Ready to get started with fertility treatments or freezing your eggs, but struggling to clear your schedule or wondering what you can expect from the process? Great news: While it’s true that you have to give yourself hormonal injections at specific times of the day, and you can’t do overly strenuous physical activities, your life only goes on pause as much as you want it to.
Here’s insight into what it’s like to go through IVF from several women who’ve been through it, and their advice on how to keep living your life during treatments—from how to travel with your shots to what to expect emotionally. As with all medical treatments, remember that you may have a different protocol or physical or emotional response, so do what feels right for you.
Getting Out of the House
Good news: you absolutely can give yourself shots on the go. “It was stressful to have to plan to be home at the same time every evening,” says Allison Hunter, a literary agent and business owner who did two rounds of egg retrievals and is currently pregnant using her frozen eggs. “I had a very busy life, and I wasn't used to coming home after work. Eventually, I became more comfortable giving myself the shots when I was away from home.”
I talked to people who gave themselves shots in a fancy restaurant bathroom, at a massive outdoor festival, in a tiny bar bathroom, at a concert taping, and at a dinner party. “I had to give myself injections in a bathroom stall of a grungy bar bathroom in Oklahoma City at a Lana Del Rey concert,” says Katie Bryan, coach and host of the Single Greatest Choice podcast who did three egg retrievals and has a son from using her frozen eggs. “That one was memorable!”
That said, most people I chatted with advised minimizing the bar bathroom injections as it’s hard to find a clean, level surface to place things on.
And if you’re out at a bar, remember the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends limiting alcohol use while trying to conceive , while your doctor may advise that you abstain altogether.
That said, it’s totally okay to only do your shots at home, too! No need to explain or go into detail if you’d rather keep your treatments private—“Sorry, I can’t,” is a complete sentence.
So, logistically, what will you need to give yourself shots when you’re out of the house?
“I pack a hard-sided sunglasses case with my prepped shots, alcohol wipes, and gauze, stick it in a lunch box with an ice pack, and haul it around in my purse until it’s time,” said Amy Darr, an e-commerce analyst who has been doing treatments for almost a year. She keeps a sense of humor about her shots, telling friends, “BRB, I have to go do some hormone drugs in the bathroom.”
Your Business Day as Usual
Other than the every-other-day appointments for monitoring—which can usually be done early in the morning, before work hours—no one I talked to reported any interference with their jobs. Although doctors recommend taking a day off of work after an egg retrieval, if that’s not an option, you might even be able to work remotely after the procedure. Darr, who works remotely, had an egg retrieval on a particularly important day at work that couldn’t be rescheduled. “I told my boss I had to have a minor medical procedure done that morning but I’d be back online in the afternoon,” she says. “And I was—I was under anesthesia at 9 a.m. and back working at 12 p.m.”
As a counterpoint, I agreed to attend an in-person event 36 hours after my egg retrieval, and it was a struggle. While I was mentally okay, I couldn’t drink because of the pain medications, and I was walking at the pace of an elderly and infirm snail—hence my non-medical recommendation that everyone take two days off after egg retrieval. You will have your own individual recovery needs and response to fertility treatments, so be sure to listen to your body and do what’s right for you.
Traveling Further Afield
With careful planning, it is possible to travel during fertility treatments, although you should talk to your doctor before making any reservations. Remember that you will ideally go in for monitoring every other day, so it’s smart to not plan anything too close to the start of a cycle—or your retrieval or transfer when you absolutely must be in the clinic at a specific day and time—and you probably won’t be able to predict exactly when those days will be (though most clinics don’t hold monitoring appointments on Saturdays and Sundays).
If you’re flying with your medications, put everything in your carry-on rather than checking it—there’s too much at risk if something happens to your bag. Be sure to read the TSA guidelines for traveling with medication, but the TL;DR is that it’s fine to travel with liquids, cold packs, and syringes as long as you let the TSA agent know. “As long as everything is sealed, they barely bat an eye,” said Bryan.
Road trips are possible, too—as long as you have the space. Darr took a road trip over a holiday weekend between monitoring appointments and her doctor told her to bring all of her meds in case she got stuck or something changed. “Imagine showing up for a group trip to the beach and needing a case of beer’s worth of space in the fridge for your medications,” she says.
The Emotional Side of the Equation
So, the bottom line is that you can work, go out, and possibly travel during the initial parts of IVF. But will you want to?
“While it's mostly possible to carry on with business as usual, it's a good idea to be kind to yourself and keep your schedule light if you can during this period of time,” says Bryan, who reported feeling differently for each of her egg retrievals, despite similar protocols. “Whether it's smooth sailing or kind of rough, it's just a few weeks and you will get through it!”
Hunter echoed this sentiment, saying, “The anticipation is so much worse than the reality. In the grand scheme of things, egg freezing is only a couple weeks of your life. The full IVF cycle is longer, but even then it's usually less than two months. If I had understood that, I probably would have frozen my eggs earlier (and younger) than I did.”
Most of the people I talked to did not feel significantly different during their treatments. That said, almost everyone did more than one round of egg retrievals, which can become more physically, financially, and emotionally taxing as time goes on. “When we first saw a fertility doctor in January, I thought we might have a baby at Christmas,” says Darr. “Fast forward to October and I still have yet to see a positive pregnancy test.”
“It made me more hormonal and emotional for sure—definitely a lot of tears,” says Madeline Hollern, an editor who did two rounds of egg retrievals. “I was dating at the time and that made me more sensitive. It’s physically, financially, and emotionally taxing—but worth it.”
However, feeling emotional is not always a bad thing.
“I wish I had known how courageous and skilled I’d become in giving myself injections,” says Jessika Mann, a writer and content designer. “Living alone, this aspect was one of the main deterrents when considering freezing my eggs. When I asked the nurse at the clinic if they could do the shots for me, she said their office wouldn’t even be open at the times I’d need to inject. I was mortified. But by the end, I was an expert at preparing the syringes in my makeshift bathroom pharmacy. Observing my confidence grow over time was extremely empowering and I hope other women will give it a shot too.”
Whether you’re out celebrating or home taking it easy, remember to follow your treatment protocol, keep your stress levels low, and listen to your body. Fertility treatments are temporary, and you will get through them!