How to prepare yourself emotionally for an IVF cycle ?
Posted Dec 03 2012 8:59pm
This is a guest post from our expert patient, Manju
Emotional preparation for an IVF cycle is as important as preparing yourself physically. Our mental and physical health is intertwined and any adverse change in one can affect the other too. Actually an IVF cycle is much more emotionally draining when compared to the physical discomfort it can cause. There are so many fears and concerns before starting an IVF cycle – and you are likely to feel excited and terrified at the same time. For most people the first IVF cycle (and for some every cycle) will be a scary emotional roller-coaster ride , filled with lots of uncertainty and heart-breaks. Of course there are a fortunate few who go through their IVF cycle smoothly and achieve success in their first attempt. But remember , this is not true for everyone. While we all want our first IVF cycle to be our last as well, if you are not hardy enough , an IVF cycle can play havoc with your mental health, sometimes irreversibly. So how should you prepare yourself mentally to deal with such an emotionally challenging journey ? How can you through an IVF cycle and come out successfully with minimal heart-breaks and few emotional scars ?
Acquire knowledge about the process
This is the first and foremost requirement which will safe guard your emotional health when going through IVF. Being literate about the IVF process gives you lots of confidence and a sense of control over the entire treatment. If you are knowledgeable , you will able to deal with the uncertainty inherent in the process more effectively. Many first time IVFers find it hard to go through an IVF cycle because most of them are naïve about the process. The only thought they have in their mind is a baby , and they believe that every IVF cycle ends in a baby. They believe that all the medical nitty gritty of their IVF cycle will be taken care of by their doctor , and that everything will be fine if they are optimistic and have faith, so why should they worry about the technical minutiae of the process ? When their cycle doesn’t progress as expected , or if it fails , they are very vulnerable and may suffer from an emotional breakdown. Their belief in the entire process disappears into thin air and they find it very hard to cope. The best way to prevent this is to learn as much as you can about the IVF process. This will help in preparing yourself emotionally , because you will know : what to believe; what to expect; what can go wrong; how far your doctor can help you; how to deal with the cycle if something goes wrong; and why your cycle is different than that of your friends. The knowledge you acquire will act as a shield in protecting your emotional well-being. It will also aid you in designing a plan B if plan A doesn’t work.
Prepare your mind for the failure
Some readers may find this advise absurd. Others may even get angry and think that I am a very pessimistic person. After all , who wants to hear about failure before starting their IVF cycle ? Everyone loves to talk to a person who encourages them and fills them with tons of positive thought. Everyone loves to hear that their cycle will have a positive outcome and they will take home a baby. Many refuse to even consider the idea of failure , because they dread the very possibility. They are worried that negative thoughts reduce the chances of success – or that they will create an unlucky jinx if they think about failure. Remember, you do not need any emotional preparation to face success but you need lots of emotional groundwork to face failure. The scientific truth is that only about 40 % of perfect IVF cycles end in pregnancy ! This means that only 4 out of 10 women who undergo one IVF cycle find success. Everyone , including me , wants to be one of those 4 ! But what if you are one of the 6 who fails to conceive after an IVF cycle? If you always obsess about success and a baby, how will you be able to face failure ? Many women who go through IVF are constantly advised by their friends, kith and kin ( and even their IVF doctors ) to remain optimistic. As a result of this, many women will train their brain to visualize only a positive outcome. They believe that if they do so they will end up becoming pregnant. I don’t know whether it will help you in getting pregnant , but it will definitely shatter you totally if the cycle fails. The pain a failed IVF cycle creates is enormous , and if you are a weak-hearted person it can paralyze you completely. So take care to prepare yourself for the worst. Write down how you will cope in case your IVF cycle fails. This will help your mind to be prepared for failure and hence the pain becomes a lot easier to deal with. Preparing yourself for will speed up your emotional recovery and will help you to plan for the next IVF cycle.
Build a good emotional support system
It’s easier to handle difficult situations if you have a good emotional support system and family and friends can play a pivotal role in decreasing the stress of an IVF cycle. However, it is not wise to tell everyone that you are going through IVF and you need to decide who should know about your IVF journey. You might have lots of friends and family members but you might feel close and comfortable only with a few of them. Select people who really understand what you are going through, who are empathetic and who can whole-heartedly take part in your happiness and sadness. Surrounding yourself with friends and relatives who understand you will make a positive difference in your emotional well-being. This in turn will make your IVF journey a lot easier. My friends took away the stress of my IVF cycle by chatting with me (I forget to obsess when I am with them), by their compassion and by their kind words and deeds. During my recent failed IVF , my friends and their comforting words helped me a lot in regaining my routine. They patiently allowed me to grieve; and when I started to feel better , they came home and spent some quality time with me. One of my friends brought me a plant which is full of blooms and gave me a hug and that is all I needed to feel better instantly. I understand that many of you may be reluctant to share your IVF journey with anyone. I was also like that when I did my first IVF cycle, but it’s only later on that I realized that it is impossible to bear the brunt of an IVF cycle alone. Happiness shared is multiplied , while shared pain is divided – share your IVF journey with your loved ones so that you get more emotional protection.
Get rid of negative people
If you have busybodies and nosy-parkers in your life, please stay away from them. They just add to your stress levels and make coping with the IVF cycle much harder.
Turn to online infertility support groups
The best way to feel good is to talk to women who are going through the same infertility struggle as you are. There are so many online support groups where you can meet women who are knowledgeable about the IVF process . Most importantly , they are ready to help you both intellectually and emotionally. Another advantage with such support groups is that you do not have to reveal your identity and so you feel more comfortable sharing your journey with them. When you express your fears and concerns , you feel better emotionally. You don’t have to worry whether you will be ridiculed for your silly doubts because the other women have gone through the same situation you are in . You can also help other women with the knowledge you have gained. This will make you feel appreciated ; and this increased self-esteem will improve your emotional competence and strengthen your ability to face the next IVF cycle.
Prepare yourself physically
It is a well-known fact that a healthy body harbors a healthy mind, so take time to prepare yourself physically. Please see my post on ‘How to prepare yourself physically for an IVF cycle?’
An IVF cycle is emotionally very stressful. The most difficult challenge is to relax amidst that emotional stress. But when you relax , you will feel definitely better. You need to use relaxation techniques, and the good news is that there are many available, such as like breathing exercises ( pranayama); meditation; yoga and so on. But will they help ? How can a woman undergoing IVF relax her mind and get relief from the worries and doubts which constantly assail you. While yoga and pranayama will help you to relax physically , how far will they help you deal with your emotional stress ? I have found that the best way to relax is to address what is bothering you directly, instead of trying to suppress your fears and concentrating on something else. The major worry for a woman who is going through IVF is - ‘What will happen if my cycle fails?’ This question is the starting point of all stress, so try answering this along with your partner. Design a plan B ! It can be anything depending on individual circumstances – it can be another IVF cycle, it can be adoption or it can be child-free living. Once you decide what you will do if the IVF cycle fails , then it will be several times easier to relax mentally – and having a healthy conversation with your partner about what is bothering you will help you to relax as well !