IVF Medications & Hormones

To go along with the fertility treatment procedures, the daily hormones and medications are a huge part of the process. I wanted to give you a basic idea of the medicines that are involved. This is an aspect of fertility treatments that can be very different for each person, and I can't begin to try to cover all the bases, so I'll just give you an idea of what it's been like for me.

Birth Control Medication: Surprisingly, each of my frozen cycles have started with 3-4 weeks of birth control pills in order to regulate or kind of "reset" my hormones. They do the hysteroscopy/HSG during this time and then begin shots that will be described below. You do not take birth control pills at the same time as the hormones, this is just beforehand.

FSH/LH: For a fresh cycle, you might be given daily FSH/LH hormone shots for the first part of the cycle in order to regulate the growth of either just a few (for IUI) or many (for IVF) follicles.

Ovulation: In a fresh cycle or IUI, you are given shots for several days to delay/suppress ovulation while on the FSH/LH, until it is decided through ultrasound that you have follicles that are mature enough. Then you're given a trigger shot to make ovulation occur. For a frozen cycle it's different, and since you do not want to grow follicles or ovulate, you have daily shots that suppress the growth of any follicles (suppresses FSH/LH) and avoid ovulation. These are taken first thing when you've been on birth control pills for several weeks, before they start giving you other hormones to work on the uterine lining. You continue these shots until you start taking progesterone.

Estrogen/Progesterone: The first half of a cycle they slowly build up your estrogen (in combination with FSH/LH for Fresh or IUI cycles), and the second half or near when you'll have the embryo transfer they add progesterone. This mirrors how the body works. How I like to explain it with a frozen IVF cycle is that they basically suppress much of your body's natural production of these hormones, then they manually add the hormones. Normally I or any woman produces all these hormones on our own, and just because someone doing fertility treatments is taking a lot of hormones doesn't mean that their body can't produce those on their own. They are manually controlled through medications and hormones, with natural production largely suppressed. Once you're around the time of the embryo transfer, you are no longer taking the suppression shots and your body again produces the hormones naturally with the additional supplemented hormones.

Your doctor will use a variety of methods to get you the needed amount of hormones (such as creams, gels, pills, shots, tablets, patches), and they take your blood every few days during this whole process to make sure levels of estrogen & progesterone are where they need to be. They also put you on a variety of other vitamins and medications specifically for your situation.

Here's the gist of what a frozen IVF cycle looks like for me:

-Luprolide shot in stomach daily to suppress follicle growth/ovulation for first half of cycle
-Estrogen patches on my stomach
-Estrogen vaginal cream daily
-Estrogen pills taken multiple times per day
-Estrogen gel (like aloe vera) rubbed on my inner arms multiple times per day
-Progesterone in oil shots in the butt daily (yeah this one hurts)
-Progesterone vaginal cream twice daily
-Heparin blood thinner shot in stomach daily
-Aspirin, Prenatal, Folic Acid, Prednisone, Vitamin E, etc. daily/multiple times per day
One week of pills, morning and night!

The patches, and accumulating bruises :)
As mentioned, throughout the process you go in for blood work as well as transvaginal ultrasounds every few days to monitor ovaries, follicles and the uterine lining. All these medications are built up over the course of a month and a half, and then you continue at max capacity once they've all been added until you hear results of the pregnancy test. If you're pregnant you usually continue ALL these medications and hormones through week 12 of pregnancy, with frequent ultrasounds/blood work continuing as they deem necessary. I've never made it past that point, so who knows what's after that! :)
Remains of a round of IVF

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