29 October 2019

IVF and the two-week wait

When you have decided to try for a baby, you can’t help but think about whether you have conceived as each month goes through its cycle. It is inevitably a time of heightened emotion, often tipping over into feelings of anxiety and stress. This can feel even more intense when you are going through a cycle of IVF. The very fact of assisting the process of conception is bound to focus all of those stressful feelings.

Here we zoom in on what can be the most trying of all the different parts of the IVF process, the one in which you have to do nothing but let the time pass. We explain why the wait is necessary and look at some anxiety hot spots, such as when you have symptoms like cramps or spotting during the IVF two-week wait. Finally, we offer a few tips on how to manage this exciting but anxiety-laden time.

What is the IVF two-week wait?

A normal cycle of IVF can take between four and six weeks. During this time, you will be quite busy with treatments, visits to the clinic, and thinking about the next steps. At the end of the four to six weeks, what next? Do you have a result? Not yet. This is the beginning of the two-week wait. These are the steps along the way during the treatment period:

  • Ovarian stimulation is the start. It consists of daily injections which cause the ovaries to produce more oocytes than the normal one per month so that they can be collected. This lasts between 10 and 15 days depending on the patient’s individual response.
  • When there is a sufficient number of oocytes, an injection to mature them is administered. 36 hours later, they are collected in a 15-minute procedure called ovum pick-up or follicular puncture.
  • The oocytes are then fertilised in the laboratory and observed for a few days while they are developing. The best embryo is then selected for transfer to the maternal uterus. The waiting begins.

For more detail on the process, you can take a look at our video about IVF here.

Which physical symptoms can you expect?

It’s only natural that you will be monitoring your physical state to be on the look-out for signs of pregnancy, or for reasons to be fearful. It’s quite possible that, although the IVF round turns out to be successful, you experience no symptoms at all, but if do you have any, they could be misleading. Examples of what you might expect are:

Spotting or cramping

Cramping is very common at this stage. It can raise fears of an oncoming period or alternatively it can raise hope that implantation is taking place but, in fact, it often means neither. It is most likely a result of the various medications that you need to take as part of the procedure. By the same token, if you experience the very slight bleed known as spotting in the IVF two-week wait, it could be a result of the progesterone supplements you are taking or it could be a sign of implantation bleeding. Of course, if you experience severe cramping or heavy bleeding, you should consult your doctor.

Other signs of early pregnancy

Many of the normal signs of early pregnancy, such as slight bloating, tender breasts or nausea, can be triggered by the hormonal medications which are part of IVF. They are not necessarily confirmation that you are pregnant, nor are they an indication that you are not! At this stage, it’s really impossible to know, and so the more you can relax and endure the IVF two-week wait without obsessing, the better. It’s much more useful to focus as far as possible on managing your anxiety levels.

Anxiety management during the two-week wait

Keeping stress at bay is easier said than done, but you can’t hurry the process, so try a few tips to relax and keep calm while you wait:

  • Take care of yourself. Eat a wholesome, healthy diet and try to steer clear of comfort eating. Unless specifically recommended by your medical team, bed rest is entirely unnecessary but you may want to rein back on any particularly strenuous exercising and just keep active in moderation.
  • If you know you are a little stressed, don’t let that add to your worries! There is no evidence that feelings of anxiety have a negative impact on IVF success rates.
  • Choose which family members and friends to confide in, and accept their company and support. But you may not want to spread the word too much until you’re ready to share the outcome more widely.
  • Discuss with your partner or closest confidant how you would like to hear about the results of your blood test after the two-week wait. Some people prefer to hear the result from a loved one, others favour taking the call from the clinic themselves.
  • Try to resist taking a home pregnancy test too early. The medication you are on could easily be the cause of a positive reading and a negative reading could simply be the result of it being too soon. Either result will leave you none the wiser and serve only to raise anxiety. It is best to wait for the blood test at the end of the two-week wait.

Do some homework to pass the time

You may like to occupy yourself during the crucial two weeks by absorbing novels and magazines for distraction. On the other hand, you could focus on keeping your optimism up by researching IVF success rates. You could browse our website for IVF real-life success stories or take a look the reassuring statistics around our overall success rates, and read about the techniques for embryo selection which are advancing all the time.

And if you would like to come and talk to us, it’s easy to get in touch with IVI to arrange a visit. We’re here to help you to stay positive!

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