Dealing with the Stress of Long Term Conception
I am not sure whether stress causes infertility, but surely infertility causes stress.
The triggers for stress differ from patient to patient and during the course of the process. Such as cause of difficulty in conceiving, when taking the first step to see a fertility specialist, the fertility treatment itself, failed IVF treatment and the support available to the couples faced with such situations. Hence, it is important that patients develop an awareness of stressors and stress when faced with difficulties in conceiving.
Anxiety When Trying for a Baby
It is not uncommon to feel anxious about being out of control. When experiencing the emotional ups and downs related to infertility, you may feel constant fatigue or lack of energy, low threshold to snap at people close to you, sleep disturbances, low mood, extreme sadness or difficulties in concentrating or focusing on day to day tasks.
Some may feel ‘numb’ or be ‘in denial’ especially after repeated unsuccessful attempts at various fertility treatments. This is especially more so in couples facing primary infertility as against secondary infertility. Whilst others may feel a ‘sense of loss’.
It is not uncommon for couples to feel a sense of failure in achieving that is expected to happen naturally. One or both partners may experience a feeling of guilt in helping their partners achieve parenthood. This is especially the case when the cause of infertility is well known. It is sometimes associated with feeling of either taking blame upon yourself or blaming your partner.
IVF Cycle Average Success Rates
Almost two in three couples who start the treatment will achieve pregnancy by the third IVF treatment cycle.
So, it is no surprise that couples are anxious about this uncertainty when undergoing fertility treatment.
In others, it could be the fear of the short and long terms effects of taking fertility drugs. Finally, in others, it could be facing the possibility that one of the partners may not have a genetically related child.
This is the case in women with very low ovarian reserve or in men with absence of sperms or Azoospermia. Finally, in others, it is about accepting childlessness after multiple failed IVF treatment.
Besides these, some couples or partners may feel a sense of shame. Shame is a painful feeling that may be associated with low self-esteem, a sense of inadequacy and helplessness.
As repeated attempts to get pregnant are unsuccessful, there is a realization that this intensely strived for goal has not been, and may never be, attained. This may be felt as low mood or chronic sadness, anguish or self-doubt.
There is a sense of failure not only in realizing their own dream to conceive, but also failing their spouse, parents, and siblings as well.
With repeated failed IVF attempts or fertility treatments, this sense of failure slowly spreads like a shadow over a person’s experience and starts affecting self-confidence in other aspects of life too.
Ensuring Wellbeing in the IVF Process
In order to ensure your wellbeing, it is important to know the stressors and stress involved with infertility and fertility treatments. One should be aware of these and learn how to take care of your emotional health. It is important that you get the support you need whether this is from your partner, family, friends, support groups or fertility counsellors. It will help to develop insight and coping strategies to manage your emotions. This will go a long way in ensuring that your self-esteem and outlook on life remains as positive as possible. There are many ways couples may think of coping with such emotional upheavals.
Coping Strategies in IVF
There are many coping strategies you may use to maintain a positive outlook even in the midst of deep disappointment. It is important to be aware of various emotional responses to infertility. So, try not to panic about such emotions. It is not uncommon to feel tearful and lonely. So, give yourself an opportunity to cry or feel angry about it. But, avoid snapping out of it as it will consume your emotional energy.
Your partner will be facing similar emotional challenges. Men and women cope differently when faced with emotionally charged situations. So, do not make your partner feel as devastated and let them express their emotions differently. Also, do not expect your partner to read your mind. Let your partner know how he or she may help you in dealing with such feelings.
Many women feel constantly pre-occupied with infertility related communication. It will be helpful to limit such conversation to maybe few minutes at a time. Remember that anger is also one of the normal responses to infertility. Sometimes these may be associated with feeling tearful or feelings of sadness.
You may find it helpful to try some of the techniques commonly used to manage such feelings. There is no “right” or wrong way to do this. Try not to force it nor expect a specific response. Some may find it helpful to write about the feelings or make a list of situations that make you angry.
Try and use ‘’I feel’’ statements so that you can acknowledge the specific feeling. Acknowledging is the first step in dealing with various emotions. Once you are aware of your feelings, then you can explore various coping mechanisms to help you deal with such feelings or thoughts. Some women may find it helpful to engage in physical exercise or engage in hobby.
Ultimately it is important to acknowledge and accept yourself and spouse/partner with the strengths, weaknesses, and failures. You should try to accept these feelings such that you no longer have to conceal these and suffer alone.
The process of coming to terms with emotional consequences of infertility is long and gradual. You should try and empathise with your own self. It will help to be self-aware of your strengths and limitations. You should be proud and credit yourself for having tried and survived this journey with all its challenges.
You can also consider practising mindfulness and meditation. There is increasing evidence about positive impact of these interventions in patients with other chronic ailments. It is important that these techniques are practised with an accredited mindfulness practitioner. Whilst the vast majority of patients will see positive benefits, there are some who may not find it notice significant benefit.
Besides dealing overall with emotional consequences of infertility, there are certain social situations that may make it worse. Be selective when accepting invitations especially where you expect there may be a lot of children or pregnant women. You should try not to feel guilty about being selective or not participating in the traditional family festivities. It is alright to give yourself time to heal.
When possible try not to pretend ‘business as usual’. Some may find it helpful to help others in need such as volunteering for a local charity. It is important that you don’t close yourself to positive life experiences. Also, try not to feel guilty of enjoying even in the midst of deep disappointment. Allow yourself to go with the emotions and feel sad, deprived or depressed. Infertility is a major life crisis, and you are entitled to those feelings.
All fertility clinics in UK offer counselling services to their patients. Check with your fertility clinic or fertility specialist about the fertility counselling services. You can also visit British Infertility Counselling association to find out about the fertility counsellors in your area. You may think of joining a local support group. In UK, Fertility Network UK organises support group meetings. If in need you can call the support helpline.