The IVF Journey Part 5 - Preparing for Embryo Transfer

Egg retrieval brings with it risks. It’s common to experience some bowel disturbance such as constipation or diarrhea following the operation. Sometimes there can be some vaginal bleeding and in rare cases ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (“OHSS”). OHSS is a serious condition, which can cause symptoms of abdominal swelling and pain with shortness of breath, feeling faint and reduced urine output.

OHSS usually occurs several days after egg collection when the ovarian cysts fill with fluid and the fluid collects in the abdomen.  In severe cases the fluid also collects around the lungs. OHSS sometimes requires admission to hospital to ensure adequate hydration and to treat the symptoms of pain so needs to be taken very seriously. It’s certainly one of those things to look out for.

Fortunately, I was lucky as I didn’t experience OHSS or vaginal bleeding. I also did what I could to support my digestive system by eating plenty of vegetables, brown rice and flax seeds, drinking plenty of water and taking probiotics. The ancient yogis say that dis-ease originates in the digestive system and I certainly feel out of sorts if my digestive system is challenged in any way so supporting it throughout IVF generally is essential.

I also took extra Vitamin C to help with the healing and of course arnica, which I’ve come to recognise as nothing short of a miracle plant. You can take arnica in tablet form but you can also apply the cream to your tummy too. I also took milk thistle to support my liver, which I felt was under pressure during IVF from all the drugs and in this case the sedative from egg retrieval.

For me those next few days were all about healing from egg retrieval and preparing my womb to receive an embryo.  I wanted my body to be as healthy and clean as possible, my chakras balanced and glowing and my energy channels to be clear – mind, body and soul perfectly aligned!  I also wanted my womb to be warm, cosy and inviting so that any new life would choose to grow in there.

I enjoy a mission, especially a healing one and tried to listen to my body and do what it needed and get me as prepared as possible for embryo transfer. This meant that that first afternoon and evening I rested in bed, placing a hot water bottle on my tummy to bring healing heat to my womb, and channelling Reiki into myself too. Reiki was key for me and the next morning I had arranged a Reiki session at at a Holistic Centre in a nearby town. 

The treatment was with a mother and daughter team, so that meant four hands on me and double the amount of Reiki than one would receive from just one practitioner. It was amazing! None of us had ever experienced such heat during a treatment. The ladies’ hands were burning and they had to remove their jumpers to cope with the heat they were feeling. After a while I dropped deeply into a state of relaxation. 

It was an incredible experience – I’ve channelled and received a lot of Reiki in my time but this session was powerful indeed. There was no doubt that my body absolutely wanted to heal, and it was absorbing as much Reiki energy as it could during the time available to it.  To this day I still marvel at the magic of Reiki and the manner in which is heals. I felt calm, ‘whole’ and grounded after the session; like I’d come back to Earth a little.

I shared with the ladies the reason that I was visiting them and it caught me a little, because the daughter was terribly sympathetic and asked me how many attempts we had had with the IVF. When I responded that this was our first, she was even more sympathetic and wished me good luck. It was a very different reaction to how I was feeling in my head as I had no doubt at that point that all would be well, and it caught me off hand a little. She was incredibly well meaning, but I didn’t want sympathy.

It reminded me of the need to retreat during this precious time and maintain my grounding and faith in the process.  However well meaning people intend to be, this is a period of intense vulnerability, and it is essential not to fall into the victim mentality. Pity has no place in IVF. Nor any comments which may be construed as negative. One must gently withdraw into one’s own place and listen to the inner guidance about how to support the process. Lesson learned!

That late afternoon I took myself off to a Bikram yoga class. Bikram is not really my thing but E’s best friend likes to attend so I always accompany him when we are staying in Surbiton.  It’s yoga in a heated room practiced in front of a mirror and follows the same sequence in each class. There are 26 poses which are chosen to “systematically move fresh, oxygenated blood to one hundred percent of your body, to each organ and fibre, restoring all systems to healthy working order, just as nature intended” ( 

I struggle a little with the heat, it’s pretty intense, like being in a sauna. And I don’t particularly enjoy practicing in front of a mirror. Plus, I find the sequencing challenging as it is static and you practice each pose twice. But despite all of this, it does make you feel very clean as you sweat so profusely throughout the class and it can be really energising too. I always leave on a high and feel incredibly stretched the next day.

In this instance, I had a feeling that Bikram may assist with my healing process and help to bring fresh blood to my uterus. I also felt that it would help to quieten my mind and promote a positive mental state – it would be a distraction and time filler if nothing else! It was the first time I had been to one of these classes on my own and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It was fabulous to be anonymous and I was able to drop into my body without any one distracting me. It was certainly what I needed.

The next morning, I attended a yoga class at a lady’s house a 5-minute drive from where we were staying.  It’s not the first time I’ve come across this in the outer London area, where a female yoga teacher turns a room in her house into a yoga studio accommodating 6-8 students at a time. It creates a real community feel. The practice was great too, there’s much benefit from practicing in the company and indeed energy of other women.

After the class I visited a dear friend who lived nearby. She had gone through IVF a few years before me and was a wealth of knowledge and experience. It made a huge difference to me to be able to talk to someone who had already been through IVF. I would encourage anyone going through IVF to find a positive IVF friend to confide in. She was an incredible support to me during this time and I shall always be grateful.

My friend had conceived through her first IVF attempt, also with ICSI, and I was heartened by this. I was also humoured that we had both had the same number of eggs collected at egg retrieval and I hoped mine would fertilise as well as hers had done. She still had some embryos in storage which could be used at a future attempt and this was certainly my ideal outcome. It was lovely to chat things through and leave feeling incredibly positive about our chances of conceiving too.

Later that afternoon, E and I pottered around Richmond Park.  We both felt the need for fresh air and nature. I don’t think you can ever underestimate the positive effect that nature has on the soul. It helps to make you feel more connected to something greater than yourself, and there can be much comfort in this. It was refreshing to feel the soft earth beneath our feet and to marvel at the deer while breathing the fresh and cool winter air.

We were due back to Wessex the next day for embryo transfer. E’s back was feeling the stress of this as he struggled to find a comfortable position and was taking pain killers continously.  It was fascinating for me to witness the manner in which his mental stress manifested physically – his root chakra was feeling the strain. This was new territory for both of us and we were both feeling a little shaky.

I was certainly beginning to feel the strain.  While no news was certainly good news, I desperately wanted the clinic to call me and tell me that we had a sufficient number of quality embryos (day 3) for them to be able to progress a couple through to the blastocyst stage (day 6). This would give the embryologists more time to study the developing embryo and determine whether it was more likely to develop into a healthy pregnancy.

By the evening we had not received a call so we carried on life fairly much as usual, with another early night watching Downton Abbey and yet more channelling of Reiki into my tummy. It was a restless night of trying to sleep. I was now beginning to feel the stress a little more than I may have done previously.  It was all very real. I was desperate to hear from the clinic for some reassurance, but aware that they would only call when necessary. It was one big waiting game again.

The next morning, I was very much on edge. Wessex still hadn’t called so we left Surbiton about 9am to drive down to the clinic in time for our appointment. This didn’t feel right though and after driving for about 10 minutes, E parked the car and called the clinic to double check that the embryo transfer would definitely be taking place. The receptionist took a message and advised him that one of the embryologists would call us back, so we continued with our journey, me now feeling super on edge awaiting the call. 

Fortunately, the call arrived quickly and I spoke to the embryologist directly. He told me that they had cultured 8 embryos, 5 of which were developing particularly well so they were keen to progress 3 of these through to the blastocyct stage, and freeze the others.  This was amazingly good news. I could have jumped with joy. Phew, what a relief! It was exactly what I wanted to hear.  I had been visualising and praying for 2 healthy blastocysts and we were one step closer to realising this.

This also gave me an extra 2 full days to prepare my body for the transfer and I intended to make the most of this. I attended 2 more Bikram yoga classes and started to get really into it, which surprised me! I also listened to a number of Yoga Nidras.  I am a great believer that the innate intelligence of the mind-body takes from this practice what it needs and I needed a combination of deep rest and creative stimulus – I was creating new life after all.

I truly believe that absolutely everybody can receive some benefit from practicing Yoga Nidra – the yogic sleep – in their daily lives.  But I am an absolute firm believer that Yoga Nidra absolutely supports the IVF process. If there is one piece of advice I have for women preparing for, and going through IVF, it is this – prioritise a daily Yoga Nidra practice.  There is a free one available on my website, but you will also find some fantastic free ones on the Yoga Nidra network too.

A good diet felt essential and we ate a lot of brown rice, fruits and vegetables during this time. I continued to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine each evening while cooking dinner, (although I didn’t have one the evening prior to embryo transfer as it didn’t feel right for me). There are no rules about this though and I read about a consultant who positively encouraged women to enjoy a daily glass of wine during IVF, especially after embryo transfer to relax and reduce their stress levels.

I was also keen to nourish my soul and cleanse my aura with nature, and while I certainly missed being able to swim in the sea, or just being on a beach, we made the most of the nature available to us.  Thus we tried to spend as much time as we could outside those few days, treading the earth, breathing fresh air and hugging trees – never underestimate the power of this, it sounds wacky I know, but there is much energy, support and joy that comes from connecting with Mother Earth like this!

We were also fortunate to have access to Chinese medicine in Surbiton. We both had acupuncture and while it seemed to make little difference to E’s back pain, I certainly felt the benefit as it leaves me particularly energised. I also received some reflexology and the lovely Chinese doctor, on hearing I was preparing for embryo transfer, spent more time with me than she was meant to – my life was blessed with many healing angels during this time.

Admittedly all these extra treatments cost money, but by this point we were done with worrying about the financial aspect. It was our first attempt after all, and I was keen to do what I could holistically to support the treatment. I was mindful however of only working with people who felt aligned. I was aware – and continue to be aware – how fertility has become big business with people profiteering from women’s – often - desperation to conceive.

There are now a multitude of supplements and other products available that are marketed specifically at fertility. There are also a multitude of people offering their services to help you conceive, whether that be through holistic treatments or coaching.  While this all has a place it is essential not to give your power away to others during this time and believe that they know you better than you know yourself. They don’t. They can’t!

Like with anything in life, it is only you who can really make it happen and retaining self-belief, self-worth and a sense of hope are essential – anything which takes this away from you needs to be avoided. Thus you mustn’t just do something because someone else tells you too or because it worked for them. You do it because it feels right for you, aligned then and not from a place or attitude of desperation.

I tried to stay as empowered and true to me as possible. Thus by the time embryo transfer day arrived, I felt that I had done all I could do in the time available to me to prepare myself physically, mentally, emotionally and indeed spiritually to receive new life. I was a little anxious about the procedure as it was still an unknown to me, but I was delighted that we had finally gotten to this part of the process. I was feeling hopeful and excited and keen to get on with the next stage of our journey...