Even though we were rationally and emotionally prepared for hormonal stimulation, we were both stunned by some of the side effects.
Most couples who go through IVF for the first time, like us, are quite inexperienced and not very informed. Obviously, we asked a lot of questions and read as much information as possible about what to expect, however, actually experiencing this process first hand is fairly different. There are things that you just cannot fully prepare for. One of them is the amount of hormones your partner is going to receive and how she will react to it.
The main problem with hormonal stimulation is that the side effects are unpredictable. It affects everyone differently. Unfortunately, this part of the process cannot be avoided but you can get through it with a great deal of care.
The main question that came to me was: why does she need this huge amount of hormones? Well, hormones are used for many different things during the IVF treatment. Initially, the ovaries must be stimulated to grow as many follicles as possible. Then, the hormones help with maturation of the eggs before the actual egg retrieval. Also, certain hormones are used to improve the chances of embryo implantation. IVF is a precise process that requires exact doses of different hormones for each step, and that is why the final amount of hormones seems so excessive.
As it turned out, the stimulation process can be a little scary. My wife had to administer the hormone injections by herself. Do you understand? She has to poke herself with a needle every day for weeks. I still shudder as I write. And that is not all. Hormones can have two very perceptible side effects. One of them is that they can make your partner experience certain physical changes, the other can cause emotional tsunamis. Which one is worse? It is usually a tie, but both are definitely difficult issues.
I don’t know if we were lucky or we handled the situation well, but we only experienced one emotional side effect: my Love was able to laugh through her tears at practically anything, even in a completely neutral situation. The seven-headed dragon that I’ve read so much about was, fortunately, asleep.
On the contrary, dealing with the physical side effects was very difficult for her. Even though I tried to comfort her and reassure her that she is beautiful (which she truly is), it was hard for her to handle that her waist suddenly vanished and her belly doubled from bloating. Unfortunately, neither diet nor exercise helped, but after a few weeks it disappeared as it came. This is something that both of you should keep in mind.
Looking back, we can laugh at our experience now, but sadly, many women can have serious hormonal imbalances affecting them both physically and emotionally. This is one of the main reasons why many couples give up on IVF altogether, and that is completely understandable. Emotional support helps you both to be there for each other, to relieve the heavy pressure, which normally affects your partner more, and to handle the physical changes with ease.