IVF brings in a wave of emotions and a physical process that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Finding out about your own fertility can bring up emotions not unlike the feelings associated with a loss or death. You may feel sadness, anger and denial on the road to acceptance and a full understanding of your own, very personal journey.
Preparing yourself for the possible symptoms can help you (and those around you) cope better:
The Waiting Game
“The suspense was the worst part,” says Anette*. Anticipating the successful egg retrieval and then waiting to hear if those eggs have been fertilized are two gut-gnawing moments in the process but the most stressful (according to patients) is waiting to hear if the embryo transfer has been a success. Wijnland’s resident fertility psychologist, Lizanne van Waart, says couples need to manage this emotional time by accepting that they are not in control of the outcome, “I encourage couples to put their focus elsewhere – do a project, host a lunch, go on a hike – try not to think about what you cannot change. I advise people to create a small space where you can feel happy and dream. A place where you can celebrate the small gains.”
“We were unprepared for the number of big moral and ethical decisions we would be called on to make” says Christy. IVF patients will need to decide up front about what they will do with embryos that are fertilized and not used. Couples can donate, destroy or freeze both eggs and embryos. “It is also important to go into IVF with a clear notion of how many rounds you are prepared to try,” says Wijnland’s Dr Johannes van Waart, “you need to be realistic about what you can afford and consider how much the process impacts your time and your emotional and physical state.”
Mood Swings & Other Unsettling Things
The hormones used in IVF can send your emotions into overdrive. I went through everything from extreme sensitivity to feeling low, having unwanted thoughts and being ridiculously tearful. I just wanted to crawl into bed and pull the duvet over my head,” says Tracy. Some patients also report weight gain and bloating, whilst others don’t notice any major emotional or physical symptoms. Says Lizanne van Waart, “Lots of sleep, daily exercise and a sense of humour are important allies in building the resilience you will need. Know that many of your feelings are magnified and prepare your partner by asking them to raise their empathy levels”.
Lizanne advises patients to try and get themselves into a positive frame of mind, perhaps by reading books like Before Happiness or The Happiness Advantage from Goodthinkinc.com – who also have other resources online.
Concludes Lizanne, “We created our clinic around our patients and we like them feel less alienated and more at home. We have art on the walls, inspirational books even a ball of wool and some knitting needles. I see all our patients and we talk about coping strategies and managing our expectations. We spend a lot of time unpacking our preconceptions and separating what we imagine and fear from the facts. Each and every journey is different but we are here to see you through it.”