The biggest adjustment. Was done for Denver not the East coast cycles. In fact I bought her chocolate after each trf and retrieval to help her feel better. (oh boy).
* Acupuncture. Done for all cycles east coast for Mrs IVF and electro acupuncture to solve the uteran blood flow issues for Denver. Think it works. If nothing else – it’s a stress relief. I did it cycle 1 but didn’t see any great improvement in swimmers, but did feel a lot more chilled.
* Drug timing. We stuck to very strict time windows of shots for cycle 5 (no timing for other cycles)
* Different protocols. Our 1st and 2nd protocols were the same, but the rest all differed after that. Worth switching things up to see what impact they have in our minds. 1st 2 were long lupron, then atagonist (fewer eggs, not as mature and bit of hyperstim), 4th was microdose lupron (screwed up cycle we where we things eggs were lost along the way) and the 5th cycle was estrogen priming, (with some hyperstim thrown in for free). Not sure if it was the clinic or the cycle but we had a lot more drugs on the last one and switched between them more often.
* Genetic testing. With Mrs IVF 36-38 y.o through this adventure and a trisomy 13 miscarriage in the 1st cycle we chose to do testing through most cycles thereafter. Don’t regret this at all, you can’t tell by the cover of these embryos so we were up for finding a differentiator. Cycle 2and 3 we did PGD. Cycle 2’s testing wiped out all three embryos, cycle 3, 3 of 6 got through PGD testing and had a chemical, cycle 4 put 4 in (and no testing for once given our history – took the mother nature will sort out path for a change – but no success) and then cycle 5 went the microarray. PGD tests only 9 chromosomes and is done overnight so you can do fresh transfers the next day. Microarray, requires freezing (they use a new virtification freeze method that has shown improved thaw rates) as they send the embies off for full diagnostics on all chromosomes. Both protocols have a ~10%+ error rate.We by far prefer the microarray (also know as CGH) as they do it on day 5 blasts and at that stage you can work out what is placenta vs body so they don’t sample body. You can’t do that at day 3 and also testing at day 3 (the PGD testing) takes 1 of the 7 or 8 cells so in my mind its a bigger impact on the “kid unit” , but that’s not scientific, just gut feel.
* Sperm enhancers. Voodoo or not this is what i did. No spas. No bike riding, switched to boxer shorts, cooler showers, no caffeine (took me 18 months to get down from 5 grande drip coffees a day to nothing), no booze (again 18 months to wipe this out and stay that way), cell phone in back pocket or not in pants at all. No WiFi in the house (heard from somewhere this was bad). No wall painting (we really need to repaint the IVF shack!), Mrs banned from going near household chemicals or only organics, moved to a more organic diet (really only for last 2 cycles). Banned mexican food, (always makes us feel full and stodgy!!), no laptop on laps, even (how sad is this) not sitting in the last seat of the bus to work as it was above the engine and heated (thereby frying my swimmers). This starts to sound like obsessive compulsive disorder and I guess it did get that way. On a particular bad day I remember waiting at Grand Central for a train wondering if listening to my iphone too loudly or if getting on a certain carriage of the train would have even the smallest of impacts (and its all about small impacts for us)… how sad!
* PICSI: many of you have done ICSI which is jabbing sperms into eggs (so – no swimming by the boys). Well in Mr IVF speak, PICSI is where they use a sperm trap to catch the good swimmers first. Here are more details . I still think this is one of the best article I have found on this (thanks Murg)->http://murgdan.blogspot.com/2009/06/special-edition-picsi.html
* IMSI: From what I can discover on this, (as its very new) once you have selected the good swimmers in PICSI, IMSI is about looking at the heads of the fellas under a very high powered microscope to see which ones look normal. I believe there are some signs of what show normal vs abnormal genetics. The good thing about both of these tests (PICS and IMSI) is that they are non invasive, it’s just selecting better looking fellas. Another article: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/07July/Pages/NewIVFtechnique.aspx
* Mr IVF ‘erbs. I was on the following: 1,000 MG of Vitamin C; 400mg of vitamin E400; centrum “ultra mens” multi vitamim and 200mg of CoQ-10. I took this mix for breakfast and dinner, (and am still taking it!)
* Bed rest: Mrs IVF would always do 2-3 days bed rest after transfer. 2 days was what we did for the last successful cycle and take it very very easy until preg test.
* Fresh vs frozen. Have always gone “fresh is best” until last cycle where the kiddies had to be snap frozen for the month until results came back. So with vitrification (the new freezing methodology where you go to something like -200 degrees in a few seconds essentially turning it to glass). In my mind I am prob now more a frozen fan.
* High standing follicle count. I think Mrs IVF had a count well into the 20’s which is very rare. I think this helps when stims start. Not much you can do about this, it’s just the way you are.
* Focus on lining. While we knew my sperm are duds all along we haven’t really found anything wrong with Mrs IVF until we got to the end of cycle 5 and her lining was a bit thin. Looking back, it wasn’t great in other cycles as well. So we focused the foods a bit (pineapple was a focus and Mrs IVF said she tried to do protein with every meal) and I made a crazy shake. Who knows, maybe it helped!? https://misterivf.wordpress.com/2009/12/10/enter-the-ivf-chef/
* No Sex. I think its been 4 months now. It’s certainly over 3. Dr orders and to be honest, scared about ruining things. Sort of keen, but no rush. Very very bizarre that that has all just been pushed aside.
* Exercise. Never got my BMI to “normal”, but got well out of “obese”. If nothing else, it helped with the stress.
Hope these tips help you.
Jan 24th 2010
Thought of a few more…..
* No WiFi. Yes, weird one. I visited a clinic back in Syd once and they freaked me out a bit with a whole pile of things, (how about – “do I have a car less than 3 years old”… huh? well they believe the plastics in new cars aren’t great for you…).. I didn’t sell my less that 3 year old car by the way… and “no wifi” was on their list and that was a little easier to follow. My apt block is full of wifi, but didn’t install our own as I though the port might be bad news… (we that’s my theory)
* No painting. Our walls need an overhaul. If things progress well I’ll ship Mrs IVF off to a spa one weekend (week?) and get into it. Alas – I am not picasso, so any artistic type of art work was never really a concern!
* Water bottles. A key element of any Mrs IVF’s routine. Worried about evil plastics etc, we settled on think sport. Great bottles all round. http://www.thinksportbottles.com/ (I am not on any commission here folks)
* Relaxing music. We downloaded an album load of rain forests, waterfalls, cracking fires, etc. Mrs IVF used to listen to this around transfers and retrievals. Very relaxing.
* Good old fashioned positive thinking. We would take turns through the peaks of a cycle when stimming , through retrieval and all those stressful results days and then again around transfer. We would lie in bed and tell stories of how good the kids were and how they were looking forward to growing up etc. We also talked about or friends on the boards and parents and friends etc who were all out there supporting us. One visualisation had you all in Giants Stadium cheering us on (not that we have enough friends to fill that place… we invented some mystery friends that night)… visualisation, while sounding airy fairy, they weren’t a bad way to come together and sleep a bit easier.
* Prayer. Lots of prayer. Not just us but lots for you guys as well
* Low stress environment. Made a very strong effort to avoid stress. Annoying friends, bad things on the TV, idiots at work… all were put in their appropriate positions, somewhere well beyond top priority.