“What an emotional rollercoaster journey it is” is a familiar thought for anyone experiencing infertility. Each stage of a fertility journey can bring extreme highs and low of emotions, and each person will cope with these emotions differently.
Whether you are sharing your journey with family and friends, or keeping it very private, how do you cope with these rollercoaster of emotions including feelings of anxiety, depression, helplessness and maybe isolation?
Hopefully your journey will consist of some positive emotions, with highs of excitement and happiness, as each stage of fertility treatment works well. How though, do you cope well with the anticipation of the next stage of treatment, or your next ovulation date – if trying to naturally conceive?
Unfortunately, whilst treatment might be going well up to a point, sometimes your treatment is paused or you fail to conceive. You can go from experiencing the highs of joy to being confronted with despair and grief. It is challenging and gruelling experience which may last for some time.
How, therefore do you stay positive and calm at each stage of the journey through potential extremes of emotions? Trying to keep yourself level-headed, to manage these constant flows of emotions is difficult. You need to find coping strategies to manage stress to help you and your partner stay calm and positive on your fertility journey.
The anticipation of starting treatment can be exciting, but also an apprehensive and stressful time. Both you and your partner need to organise time off work for treatment and manage logistics such as potentially paying for treatment and so on. It is a good idea to find time for you and your partner to get ‘fertility fit’, in mind and body to maximise your opportunity of successful fertility treatment.
Studies show that women and men with fertility issues are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression. According to Dr Alice Domar at the Domar Centre for Mind/Body Health “Women undergoing infertility treatments exhibit high anxiety and/or high depressive scores at the start of treatment, as well as over the course of treatment.”
Partnered with Boston IVF, Dr Domar offers a Mind/Body Program for Fertility. This programme teaches strategies to reduce anxiety, and depression by learning to de-stress through relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and yoga. The study showed a 50% pregnancy rate for those patients that had under-gone a mind-body program; compared to just 20% for the controlled group, who had not received the mind-body intervention program.
Fertility treatment is challenging; numerous trips to the clinic for treatments and drug regimes that might affect your mood can negatively affect both you and your partner. You must remember however that there is a wealth of literature and infertility support networks available to help you and your partner. Take advice from people in similar situations as you, or from professionally trained fertility experts.
You need to find coping strategies to manage stress to help you and your partner stay calm and positive on your fertility journey
Tips for undergoing fertility treatment
1. Be realistic
Learn to accept what you can and can’t be in control of, ask for help from the fertility specialists. The doctors and nurses will guide you through the process every step of the way and give you advice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, however minor or insufficient you may think they are. Try to make notes of your questions between your appointments and get helpline telephone numbers if you need to speak to anyone outside clinic hours.
2. Recognise the hormonal changes
Be in tune with your emotions, hormonal treatment and fertility drugs can produce side effects and change your mood dramatically, throughout the day and over periods of time during fertility treatment. Recognise it’s the medication and try to accept your emotions, however overwhelming they maybe. Its ok to express your emotions, to cry or scream, you just need to let go of these emotional blockages. It’s important that your partner and family realise it’s your hormonal treatment, and give you space to express your feelings.
3. Stay positive
It is hard when you are feeling frustrated and angry, if treatment is not going well or you feel you are not getting support but try to stay positive by using affirmations and relaxation techniques. Being open and talk to people close to you, its ok to ask for help and support, if you are feeling low and vulnerable. Try and use mind-body approach therapy, such as yoga or mindfulness, to help process your emotions.
It is important for you and your partner to be emotional connected – you are in this together, even if only one of you needs fertility treatment. Try to prioritise your relationship over the pressures and expectations. Don’t lay blame or guilt on each other, keep working together to overcome and managing the things that you can both control. Make time to carry on with normal life best you can.
5. Coping with grief
Grief is a natural response to losing someone you care about, the baby you may of miscarried or grieving for the baby you long for. Everyone’s experiences are personal, there’s no right or wrong way to go through the grieving process, the important thing is let yourself grieve and mourn, take as much time as you and your partner need to recover.
Counsellors talk about grieving in terms of stages to work through. There are five stages of natural emotions, people experience as they grieve. You may feel all of them or some of them, and the emotions may not necessary be in this order:
- Denial: This can’t be happening to me.
- Anger: Why is this happening to me?
- Depression: Why cant I be a parent?
- Bargaining: Try to regain control of your emotions and act – ‘I will review my diet, my lifestyle, make changes and move forward’
- Acceptance: This is the situation, accept it; learn from it and move forward
Knowing that you are coping with your emotions and recognising the stages, this might give you confidence to be open and to have those honest conversations. Acceptance might mean a life without children or revaluating your options to starting a family. Take time to make these decisions and find perspective for you and your partner.
No matter how long your fertility journey may be, try to be resilient
How to Prepare for the Emotional Side of IVF and fertility treatment
All Fertility treatments, especially IVF, are physically, emotionally and can be financially draining for you and your partner. Before you embark on fertility treatment it is good to be prepared!
From personal experience I found that you need to find coping strategies during IVF treatment which work for you and your partner. It’s an intense time and you need to minimise your stress to stay calm and positive, to enhance your chances to conceive and survive the emotional rollercoaster of IVF. You need to be able to look back and know that you tried your best, whatever the outcome maybe.
Educate yourself about the treatment plan, understand the time frame of treatment, the side effects and what each stage of treatment involves. Whilst your fertility specialist can help with the practical side of fertility treatment, they are not able to provide the emotional support you may need. So, it’s a good idea to talk to people how have been through the process of treatment.
Use a fertility counsellor that specialises in helping with infertility, as they can be an invaluable support for you.
There are many charities, communities and social media fertility support groups out there, to help you, they really understand what you are going through, and can help you on your fertility journey. I found writing a journal helped me face my emotions, and I developed coping strategies to deal with them.
Looking after your emotional wellbeing
Looking after your health and wellbeing is paramount on the long road to conception and getting healthy is important for expectant mothers for both their health and for the baby. Try to find ways to have a healthy lifestyle and minimise your stress;
- Plenty of rest – Going through fertility treatment can be really tough emotional and physically, so make time to rest.
- Acknowledge your emotions – Try to understand its ok to feel like this, it will pass, try to let go of any negative feelings of frustration, resentment and anger. Try to find ways to lift your mood and stay level headed.
- Get fertility fit – Get in shape with a healthy BMI and make sure you enjoy your exercise plan. Exercise to not only get into shape but to help release endorphins, chemicals in your brain that make you feel good and reduce stress
- Give yourself head space – Learn skills to recognise your emotions and behaviours and find coping strategies meditations, breathing exercises
- Keep talking – Communication is important especially with those close to you, explain how you feel.
- Digital detox – Reduce your time on smart phone and tablets to calm your mind, learn to switch off and relax
- Diet – It’s important to have a balanced intake of all the nutrients and supplements you need for fertility treatment, to nourish the body and boost fertility
- Get enough sleep – Sleep helps to rejuvenate the mind and body, try to get between seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
You need to be able to look back and know that you tried your best, whatever the outcome maybe
Infertility is one of the biggest challenges that life can throw at you. No matter how long your fertility journey may be, try to be resilient and manage agonising waits through mindfulness practices and coping strategies. Try to learn to observe your feelings and thoughts, and how your body is coping. It’s important to learn how to take care of yourself and your emotional well-being. One of the most challenging aspects of fertility treatment, is dealing with the emotional ups and downs.
Whether through family, friends, or fertility professionals, try to make sure you get the support you need.