30th Oct, 2015
There is very good reason to be positive about fertility treatment, the medical advances of late have been ground-breaking and success rates are hugely encouraging. But it’s essential to be prepared for the emotional side of the experience and to know that at times, it will take its toll.
Often, women presenting at fertility centres exhibit high levels of stress and anxiety. They can take excellent care of their physical health when trying to conceive, but will often tend to overlook their emotional wellbeing and, it’s not something to be ignored.
It’s good to take a step back and consider your happiness and whether you feel supported during this. Know that it’s ok to feel scared and worried, but really try not to let these feelings overwhelm you – the statistics are hopeful – 55% of patients under the age of 35 that attended Waterstone Clinic for treatment went on to have a baby. 51% aged 35-37 years of age also had a baby.
And research by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine has shown that the vast majority of people undergoing fertility treatment adjust well emotionally, and there seems to be no evidence of a long-term impact on relationships.
Undergoing fertility treatment is, however, a difficult experience and it can be easy to lose sight of your mental wellbeing as you go through numerous tests and procedures.
So, I've outlined a few practical steps to take to ensure your mental health is in check:
1. Inform yourself
Information and knowledge are a good antidote to anxiety. The more you know and understand about the process, the less stress you may feel. Arm yourself with all the information available from your fertility centre, ask your doctors for advice on good reading material and, talk to anyone you know who has been through the process. There are also support groups you can join, and fertility centres will always have information on good counsellors.
2. Limit discussion
If you're going through assisted reproduction with a partner, it's important to communicate, but set a limit to that communication. Put aside 20 minutes a day to discuss it, and then put the subject off-limits. During this time, talk about your hopes and expectations of each other throughout the experience, like, whether you will you go to appointments together or if you need them to be with you when the doctor calls. You can do this with a close friend or confidante if you are opting for fertility treatment as a single person.
3. Know your stress response
Identify your stress triggers and get familiar with how you and your partner respond to stress. Anticipate what is going to make you or your partner most stressed during the process, will it be fitting in the appointments at the clinic or maybe it could be the injections. Become aware of each other’s style of dealing with stress and figure out what has helped in the past. This will help to develop your coping strategies. Women usually find they want to talk it out and they need verbal support while men tend to want to spend time doing something they enjoy, like a hobby or activity. Knowing in advance how you and your partner are likely to react, will make it easier to be supportive and more understanding of each other.
4. Minimise confidantes
Decide in advance who you will tell about the process. It can be a good idea to identify who'll give you the support you're going to need and only confide in those people. You can also nominate a ‘spokesperson’ who will communicate what is going on to your wider circle of family and friends, if and when you want them to. With hindsight, a lot of patients can feel they would have been under less pressure if they hadn’t told so many people.
It’s important to think about these coping mechanisms in advance to minimise the stress and anxiety associated with fertility treatment. Additional support and advice will always be available from professional counsellors at your fertility centre, while joining a support group, or even attending a few meetings is always helpful.
Remember, the statistics are favourable and the more positive and relaxed you are, the better for your overall health and the health of your future baby.