It seems that everywhere we turn we meet someone who has been through fertility treatments, or are going through it ourselves. Whether that is due to the age at which we are now marrying and having children, or whether it is because we are more aware of genetic diseases and need to be selective in our genes, it is definitely true that fertility treatments are on the rise.
And while it is a wonderful thing that modern medicine can help us with the family that we’ve always wanted, the struggle to conceive can bring with it other issues. The IVF process can definitely impact your relationship, either bringing couples closer together or creating even more stress.
Stress Factors That Can Come With Infertility Treatments
Emotional Strain On Both Men And Women
For women undergoing treatments, sometimes seeing babies can be really painful. For someone who has put so much effort into conceiving, it can seem unfair that others conceive so easily, perhaps without even trying.
Another trigger could be seeing a pregnant woman, to the extent that even baby showers might need to be avoided. Friendships may become strained, especially if you feel as if you cannot express your feelings to a friend who is expecting.
In addition, sometimes we link being a woman with becoming a mother. Often a person will ask “why us” or “what’s wrong with me?” We may feel that our inability to conceive filters into every aspect of our personality.
Within the relationship with our partner, there can also be shame and blame around the lack of conception, causing immense stress. We might feel accusatory of our spouse, or feel accused by them (even if no words are spoken.)
For the man, the pressures are slightly different but no less real. They may feel as if they need to remain strong for their partner, unable to show their own concerns or fears. And if it is due to a real or perceived fertility issue like sperm quality, then he may feel just as much of a blow to his self-image.
Financial Pressures Related To Infertility Treatments
Some insurance companies will only pay for a few cycles. This, in turn, can lead to questions like “what if it doesn’t happen in the next cycle?” There are other insurance companies that do not pay for it at all. In either case, it can be a huge financial burden which also brings up strong emotions.
All of these factors can make us question our sanity during the IVF process. But there is hope! Listed below are some tips that can help make the process a joy instead of a cause of fear and anxiety.
Changing Thought Patterns
Although it is vital to be able to allow feelings – whether anger, fear, sadness—to arise, at the same time, if you feel stuck in a pattern, it is important to notice that the thoughts you might be having are triggering the feeling.
For instance, “I’m afraid that this cycle may not work, just like the last cycle.” We can start to question that thought, though. If you are afraid that it may not work then what you are feeling is not in response to what happened but in response to what might happen. It is the thought that is triggering the uncomfortable emotion.
Other thoughts replaying "What if ..." imaginary scenarios, such as:
- What if this doesn’t work?
- What am I going to do?
- What does that mean for my life?.
- And so on.
Do these thoughts make you emotionally uncomfortable? If you are thinking those thoughts, how could you not feel afraid and anxious? Tune in to which thoughts are triggering that particular feeling.
If there is no evidence to believe that IVF won’t work, what other thoughts can you come up with that resonate for you? For instance,
- “Right now, I am doing everything right for my body, mind, and soul, so that I can create the child I want.”
It is important to stay in the moment and recognize what is truly occurring in our minds. From there, we can help to create hope, and hope is a wonderful thing.
Using Thought Stopping
One technique that is very effective here is called thought-stopping. Find one phrase that resonates with you, for instance “These thoughts are hurting me, not helping me.”
Use this phrase – and, like Pavlov’s dogs, it must always be the same phrase–whenever there’s a negative thought that brings on the uncomfortable feeling.
Thought stopping is a very self-compassionate and effective technique that can really get to the heart of the matter.
Find The Right Support
Surround yourself with people who are emotionally safe, people who can hear both the joys and the fears of the process. Be very selective in who you discuss the process with, as well as making sure to set boundaries with those you choose to discuss it with. (You don’t have to answer every question from your mother!)
Be really careful about visiting blogs on this topic because people’s comments can really derail any positivity or hope. In such an emotionally vulnerable state, it may be advisable to only visit online communities that feature success stories. Who needs the negativity? Honor where you are and really take care and protect yourself.
Find Additional Sources Of Happiness
Sometimes it may feel as if you are just eating and sleeping and breathing the infertility process.
It may be helpful to find some ways to bring back other things that you enjoy doing– to not let it only be about this. Try to find some things to do that made you happy before the treatment.
And, if you don’t want to talk about the process, and just want to have a nice dinner out, give that gift to yourself.
The Selection Of A Physician
If you know that you need warm and fuzzy, then make sure to find someone who is very compassionate and kind versus only someone who is very skilled.
Really carefully choose a physician with a great bedside manner. You get to interview them, not the other way around!
Indeed, Therapy Can Help
Sometimes couples come in together so that they can get some support. If, for instance, you are unable to talk about fears with parents or friends, then you might find it helpful to have the space to discuss these things together.
Women may also want to come in to talk about it by themselves. They may feel as if they’re going crazy and crying frequently due to the hormonal issues.
Or women will come in when they need a place to process things because they don’t want to–or aren’t able– to with their partners. For many of us, it’s nice to come to therapy and not have to sensor what we think or feel.
If you feel as if you are struggling, our staff of trusted therapists at Nassau Guidance is experienced with relieving the emotional stress of infertility. We’re here to help, and welcome your questions and concerns.