Australian couples undergoing in vitro fertilisation (IVF) may now benefit from an innovative and freely-available app which provides a comprehensive calendar tool that spans their entire IVF journey. MiFertility Plan App – an Australian-designed calendar tool – features crucial alerts and reminders for the stream of appointments, tests and medicines that the 30,000 Australian women1 undergoing IVF treatment each year, need to manage.
The free MiFertility Plan App is now available for download from the App Store for Apple devices and Google Play for Android.
According to gynaecologist, Dr Julie Lindstrom, City Fertility Centre, Brisbane, up to one in three couples encounter difficulties conceiving. Apart from the complex nature of the process, the IVF experience can cause incredibly high levels of stress and anxiety for those undergoing the IVF cycle.
'Couples starting IVF have often been trying to conceive naturally for some time and may be experiencing emotional distress. They are then faced with a barrage of medical information and are being told how timing is pivotal to their chance of success."
'MiFertility Plan App has been designed to support couples step-by-step through their IVF treatment journey," said Dr Lindstrom.
'There is so much to be aware of during IVF treatment, and research has shown stress can actually compromise IVF treatment success."
'MiFertility Plan is the first freely-available app in Australia to offer daily support and tracking of treatment, dosages, blood tests, and egg and sperm collection appointments. The app also offers personalised alerts for embryo transfer, pregnancy tests, and early pregnancy scans," Dr Lindstrom said.
As a fertility specialist, Dr Lindstrom knows first hand the many elements involved in the process and recognises the support couples need during IVF treatment.
'IVF is the process of fertilisation whereby an egg is combined with sperm outside the body, before being carefully transferred into the woman's uterus."
'This complicated process relies on many different elements coming together at just the right time to heighten the chance of conception,"3 said Dr Lindstrom.
'Couples require support to simplify the whole IVF treatment process. MiFertility Plan App puts the user back in control, by storing all of this critical information in the one, easy-to-access place."
MiFertility Plan App is available to all couples undergoing IVF nationwide, irrespective of the clinic they are attending, or their course of IVF treatment.
At what can be a difficult time in any relationship, MiFertility Plan App enables women to bring their partner on the IVF journey, by sharing records and calendar items at the press of a button.
After completing a successful IVF cycle with her eighth embryo, and giving birth in May 2017 to baby girl Audrey, Megan Johnson, 38, Brisbane, explains how important it was to have her partner, Andy, supporting her every step of the way.
'We had been trying to fall pregnant for more than a year before choosing to seek additional help and embark on our IVF journey."
'It was very daunting at first and was a lot to take in. We would be confused about what all the medication and injections were and when I was supposed to take them. But Andy was just the best and helped me remember everything," said Megan.
'It would have been fantastic to have been armed with a calendar app during this process, as we had bits of paper all over the house and I was forever trying to find the right document to check things." 'MiFertility Plan App seems fantastic and really easy to use. It means there is one less thing to worry about at a very stressful and emotional time," Megan said.
The app allows women to instantly contact their clinic via phone or email, providing the user with peace of mind at all times. Greater privacy of personal information is also ensured, given the app is not cloud based.
While MiFertility Plan App is accessible to anyone undergoing IVF treatment, if Ferring Pharmaceuticals products have been prescribed, the app provides access to information resources that can assist in their use.
To download the app or learn more, head to: www.ferring.com.au/MiFertilityPlanApp
Question: Congratulations on the birth of gorgeous Audrey; are you able to tell us a little bit about your IVF journey?
Megan Johnson: I met my husband Andrew late in life (almost 34) and we were married when I was 35. We knew that we wanted to start trying for a family straight away. We knew we may have trouble conceiving as I had a history of endometriosis and my identical twin Lauren also conceived her two beautiful children through IVF.
We began trying for a family the year we were married and after nine months of unsuccessfully conceiving, we saw a fertility specialist. My specialists hadn't been able to give me a diagnosis as to what was stopping us conceiving as all our test results were inconclusive. We did four rounds of Clomid (a follicle stimulating drug) in conjunction with timed intercourse and when that failed we did three rounds of intrauterine insemination before moving to IVF. We began IVF in July 2016. The medication made me so tired and I gained 10 kg almost overnight which was a bit of a hit to my ego. I have always been careful with my diet and exercised regularly so that was a bit hard to adjust to. I underwent the egg retrieval surgery and we harvested 10 eggs, we were lucky enough to get 8 embryos. I started doing acupuncture and took all the recommended vitamins and I saw a dietician to make sure I was getting the best nutrients.
Over the next 7 months we did 4 unsuccessful frozen embryo transfers (FET). With each failure, I became less keen to keep going. The week that my sister and I turned 37, I decided to book an appointment with a highly-recommended specialist Dr Warren De Ambrosis. I had 4 embryos left at that stage and was given a November appointment which seemed so far away. I had one more unsuccessful transfer with my previous specialist in May and then decided to take a much-needed break until we saw Warren. At around this time, I also decided to stop the acupuncture, I felt like it was a large cost for no result so I took up Pilates. I used the time to exercise as well as to relax and focus.
In the August I received a call from the new specialist, there had been a cancellation and I was offered an appointment for the next day. I accepted it and rang Andrew who was a bit overwhelmed but very supportive and excited. When we met the new specialist, he put us at ease immediately. He explained that he didn't have a diagnosis for me but that he would do everything in his power to get us a baby. His approach was more aggressive and we had to take enormous amounts of vitamins and take lots of blood tests every month to make sure the timing was right for the transfer. If he didn't think my bloodwork was good enough he would cancel the transfer. One of our remaining three embryos was an okay grade, another was a bit below average and the other was not great, he suggested that we thaw all three when the time was right and see what survived. He thought that only one embryo would end up being transferred. The first month our cycle was cancelled because of my results. The following month we tried again and two of the three embryos thawed well enough for transfer. Then we had the dreaded 2WW (that is the two week wait for the uninitiated) and with our final two embryos we achieved a twin pregnancy! Our families were over the moon for us and as a twin myself we were delighted. One was significantly smaller than the other. We affectionately referred to them as Arnie and Danny after the movie Twins.
Then at 8 weeks I had a small bleed (no more than a teaspoonful) and we rushed to get a scan, both babies were doing well and we breathed a sigh of relief. Then at almost 10 weeks we had the devastating news that the tiny baby's heart had stopped beating. It was so heartbreaking. I spent the entire rest of my pregnancy on tenterhooks. Then at 30 weeks my fantastic obstetrician Dr Melinda Heywood said -Megan, if this baby is born tomorrow, it will be fine' and after that I relaxed a little. I had a really smooth pregnancy despite the rocky start and I had placenta praevia. I managed to attend Pilates 3-5 times a week and ate really well and had the cutest baby bump. I loved being pregnant.
I went into labour at 37 weeks and Audrey came into the world at 5:15 am on the 27th of May. She was a perfect little bundle and looks exactly like her Dad. She is the happiest baby I know and we are besotted. She is loved so much by all her cousins that range in age from 18 months to 20 years old! She was worth all the tears and frustration.
Question: What did you find most stressful during the entire IVF process?
Megan Johnson: The money side of things is always very stressful we had to take out two loans and spent most of our savings on transfers. Being unsuccessful so many times was so disappointing. I also had quite a stressful job, but that was sometimes a good distraction.
Question: How did you manage all of the injections, appointments and surgeries?
Megan Johnson: I am not a bit squeamish at all so the injections didn't phase me one bit. I figured that people with diabetes have to inject themselves every day so if they had to do it, I could do it for a short time. My diary and my phone calendar were my best friend, I always had double entries in case I missed something. I had a really understanding Manager who had gone through IVF herself so she was really accommodating and I was able to work from home when required. To be honest work was a good distraction.
Question: How did other pregnancies affect you and your partner during this time?
Megan Johnson: I could never be envious of my sister because she is a rare cancer survivor and she had such endometriosis that it invaded her bladder. She had to have surgery to remove the endo and repair the damage to her bladder. I love her babies as if they are my own and I have a really special bond with them. She deserved her lovely babies and to get pregnant through IVF really easily.
I am not going to lie, I had little pangs of jealousy when my friends announced their pregnancies but I was really happy for all of them. I needed to pour all my energies into something more constructive than jealousy. I have learned to not sweat the small things.
Question: What advice do you have for a couple beginning their IVF journey?
Megan Johnson: Definitely prepare for the worst outcome. Make a really full life without children, that way you have things in common if you aren't able to have children. We didn't want to become a statistic and we really put a lot into our relationship first and foremost. It helps to go on dates and really connect with your partner.
Don't let anyone (friends, family and well-meaning strangers) tell you what to do. I once had a woman at an engagement party tell me that she thought IVF was unnatural and my child would be an abomination. I chose to feel sorry for her ignorance and I excused myself from the party. People get really weird when you tell them that you are infertile and they say things like -just go on holiday' or -have you tried having sex on your couch'. Sometimes all you need is a -oh that's no good'.
If you are not comfortable with your specialist definitely get a second opinion. I always felt as though my first specialist thought I was an inconvenience. He once told me that I -frustrated him' because he couldn't get me pregnant. As soon as I met with Warren, we had an instant rapport. I knew we would have success if we went with him.
Question: What types of stress-management did you and your partner try?
Megan Johnson: We have had a really stressful few years with both of my parents being diagnosed with cancer and my sister in law passing away, leaving behind two toddlers, so we already had good mechanisms in place. We exercised together and went on dates. Andy is my rock and he even let me drag him to Pilates and personal training sessions on a regular basis.
We had to be really organised during the process and we would debrief each day to make sure we both knew what was happening the next day, week and month. That definitely helped.
Question: How did your family and friends comfort you best during the IVF journey?
Megan Johnson: Both our families are a huge support, we both come from large close families and we are lucky to have them. My twin sister Lauren who had been through IVF had hope for me when I didn't. And of course, my mum was fantastic. She had been so devastated when she learned that both of her daughters were infertile.
Some of my friends were also going through the same process and we would have a regular catch up. It really helps if someone understands.
Question: Can you tell us about the MiFertility Plan App?
Megan Johnson: The MiFertility Plan App is exactly what I needed when going through IVF. It syncs to your calendar for all the drugs you need to use and when. It will definitely help to make the best of the planning sessions that you have with the nurses at the clinic. You can set reminders and add notes and add as many drugs as you need. You can even schedule the blood tests and clinic visits. It even schedules the egg and sperm collection. I wish I had it when I was going through the process and I will definitely use it in the future if we decide to do another round.
Interview by Brooke Hunter