IF YOU'RE GOING THRU FERTILITY TREATMENT
There are many books that help couples thru fertility treatment issues and logistics. I recommend getting an up-to-date book or two and learn the terminology, techniques and possibilities. Most clinics offer or require an orientation lecture so do that too.
But if you find yourself deep in a struggle with repeated trials and failures then you are going to need some additional help. You'll find yourself in an emotional minefield with no map. The heartbreak bombs will be going off left and right and chances are good that friends and family will not be able to offer you any kind of useful support or guidance.
So, here's your map in the form of a book, The Infertility Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know to Cope with the Challenges While Maintaining Your Sanity, Dignity, and Relationships, by Judith Daniluk, Ph.D. This book is a truly excellent guide thru the many issues unique to fertility treatment, and the trauma it inflicts on those who endure.
It addresses everything from how to deal with the anguish and emotional conflict generated by a good friend's baby shower to how to handle well-meaning but clueless family. I highly recommend it to anyone going thru this often soul-crushing process.
Another useful tool to be aware of is the CDC website:
This website displays the required reporting of fertility procedures and success rates from all fertility clinics in the U.S.. It provides a wealth of useful information to anyone trying to pick a clinic.
You may find that one clinic you're considering has a better success rate with endometriosis patients and another with decreased ovarian reserve or sperm motility issues. So, look them up and be an informed shopper. If you find the information on the site confusing then seek the help of someone who's been thru it all.
A great place to get help from other couples who are going thru fertility treatment is a RESOLVE support group. I didn't learn about RESOLVE until we were 2-3 years into fertility treatment. Initially, I was reluctant to consider a support group and my husband considered it only because he felt I might find some comfort.
Neither of us had any idea of just how valuable the whole thing would prove to be. The RESLOVE support groups are led by people who have themselves been thru fertility treatment. Our leader was also a trained psychiatrist. Each week she would start us talking on a new and highly relevant topic.
Our group consisted of one newly diagnosed couple who were trying to decide whether to proceed with treatment, another couple who'd just started treatment, 3 couples who were several years into fertility procedures, and one woman who came alone as her husband was too uncomfortable to come with her.
All of these people would become very dear friends. Long after the official support group ended we continued to meet. Most of us managed to have kids.
When you are in a RESOLVE support group, everyone gets the chance to talk about each subject. That means when you speak to the group, your spouse hears what you are thinking and feeling. And usually someone else feels the same way as you which then validates your experience.
Next, your spouse gets to speak on the same topic as you listen and other people help them talk it through. Later, in the car on the way home, you can say, “I never realized you were worried about xyz.”
The structure of the support group, and the limited but committed time to talk each week can really open lines of communication about very difficult topics. My husband will now tell anyone willing to listen to join a support group if going thru fertility treatment.
It will help you get thru it. It will help you with hard decisions. It may well save your marriage. It will certainly help you and your partner understand each other with far greater insight.
Environmental toxins and their potential effects on fertility were not a major consideration in my own treatment. However, over the last 10 yrs the studies have been accumulating and the concerns steadily growing about many of these chemicals and their effects on both male and female fertility.
If I was going through fertility treatment today, I'd make big efforts to cut back on my and my partner's exposure to: all plastics, all bisphenols, PFC's, phthalates, mercury, arsenic, atrazine, glyphosate (Round-Up), lead, and the essential oils of lavender and tea tree. Yeah, I know the last two are a surprise.
Go to my section on a Review of Toxins and learn about the concerns. I also have a Toxic Worksheet that summarizes steps you can take to limit exposure to many of these chemicals. An excellent resource for more in depth reading is: Sicker, Fatter, Poorer; by Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP.
Talk with your doctor about chemical exposure issues, do what you can, and then move on with your treatment plan. There is a great deal in life and in fertility treatment that we can't control. That fact is very hard to accept. But don't let environmental exposures become a source of excessive worry. Most likely, there are more important fertility issues on which to spend your energy.
THE SINGLETON GOAL:
My last fertility treatment recommendation is not one I've come across in any book.
Fight hard for a "singleton" pregnancy. A twin pregnancy is not easy. We are really made for one at a time babies. Whether you are youngish or oldish the strain on a mother's body when carrying 2 babies is huge. HUGE. We tend to think of triplets as crazy and twins as, well, kinda normal.
But the truth is that most twins are born premature and many wind-up in the NICU for a time. Complications both during the pregnancy and after delivery are very, very common.
All of this adds up to a very stressful and emotionally exhausting pregnancy. If you've been thru all the strain and agony of fertility treatment, it might be nice to have a simple singleton pregnancy. Yes, you can have all kinds of complications with a singleton pregnancy too, but the risks to you and your baby are much, much lower. With a twin pregnancy, you are high risk from day one.
And once the babies are born...well you want to be able to just snuggle down and cuddle. But if you have twins...you don't get to do that. Really. With twins, you'll find yourself holding one and constantly looking to see if the other one is about to wake up and fuss. You are so busy juggling that you rarely relax.
Moms who've had singletons prior to twins will frequently comment on how they miss the cuddly bonding they had with their singleton. If you've just been thru all the stress and anxiety of years of fertility treatment...it might be nice to be able to just snuggle and bond with a one baby.
This is not just my personal experience speaking. I belong to a very active multiples mother's club. This subject comes up again and again and again. So, seriously, and I mean seriously, consider transferring only one good viable embryo at a time. This is of course different if you're dealing with old eggs or a low probability of viable embryos.
Talk with your fertility doctor about this goal and how to best aim for it. Remember that if your chance of getting pregnant on a single embryo transfer is, say, 33% then your chance is 66% after 2 transfers and 99% after 3 transfers. So, think hard and talk with your doctor before you decide you want to transfer 2 at the same time.
Certainly, not all embryos carry a 33% fertility rate. If you're dealing with "old" eggs then you may have embryos that offer only a 5% chance of successful pregnancy. In that case of course you're likely to throw in as many as you've got. But keep the goal in mind of a nice, safe, pleasant singleton birth.
Remember, you are not alone. Many have been down this path before you and many others are also struggling right now. We get it. Find support thru RESOLVE or social media or your doctors office.