As a seasoned veteran when it comes to IVF & FETs, I thought I would share some tidbits of info regarding the FET process. If you’re wanting to know what an FET is, what to expect & some tips I have for being successful, keep reading!
What is a FET?
First things first, a FET (frozen embryo transfer) cycle is different than an IVF cycle. IVF refers to the entire process, including stimulation/egg retrieval and (typically) a fresh transfer. With a fresh transfer, the embryos are transferred back into the uterus as soon as fertilization occurs. There are a lot of clinics that are moving to only doing frozen cycles as they are showing to have greater success. Embryos can be allowed to grow for 3 or 5 days before cryopreservation (freezing) occurs. The reason behind doing this is that you’re transferring over embryos that are strong enough to have made it to day 3 or 5 and survived the freeze/thaw process. All of my transfers have been FET cycles with 5 day blastocysts. We initially did an IVF cycle, then waited for genetic testing before going into our first FET cycle.
- Timing is everything
The entire FET process is unpredictable. Everything has to be in as optimal of a state as possible before the cycle can begin. Then, after beginning the cycle and starting the medications to thicken & grow your uterine lining, the transfer can be cancelled (or rescheduled) at any time. Prep time varies from person to person, for me it’s typically ~18 days from starting meds to the ET (embryo transfer).
- The “control” is a facade
Though it’s easy to think that there is more control over conception via IVF, that’s completely false. You can do everything “right” and still have trouble developing the appropriate lining. Lining can even be “perfect”, and the transfer can still fail. Every transfer comes with a chance of a live birth, there are no guarantees! This just shows me that even with science, God is still the only one truly in control.
- Injections, injections, injections
If you have a fear of needles, it’s time to get over it. About 5 days before the ET, the Progesterone in Oil shots begin. Since the medication is an oil, the injection process is slow and very uncomfortable. For me, these are done once a day, but this will depend on the dose your fertility specialist prescribes. In addition to PiO shots, I also do twice daily Heparin shots, starting the day of the transfer, to prevent blood clots/miscarriage. You really do get used to the injections, but they are always unpleasant and uncomfortable.
Though not as uncomfortable (re: painful) as the egg retrieval process, FET prep isn’t the most pleasant experience. Side effects from the medications (estrogen & progesterone) vary from person to person, but they are generally amped up period symptoms. Also, you’re putting tons of hormones into your body, which completely messes with your emotions. That part isn’t pleasant either.
I don’t mean to make this all sound negative, but it really isn’t a fun process. It’s a miracle and I’m so thankful that IVF exists. Without it, I wouldn’t have my son. Of course, all of this is completely worth it when you get to meet your baby (or babies) for the first time. I would endure any number of shots, medications, procedures, etc. to get a baby here safely. I just want to give anyone on the verge of going through this process, or anyone curious, the honest truth — IVF is hard.
To end this on a positive note, here are a few tips I have for success & getting through the process without losing your mind.
- Try to stay positive
Your mental and emotional state is so important. Perhaps the MOST important. Focus on the positive. View every injection, ultrasound, discomfort as getting you one step closer to having your baby here.
- Laugh & have fun!
Don’t take it so seriously. Yes, it’s stressful, but try to enjoy the ride. Laugh when you can. This is especially important after the transfer, as there is evidence that laughing can help with implantation.
- Take care of yourself
It’s extremely annoying when people tell you not to stress when you’re already stressed. I get it. I’ll say it again: IVF IS STRESSFUL. Now that we know that, figure out a way to calm yourself down as much as possible. Read, watch tv, start a fun project that will take your mind off of everything. Whatever works (and is safe)! Take care of you, be kind to yourself, and stop focusing on the fact that you’re so stressed. (I’m saying this to myself 1,000 times every single day.)
- Pomegranate juice for lining
There are a lot of theories, and studies, out there that say pomegranate juice helps thicken your uterine lining. A thick, triple layered uterine lining is what you’re aiming for as you prep for the embryo transfer. Does this work? Who knows, but it’s worth a shot. I’ve done this the past 2 FET cycles and the first time I did, my lining was at the ideal thickness on the day of the transfer. The second time was with my canceled cycle, so I can’t vouch for how it worked then. I will be trying again as soon as we start prepping again!
Tip: Get the Organic 100% Pomegranate Juice from Trader Joe’s and add sparkling water! It’s a refreshing treat, a little tart, but overall very tasty.
- Acupuncture treatments before, during & after
I’ve already gone into how I feel about acupuncture in my previous post, so I’ll keep it brief here. There are a ton of studies that show how helpful acupuncture is alongside a FET. I haven’t had experience with this yet, but I can definitely feel the positive benefits of acupuncture already, so I am interested to see how it will go during my upcoming cycle.
Hope this helps someone, in some way! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. As always, please like, comment & share this post!