If there is one thing that everyone seems to know about IVF pregnancies, it’s that they require a strict medical protocol. Most notably, IVF requires a lot of self-administered injections.
Here’s the thing about IVF medications that amazes me; every cycle is different. In my first experience I did the entire gamut of medications. From injections into my abdomen to stop me from ovulating to injections into my hip to convince my body it was pregnant, to handfuls of oral medications- I did them all. One medication made me sweat a lot and forced my husband to name me a stinky “Apprentice Supervillain.” But it worked. The stinky supervillain got pregnant, and the result was a beautiful baby girl. Disclaimer: not everyone will sweat or stink. Apparently that was just a special little gift just for me.
This cycle my medications are so drastically reduced that it is easy to forget that I’m in the middle of my medical cycle. It’s really kind of nice allowing my body to just do what it does naturally. Right now I’m just taking a simple tablet or two of estrogen per day. But, those big long scary needles are in my (near) future. They’ll start this week and, if we’re lucky, be in my daily future for the next 10-12 weeks. That’s 70-84 injections.
So let’s get down to brass tacks. Here’s what you all want to ask me. Do the injections hurt? Are they scary? Is it worth it?
I’m lucky this time around in that I’ve done this before and I have the gift of perspective. I’ve already mastered the learning curve. It’s old hat. I’m not terrified this time around. Even so, a needle that big is dang scary, no matter how many times you’ve successfully injected yourself. I remember the first time around needing to psych myself up for each injection. It took my breath away to think about it. That’s normal. By my last shot though I had it down. Just point, poke, and push.
Here’s a truth: it does hurt. Come on, it’s a big, long needle going right into your muscle and injecting a decent amount of hormones. It’s not going to feel like a warm hug.
Here’s another truth: it is absolutely, 100%, undeniably worth it. I like to tell people that if the medications, the injections specifically, were really that bad there would be no such thing as a repeat surrogate, or a sibling for any child born of IVF. But there are both.
The injections themselves aren’t really the painful part, it’s the hormone and the oil that causes the pain. The tenderness is a result of the medication being slowly absorbed into the muscle, not the puncture of the muscle itself. There are some common sense things that we can do as surrogates to ease the pain of the absorption of the medication. Things like warming the oil prior to injection (think putting the vial under your arm like a thermometer, not putting it in the microwave on high) and ensuring you’re injecting in the right place can help.
Perhaps the biggest help is confidence and perspective. The shots don’t last forever, they’re usually over before you even reach the second trimester. And that means 6 out of 9 months will be needle free.
These shots aren’t something I’d do for fun on a Saturday, make no mistake. But they are worth every dirty diaper, sleepless night, 2 a.m. feeding, afternoon playdate, junior prom date, and missed curfew that will result from the birth of this future little person.
When put into perspective, 70-84 injections could never outweigh the joy that comes from my gift to this couple. And that knowledge makes them maybe hurt a little less.