It’s funny, it seems most of my life I’ve heard about women and their biological clocks ticking. I never thought twice about the phrase…until I turned 40. Turns out, mine is ticking too.
I wasn’t 40 when I started considering IVF. It was more like 37/38. I was newly single after ending a 17 year relationship. Though I had one beautiful daughter, I always knew I wanted more than one if possible. It just didn’t work out that way in my first relationship, and that’s OK.
Newly single, pieces of my life started to slowly fall into place. With a lot of hard work I was able to build financial stability in my life that I had never had before. Single, secure, but still longing for another baby.
Here are the five first steps I took, and would recommend, when thinking about starting your IVF journey at any age.
1. Get Clear on Your Goals & Desires
When I first started considering IVF I had a few concerns I needed to overcome. Things like:
What would my friends think of me starting IVF at 40?
They are all “done” having kids and may not understand my decision. I had briefly mentioned the idea to some and, because my daughter was already 13 at the time, the general consensus seemed to be “Why would you want to start over, you’re almost “free”?”.
This one was hard because they didn’t understand the decision or the desire. The beauty of healthy adult relationships, though, is that your friends and family can disagree with a decision you make and still support you.
Because of that I decided that I’d start this journey without giving anybody any details. There are so many layers to IVF that, at least for the first few appointments, I’m still figuring things out myself.
I ultimately decided to schedule my consult first and then go from there with choosing who I’ll tell about the journey, and when.
Am I being selfish to want to raise a child with no father?
Making the decision to be a single mom by choice wasn’t an easy one. I struggled with this one for a long time. The reality is, there is no one way a family should look.
In this day and age what is important is to have a good support structure and a loving environment. Whether your family structure is one mom, two moms, one dad, two dads, or a mom and a dad, you can still raise a healthy and happy child.
What if it doesn’t work out?
Attempting IVF at 40 means that success isn’t guaranteed. Far from it. There are so many factors involved at this age that I wanted to think through all possible scenarios. Part of that was doing lots and lots of research (as I mention in step 2).
Ultimately I decided that I would be OK if it didn’t work out. There are so many ways to start a family. Yes, I’d prefer to carry another pregnancy with my own eggs, but if that doesn’t work out there are so many other options to having a larger family that I just needed to focus on one thing at a time.
2. Do Your Research
IVF is a huge decision both emotionally and financially. There are so many paths for a family to take on the road to making the IVF decision that no two journeys are completely alike. There are several factors to consider.
IVF Success Rates
Because of my age, I started with researching success statistics for IVF in patients who were 40 years old or older. That data is publicly available in a wide variety of places but I recommend going to the source:
- CDC Assisted Reproductive Technology Fertility Clinic Success Rates Report
- Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART)
What I learned is that for all patients in the 38 – 40 age range, 23.5% of egg retrievals resulted in a live birth. That dropped to 11.2% for the 41 – 42 age group.
The good news, for me, is that for new patients, 26.3% in the 38-40 group saw success (a live birth) after 1 retrieval, and 12.4% in the 41-42 group. That rose to 34.3% and 18% respectively when all retrievals for that patient were taken into account.
It’s easy to get lost in the numbers though. There is so much data provided both in general and even on an individual clinic basis.
You have to keep in mind that the success rates are for all cycles, regardless of contributing fertility factors. Your doctor is the best person to help you determine whether IVF might help expand your family and, even then, nothing is guaranteed.
Cost is another huge one. Very few employers in the United States offer coverage for IVF. My health plan does not. I have zero coverage. This is something you definitely want to look into. Cost can vary widely by location and the type of procedure you are having done as well.
There are so many factors involved including:
- IVF Clinic Pricing
- Cycle Type (Regular IVF, Mini IVF, etc)
- Pre-Implantation Genetic Testing (PGT) vs. no PGT
- Embryo Storage Fees
- Extra Procedures as needed
I knew when I started researching that this journey was going to be expensive. Research helped me learn that the exact costs can’t really be calculated. I don’t know how many rounds of IVF I’ll need. I don’t know how my body would respond.
Instead of getting lost in the details, I looked at averages for my area and my age and decided on a budget.
3. Get Healthy
We aren’t going in order but, this step has been very important for me in my journey to IVF. Once I started doing research and committed towards going down this path, I was even more determined in my personal goals to get healthy.
Like many Americans, I was overweight. In fact, at a BMI of 40, I was worried that if I called a clinic to schedule an appointment, when I came in I’d be turned away because of my weight.
At 5’8″ tall and 275 pounds, I knew that if I was going to invest the time and money into starting the IVF process, I needed to lose weight. To get started, I completely overhauled my diet.
6 days a week my meals are completely plant based / vegan. Sundays I allow myself cheat meals but try to keep my overall goal in mind when I eat. So instead of McDonalds, for example, I might have salmon with mashed potatoes.
That has resulted (and continues to result) in around a 2lb per week weight loss. Not a lot but still, consistency has been key. In fact as of writing this, I’m 20 lbs down from when I started and this week am starting to add in exercise as well.
Your journey towards good health may look different. You could already be in great health, or maybe you have a few diet improvements you can make. Some women may even need to gain weight.
For me, the best advice I can give is to start getting healthy, but don’t let any issues hold you back from scheduling your appointment. Your doctor should help make recommendations for things you can do to get your body ready for IVF.
4. Find a Community
I’m not a social person. I’m pretty introverted and very private. I don’t post my day to day life on Facebook, Instagram or any other platform, even though I’m “on” them all. One of the things these places are good for, though, is community and information.
I’ve found a few Facebook groups that have a ton of activity and all kinds of information. It’s been a great resource and a great source of encouragement for me that there are so many other women on the same journey as me.
While Facebook groups are one option, there are many websites with forums as well that can be a great asset. These communities can help you find answers to questions (I love the search features!) as well as give you a place to ask your own questions to other women who are going through, or have been through, the IVF process.
5. Decide on a Clinic & Schedule Your Consultation
I scheduled my IVF Consultation this morning. It took me 6 months to work up the “courage” to make the call. I wish I had done it sooner but I kept putting it off.
Narrowing down an IVF clinic can be an overwhelming process. Here are a few things I looked at:
- Proximity – I wanted something close to work or home. For some women, cost is the biggest factor and distance isn’t. Figuring out where your clinic should be located is half the battle.
- Reviews – Once I had location narrowed down, finding an IVF facility is pretty easy. My recommendation is to utilize Google maps and search that way. General Google results will be full of ads with clinics paying to get the top three spots in the list. Once you are on maps, its easy to see the clinic locations as well as the number of reviews.
- Schedule Your Consultation – I don’t know why I put this off for so long. I think the big part of it was because I worry about being judged by the clinic for being single, for being overweight (still even though I’m still losing), worried about the process for the first appointment, worried about what to say on the phone, etc. Now that it’s done I know it’s easy. It was a 4-5 min call, a few basic questions and I see the doctor next Monday!
As with most things in life, remember that your IVF journey will probably be just as unique as you are. The one thing that finally helped push me through the final step in this list, scheduling the consultation, is realizing that not calling was the one decision in my life I was making that could guarantee, as a single woman, that I wouldn’t be able to have another baby.