Should You Do Back-to-Back IVF Cycles or Take a Break? Here's the Lowdown.
Whether or not to take a break from IVF is a heavy question. For one, it implies a worst-case scenario: your IVF cycle didn’t end well, which, after months of preparation and countless tests and procedures, is devastating.
This question also takes into account several aspects of your well-being, from the emotional to the physical. Are back-to-back IVF cycles a good idea for you physically? How about emotionally? What about financially? Let’s dive into it.
What are back-to-back IVF cycles? IVF cycles are considered back-to-back, or continuous, if they are administered with just one full menstrual cycle in between.
In other words, after having an embryo transfer, you will wait just under two weeks to take a pregnancy test. If that test comes back negative, you will wait until after your following menstrual cycle to safely try another round of IVF. This timeline is what’s considered back-to-back IVF cycles. If you wait longer than one menstrual cycle, it is considered a delay.
The Physical Aspect
Everyone is different, and IVF is certainly not a one-size-fits-all process. There is no prescribed, right-way formula for it, and the timeline for each individual or couple’s IVF journey is an extremely personal decision.
There are some medical reasons, however, why your doctor might advise not doing back-to-back cycles. Some women experience inflammation from certain fertility drugs used for ovarian stimulation. If this is the case, your doctor may want to wait until inflammation has decreased before administering the next round of IVF treatment, which might take longer than one menstrual cycle. In other cases, following a failed embryo transfer or a pregnancy loss, your doctor might want to run additional tests or procedures to help find and diagnose any underlying issues.
Furthermore, the preparation for IVF can be incredibly taxing. All of the bloodwork, ultrasounds, injections, and medications can be physically and emotionally draining. The process of self-injections can be especially challenging for those who have an aversion to needles.
In general, however, there are few physical risks to doing back-to-back IVF cycles. It all comes down to each individual or couple’s personal experience, along with their doctor’s guidance. Either way, if you listen to your gut, no decision is the wrong one when it comes to how much you’re willing to endure during IVF.
The Emotional Toll
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Anyone who has gone through IVF will tell you that the mental and emotional toll outweighs the physical by a long shot. One of the best things you can do is to surround yourself with a solid support system during this time. Whether it’s your partner, an online community like Rescripted, your family, or friends, it’s crucial to have people you can lean on.
That said, even with a strong support system and a decent amount of distraction, back-to-back IVF cycles can be exhausting. From the physical and financial burden to the sheer anxiety of hoping and waiting for results, IVF can be all-consuming. In fact, it can feel a lot like having a second job. A job that encourages you to clean up your diet, cut back on exercise, go to acupuncture, and eat pineapple.
When it comes to whether or not to take a break from IVF, try to listen to what your intuition is telling you. Only you, along with your partner, can decide how much is too much when it comes to your mental and emotional health.
The Financial Burden
Now here's the kicker, on top of it all is the financial burden of IVF. Fertility treatments can be costly, and while there are some things to help alleviate that—like loans, grants, and more affordable IVF meds—with the majority of fertility patients lacking insurance coverage, there is no denying that figuring out how to pay for treatments can add even more stress to an already stressful situation. In fact, financial reasons may be cause enough for some couples to step back from pursuing continuous rounds of IVF.
But even the decision to step back and delay treatment can be scary and daunting. Some women feel it’s better to just power through or that their biological window of time is closing. Taking a break can be anxiety-inducing in and of itself, and that’s okay. You’re never alone on this journey, and that’s why having a support system is so important.
Do what is best for you!
The process of IVF can feel like an insurmountable mountain you have to climb in order to achieve your ultimate goal of a healthy baby. Whether you decide to do back-to-back IVF cycles or take a break, finding ways to cope with stress and finding things to take your mind off of what you can’t control can be helpful to get you through it. Mental health counseling can also be incredibly valuable during this time!
No matter your decision, remember how brave you are simply for taking your fertility into your own hands. Feeling overwhelmed and second-guessing yourself is normal during a time filled with uncertainty. Just remember that you and your trusted team of doctors know what is best for you and your body. No one’s journey will look the same, but one thing each fertility journey has in common is a brave person, or couple, spearheading it.
Brighid Flynn is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia where she lives with her husband and puppy. She is just beginning her journey toward motherhood.