Anxiety and stress are common emotions during any pregnancy. It seems as though you and your partner are in constant “worry mode.” Will the baby be ok? Will you be able to handle childbirth? Are you financially and emotionally ready to raise your child? These and many other concerns go round and round in your mind.
If you and your partner are going through treatment for infertility, such as IVF, the stress begins much sooner, before you’re even pregnant. And depending on the length of time you’ve been trying to conceive without success your stress might seem like a part of who you are now.
Unmanaged, Stress Takes a Toll
We know stress is hard on mind, body and soul, but why exactly? When you feel anxious and stressed certain chemicals cause a fight-or-flight reaction in your body. In turn, your heart rate and blood pressure rise, you may experience gastrointestinal distress, sleep disturbances, chronic headaches and muscle tension. If stress continues unmanaged your symptoms begin to affect your quality of life and long-term health, as well as fertility.
Stress and IVF
The stress of IVF is different than everyday stress. You’ll confront all kinds of new feelings and decisions you never even thought of making. The process of IVF itself often feels like an emotional roller coaster ride. Between the hormone injections, the appointments and monitoring and scheduling, egg retrieval and embryo transfer, it’s easy to feel you’ve lost control over your own body.
Preparing yourself beforehand, emotionally, helps you regain a bit of control. Of course, every fertility treatment is unique, however the following tips help ease your stress and anxiety.
- Gather as much knowledge as you can. Understanding the reasons behind each step of IVF helps prepare you and calm anxiety.
- Discuss any decisions may come up during the IVF cycle with your fertility team.
- Make sure you and your partner are on the same page throughout the process.
- Begin simplifying your life going into IVF. Don’t take on extra obligations at work or at home. If family members cause stress, do your best to avoid family gatherings for the time being.
Ways to Combat Stress During Your IVF Journey
Once you begin IVF stress management is very important. Here are five specific steps you can take to ensure your anxiety doesn’t overwhelm you as you navigate your IVF journey.
- Build a Circle of Supportive Friends and Family Members
Support comes in all forms and sometimes those you believe your biggest supporters cause feelings of stress and anxiety. Well-meaning family and friends may ask questions you aren’t really prepared to answer. Be judicious regarding those with whom you surround yourself right now.
- Establish Healthy Ways to Cope
IVF takes a toll both physically and emotionally. Healthy self-care is very important right now. If you have had some less-than-healthy coping mechanisms before (a glass of wine, a pan of brownies, for example) try some new ways to work through your emotions. Journaling, meditation, watercolors, knitting, playing music or any other hobbies that redirect your attention are helpful ways to cope.
- Therapy, Counseling and Support Groups
Sometimes you need more support than your friends and family can offer. That’s fine. This is a very sensitive time in your life. Your fertility specialist can refer you to knowledgeable, professional and understanding therapists, counselors and support groups.
Acupuncture is a highly regarded and proven method for stress relief and treatment of pain. Consult your physician for a qualified acupuncturist.
Meditation and mindfulness are both proven methods for calming the mind and easing anxiety. If you are new to the practice, there are many apps available for download which offer guidance in mediation. There are also several YouTube videos on meditation practices.
Now is The Time to Focus on You
It’s easy to understand how IVF can overwhelm those involved. You can’t check out of your real life right now. Job demands, household tasks and all the other things that make up “real life” don’t go away. Now is the time to put yourself first. Schedule time to enjoy a leisurely walk with your partner, go out to dinner, see a movie or just take a break and spend time in nature. You will get through this, and your IVF journey is the journey of a lifetime. And totally worth it.