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Everything You Wanted to Know About IVF (But Were Afraid to Ask)

Most women assume that in vitro fertilization (IVF) will be a quick fix to their fertility problems. But there's a lot more to those three little letters than you know: Mixing sperm and egg together in a petri dish and then putting an embryo back in a womb is a complex process that depends on science, timing and luck. So if you're trying to get pregnant and IVF may be in your future, or if you know someone who will be, here are some handy facts.

1) IVF is going to take a lot more money than you imagined

A round of IVF can range from $8,000 to $30,000 — and that's just for one cycle. It's often not covered by insurance, or it's capped at a pithy sum. Most women require multiple rounds, and mucho dinero.

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2) You'll have to put your life on hold.

Your entire schedule will revolve around The Process. Forget travel or even making advance dinner reservations, given Mother Nature's capricious timing. You'll practically live at your clinic, taking blood tests, getting ultrasounds and undergoing the egg retrieval and embryo transfer procedures—both of which will be done under sedation (yes, cancel all plans for those days too). You might be on bed rest for a couple of days, so block those dates out of your calendar as well.

3) It's going to be a nail-biting year(s).

If you like having control, forget IVF. Much of it is time spent waiting: waiting for your cycle to begin, waiting to find out how many eggs you'll produce and how many will become embryos, waiting to see if embryos implant and make you pregnant, waiting to see if the pregnancy is viable.

Give up the idea of control, and the process will be easier. Think of it like dating: You only need one good one.

Remember that fertility specialists are like opinions: Everyone seems to have one. Just not the right one for you.

4) The medications might make you cuckoo.

Hope you're not afraid of needles, because you'll have to inject yourself daily to increase your egg quantity—injections whose side effects include making you cry at every single YouTube cat video. The medicine cocktails will make you drowsy or wired, agitated or depressed, bloated or nauseous, or all of the above, all at once.

It's good you canceled all your plans.

5) No one knows the right thing to say.

Family and friends in the know will offer sterling advice such as, "Just relax—don't think about it!" and "It happens when you least expect it."

Do expect well-meaning but misguided questions like: "Have you thought about adoption?" Adoption is a fine option—except to people going through IVF, it sounds like, "Give up! It's not going to work!"

Most people don't understand the bumps on the baby-making road. So stay calm and stick to your plan.

6) Many think they have the answer.

Women who've done IVF also think they have the right treatment for you: the perfect clinic, which is "only" three hours away, or the acupuncturist/healer/yoga fertility specialist/psychic—who all charge $500 per session.

Remember that fertility specialists are like opinions: Everyone seems to have one. Just not the right one for you.

RELATED: My Infertility Has Made Me a Better Person

7) Commit to one speculum.

The only person that matters in this scenario is your doctor. Choose one clinic and doctor and go with it. She or he has the answers you need for your treatment. If you don't like or trust your doctor, it may be time to search for a new one, especially if treatment isn't working.

8) You will feel like giving up.

There will be moments—days, weeks and months—during the process where you feel absolute despair, certain that this is punishment for waiting so long to get pregnant or, if you're young, some other imaginary crime.

But you are in it for the long haul (see No. 2) and odds are if you keep at it long enough, you will probably have a baby. At that point you will forget everything you ever went through with fertility treatment. You will be too happy, too tired, too busy spending any iota of free time posting photos of your kid on Facebook to remember anything at all about the year you spent doing IVF.

Image via Thinkstock

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