Preparing for IVF treatment isn’t easy; add into the mix juggling relationships, work and other every day realities, and it can become extremely overwhelming. We spoke to fertility counsellor Melissa Stephens to get some tips to help try and manage the stress of these situations.
Friends and family
It’s important to have a support network when going through IVF for those moments when you need a shoulder to lean on. Confiding in your nearest and dearest - perhaps a sister or best friend - can provide an outlet on the hard days and can make a world of difference.
How many people you share your journey with is entirely up to you. The one thing to be aware of is, the more people who know, the more people who will check in on you and that can sometimes become stressful when you don’t feel like talking. If you ever feel this way, it’s okay to say things like “thank you for your support on this, I’m just taking a mental break – if I feel like I need to talk about anything, I will come to you”.
9 to 5
Sharing your situation with work colleagues can be challenging. There will be times where you may need to leave the office for appointments or take medication, or just feel like you’re not quite as focused as you usually are. If so, you may want to tell your immediate manager in confidence.
If you don’t have that kind of relationship with your manger but have a colleague who is supportive, it may be helpful for them to be aware of what’s happening. Some women feel more comfortable keeping their treatment private but making excuses each time you need to leave the workplace can be hard, especially if you have experienced several cycles.
Your relationship with your partner
Your relationship is one of the most significant parts of your journey. The experience is as much physical as it is emotional for women undergoing IVF and they need to be in tune with what is happening with their bodies. Plus there is the added pressure of having to remember when to take injections and waiting for test results. This combination can make it difficult to switch off from the process.
A partner’s part in the process is often considered ‘easy’. However, not having more of a physical part to play can often heighten the pressure someone feels to support their partner going through treatment. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, when it comes to handling the day to day with your partner, communication really is key. Tell each other how you’re feeling, what might be weighing on your mind and what is helpful for you at that time. One option is to make a specific time during the day, perhaps 15 minutes before dinner, to talk about anything to do with the treatment.
Some coping strategies that can work really well for couples can be planning things to look forward to, like social events, small trips or starting a home project – any goals that are achievable and will keep the connection, romance and fun in your relationship.
IVF can often be a lengthy process and naturally, social events will pop up that may be more difficult to attend than they used to be. Family events such as Christmas or Easter can be particularly challenging, especially if family members are asking “when is the baby coming?” A good response to these questions is having a prepared line to say, such as “If there’s any news, I’ll let you know”.
One of the more difficult situations for women is baby showers. It may not be something you feel like attending when you are going through IVF and it is okay to say no to these events. Instead, you can send a gift and say you have prior commitments.
Take time out for you
There are many people that go through IVF treatment for an extended period of time. Often, when they look back, they remember focusing on little else and feel they missed out on memories, other experiences and life in general.
Try and remember to focus on yourself. Self-care keeps you in the right frame of mind to tackle any obstacles that may be ahead of you.
On an IVF journey it’s important to do things that make you feel good about yourself, whether that’s exercise, being outside, pampering yourself, meditation or even just time to be by yourself with your thoughts.
And most importantly, if you don’t have immediate success in IVF you will go through a grieving process. Couples will experience a lot of normal emotions; sadness, anger, frustration, confusion. The worst thing you can do is ignore these feelings; it’s important to sit with it and work through it because the feelings won’t go away by themselves.
If you’re going through treatment or feel like you need a little extra support, call your clinic or follow the links below.