Fertility Circle: Coping with fertility treatment
"Going through fertility treatment is not an easy journey. IVF is often described as an “emotional roller coaster” with many highs and lows along the way. Dealing with your own emotions is often the hardest part of treatment, but there are things you can do to make it easier for yourself:
- Inform yourself: Understanding what is going to happen during your treatment will really help you along the way. Always take home the literature that you are offered at the clinic and make time to read it. Ask for details of reliable websites where you can find out more. There are also lots of books about infertility and treatment which may be helpful. Being well-informed will help you regain some of the control that we often feel we lose when we experience fertility problems.
- Use chat rooms and forums carefully: Some people find it really helpful to read about other people’s experiences or to chat online to others who are having fertility treatment. There are many online support networks where you can read about other people’s experiences of infertility and treatment. You do need to be a careful though, as the information other people give is not always medically accurate and can be subjective; if you keep this in mind you will find plenty of information online. You don’t have to post yourself; you can use forums to read about other people’s experiences of infertility and treatment.
- Take it one step at a time: When I was writing my book ‘The Complete Guide to IVF’ I asked lots of fertility consultants, nurses and former patients for their tips for getting through fertility treatment and one of the most useful pieces of advice came from a nurse who said she’d found that people who were able to take their treatment one step at a time, focusing on each stage rather than always thinking about the end result, were able to cope better. It’s not an easy thing as the end result is the whole purpose of treatment, but just concentrating on getting through the stage you’re at can make it less overwhelming.
- Talk to one another: Once you start timing sex around ovulation, it inevitably has an effect on your relationship. Research suggests that about a third of relationships are damaged by fertility problems and some don’t survive. It is important to keep talking to one another, and to try not to let your fertility problems come between you. Bear in mind that relationships can become stronger after fertility problems as it can bring couples closer together.
- Think about counselling: You may feel that you don’t need counselling when you first visit to the fertility clinic, but it is a helpful source of support when you are going through treatment. Some people assume that they should only see the counsellor if they are not coping, but it is a good way of helping yourself through treatment - there is certainly nothing to be lost and potentially a lot to be gained from a session with the counsellor. Don’t forget that all your conversations with a counsellor will be confidential.
- Be kind to yourself: It’s important to look after yourself when you’re going through fertility treatment. It’s fine to avoid events which you know you are going to find difficult, and you should leave plenty of time for things you enjoy whatever they may be, whether it’s going to the cinema, swimming, country walks or reading. Pampering yourself with a massage, pedicure or haircut can help too. Try not to be hard on yourself, or to set unrealistic targets for the sort of lifestyle that you ought to be leading when you’re trying to conceive. Fertility treatment is not easy, and you should try to take every opportunity to spoil yourself a little if you can.
- Come along to Fertility Circle: You may find that you feel isolated or cut off from family and friends who all seem to be getting pregnant easily. It can feel as if you’re the only one who is having difficulty conceiving, but in fact infertility is very common, with one in six of the population experiencing problems when they want to start a family. Going along to a support group for the first time may feel challenging, but people who attend find it very helpful. Not only do you get to meet other people who are going through similar experiences, but you will also benefit from the support and advice that the group can provide."
About Kate Brian
Kate Brian is regional organiser for Infertility Network UK for London and the South East, and editor of the Journal of Fertility Counselling. She is the author of four books about infertility, including ‘The Complete Guide to IVF’ (Piatkus) and writes a fertility blog at www.fertilitymatters.org.uk.