I’ve been asked about the two week wait a few times recently, and I know how difficult it can be and how much you want to do whatever you can to improve your chances of success. You will find all kinds of “experts” suggesting all kinds of strange and wonderful ways to boost the likelihood of a positive result, but most of this advice should be taken with a large pinch of salt. Whether you go to work or decide to take some time off, whether you try to keep as busy as you can or opt for a period of peaceful relaxation is largely a matter of personal choice – and neither one nor the other will be more likely to result in a positive outcome.
I’m always troubled by suggestions that you should opt for bed rest for a few days after embryo transfer. There have been scientific studies which looked at this very issue, and there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that lying down or resting after embryo transfer is beneficial in any way and it is certainly not linked to an increase in success rates. I know from my own experience how you question everything you did during the two week wait if your treatment doesn’t work, and that’s why I am so wary of this kind of misleading advice which only leads you to blame yourself for having left your bed to go and eat supper or to answer the front door!
The other very unhelpful piece of advice often given during the two week wait focuses on the importance of positive thought – suggesting that if you are able to imagine a successful outcome this will make it more likely. I can’t help feeling that this is just another reason to blame yourself if treatment doesn’t work – and I absolutely promise you that having a successful outcome doesn’t hinge on your ability (or inability) to fill your head with positive thoughts during the two week wait.
The reality is that the medical team treating you want your fertility treatment to work, and would tell you if there was anything that you could do that would make a difference to the outcome. They often give rather vague advice about what you should and shouldn’t do, but there are some things that are important; you do need to take folic acid to prevent neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) if your treatment is successful, and a pre-conception multi-vitamin with folic acid can be a good way to take this. It is only sensible to avoid smoking, alcohol and lots of caffeine. Other than that, most of it is really down to you and what you feel happy with. Eating healthily and taking care of yourself will help you to feel better as you will know that you are doing all that you can to make a difference.
A fertility nurse I interviewed for The Complete Guide to IVF told me that she suggested to her patients that they should avoid anything that they were worried might have an impact on the outcome of their treatment – “There’s no advice on the whole,” she said “but we say, if you go to do something and think should I be doing this?, then it’s just not worth it during this two weeks. Ladies often ask me about having hot baths, and I can’t see any problem with that at all. They should try not to do heavy lifting, but even that probably wouldn’t have any effect – it’s just for their own peace of mind really.”
Perhaps that’s the most important thing – peace of mind. It’s not an easily achieved state during the two week wait, but being kind to yourself can really help. A woman I interviewed who’d been through a number of treatment cycles said she used the two week wait as a time of indulgence – so she’d treat herself with funny videos and magazines, have a haircut or a facial, go to bed early with a book or go for a day out.
The two week wait is never easy, and I always wished I could be put to sleep for a fortnight as it can feel like two years rather than two weeks – but that’s why I think the advice about treating yourself is so useful.