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Returning to Fertility Treatment paused due to Covid 19 – Managing the psychological impact of emotional uncertainty

Returning to Fertility Treatment paused due to Covid 19 – Managing the psychological impact of emotional uncertainty

Fertility related issues bring enough uncertainty without trying to manage them during a pandemic! The HFEA responding to the extraordinary impact of Covid 19 and on the advice of government bodies and professional fertility bodies made the difficult decision to recommend that no new treatments could begin and that clinics should suspend treatment until they can be guaranteed a “safe service for patients and a safe working environment for their staff”.

The HFEA have now indicated that fertility clinics can open, however they will still need to adhere to social distancing and other measures to ensure the safety of patients. This could cause delays in appointment availability and in the interim, this is causing a lot of additional stress for current and potential fertility patients. 

While you may understand that logically it is not wise to bring too many patients into clinics during a global crisis, it can lead to additional distress emotionally. Whether it’s the financial uncertainty relating to your job and how this may influence future treatment choices or the stress of not knowing when you can book in for your next fertility appointment, there is a lot to navigate during this time.

Though it is more challenging, it can also be a time when you press the pause button and take space to invest in your emotional and physical health and wellbeing. 

There are some things that you can do to increase resilience and build acceptance during this difficult time.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Challenge unhelpful thinking patterns – in the face of uncertainty, we can sometimes express what is known in CBT as ‘low frustration tolerance’, for example, having an internal dialogue that is ‘catastrophic’ in tone e.g. “I can’t stand this. I won’t be able to cope unless they open the clinic and book me in next week”, “this shouldn’t be happening”. Try replacing this absolute thinking with an internal dialogue that develops a higher ‘frustration tolerance’. This acknowledges that while it is very challenging, you can manage it, e.g. “this is difficult, however, I can manage it as I have been doing so for some time now”, “although I find this uncertainty challenging, I can use the time to support my emotional and physical health which will support me when the clinic re-opens” and “there are no rules that say a pandemic should or should not be happening. Although it is difficult, I know it will pass.” 

  2. Reflect on times you overcame other challenges – Do you remember when you overcame some real challenges in the past? How did you do it? Did you think then that you would manage? What could your past self say to your present self to encourage you through this? 

  3. Journal at specific times – Keep a daily journal and write your thoughts, feelings and fears. Also, write your hopes for the future.

  4. Use this time to self-care – Self-care is self-love! Our busy lives don’t always afford the time necessary to invest in your body and mind nourishment with care. You can use this time to eat well and nourish your body with whole foods, whole grains and plenty of fruit smoothies and fresh vegetables. The body loves a variety of food and if you eat a nutrient rich diet now, you are investing in your fertility health for the future. 

Also, the internet is full of incredible yoga classes so you can experiment and find one that suits you. Although, I too am on the phasing out stage of lockdown, last week I was doing a yoga class in Goa, India and a cardio class in London followed by another form of yoga live from a coastal area in Wicklow, Ireland.

You can use this time to try out new things or experience a different teacher online. Yoga is a very healing and strengthening form of body and mind movement that helps to empower you when you are feeling stressed. It also helps to calm the nervous system which is beneficial to hormone balance. 

  1. Limit your exposure to the news – there is a fine balance between enough information to keep you informed of significant changes and exposing yourself to too much information daily which causes additional and unnecessary extra stress. Be mindful of how often you are exposing yourself to news updates and social media specific to Covid 19. Find the balance!

  2. Try Mindfulness – mindfulness meditation is very helpful to encourage you to stay present to the ‘here and now’ experience and cultivate gratitude and self-compassion towards yourself in the face of adversity. I often recommend an app called, ‘Insight Timer’ as it has over 10,000 guided meditations and support guidance that can help you through the good and bad days. 

  3. Seek support – although we need to distance ourselves physically, we do not need to isolate ourselves. It is important to reach out to give and receive support during this unprecedented time. You may also need professional support to help you to overcome stress or low mood. Everyone needs additional support at various times in their lives. It is ok to feel challenged by uncertainty, however, if you feel overwhelmed by it all, it may be time to seek further professional support online. 

Don’t expect yourself to be perfect or even close to it during this time, however, do support yourself to get through it as best as you can so that when the fertility clinics open their doors and phase in a return of patient care, you will feel emotionally and physically healthy and resourced to positively manage your treatment. 

If you’d like to know more about how yoga, CBT or mindfulness can benefit you on your fertility journey, you can visit my website at

Ann Bracken MA, Grad.Dip. PG Dip
Ann Bracken MA, Grad.Dip. PG Dip
Ann Bracken is an accredited (AMBICA, AMIACP) Online Fertility Counsellor & Author (Mind, Body, Baby – Hodder & Staughton). Ann provides Fertility Mind-Body Health Coaching via Skype/FaceTime & Telephone. She is also a qualified Mindfulness Yoga Teacher & Nutritional Therapist.

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