Infertility is about so much more than the inability to conceive. It can rock your very foundations, sense of control over your own future, your faith in your own body, and your feelings about yourself as a man or woman.
Quite often, for some couples, pregnancy may not be achieved except with substantial medical help, and if a pregnancy finally does occur, it can be difficult for the woman who has experienced infertility to view herself as just another pregnant woman. The experience of infertility often brings its own baggage to pregnancy including grief for previous pregnancy losses; anxiety; and fear that your body, unable to conceive on its own, may not be able to carry a pregnancy.
Generally, women who conceive after a loss and/or infertility often have similar experiences during pregnancy. If you have suffered from such a loss, you may experience one of several consequences.
Infertility causes emotional stress as much as it impacts relationships, most especially, your romantic relationship.
Your sexual life may be the first to be affected. At first, whispering, “Let’s make a baby” can be a turn on. After months of trying, it’s the last thing either of you wants to say or hear.
Stress in a sexual relationship could even be more common.
Because sex is also a way to feel closer to your partner, stress in your intimate life can lead to tension in your overall relationship and talking about the struggle is a decision you’ll need to make together. The key is finding balance.
Everyone copes differently. You can’t judge how much a person cares about an experience by looking at them or even by their actions but the important thing is that you don’t try to cope with infertility alone. Seek social support. Couples that receive social support have improved relationships. Social support is key if you are dealing with infertility.
For instance, feeling tense while going through IVF is not unusual. There are so many factors feeding into the stress, from hormones to hopes and fears. Already, fertility treatment is stressful without adding unstable hormones to the mix. It’s like the difference between standing in the sun for hours on a hot day, versus standing in the sun for hours underneath a gigantic magnifying glass. Hormones from the fertility drugs can be like the magnifying glass; they tend to make everything feel much more intense.
For instance, you’ll want to know how long the IVF process will take. Normally, IVF takes about four to six weeks to complete one cycle part of which is 10-14 days waiting for your eggs to mature. Then you and your partner would spend about half a day at the doctor’s office or clinic having your eggs retrieved and fertilized. All this could be stressful.
Getting your period when you’re trying to get pregnant could also be rough. The time between ovulation and your expected period can be full of hope and anxiety. You may spend those days taking note of every early pregnancy sign. You could be feeling pregnant and sure this month will be your month. You might be imagining taking a pregnancy test and finally seeing a positive result.
And then, unexpectedly, your period comes. You would be disappointed, and heartbroken. Even if you’ve gone through this over and over for months, it would still hurt.
Some fertility drugs can cause mood swings, so just keeping this in mind can go a long way to making you feel better. Sharing with your close loved ones this information—like your partner or best friend—is also a good idea. This way, if you snap at them for no reason, they’ll be a bit more understanding.
Fertility treatment cycles are probably not the best time to schedule any stressful or emotionally trying meetings if you can help it. Any situation where you need to rein in your emotions is best left until after your cycle. One minute, you’re full of hope, the next minute, you may see only doom and gloom. Take a deep breath. It’s totally normal to fluctuate between feeling excited and feeling scared. Remind yourself—especially when you’re in the doom and gloom phase—that this is just one cycle. Even if this is your third or fourth IVF cycle, it’s still only one cycle.
Sometimes we forget that it’s normal to take a few treatment cycles before achieving success. Sometimes we forget that more treatment possibilities lay ahead. Sometimes we think we’re at the end of the road, but there are more options that we just don’t know about yet.
Even if the worst happens, and you can’t conceive the way you hoped, life will go on. It will be very hard at first, but with counselling and time, you will survive. Your life will not end at the end of your fertility treatment experience. Try to remember this when you’re freaking out, especially during the waiting period.
Depending on the kind of treatment you’re going through, and the amount of monitoring and procedures, your stress level may vary widely from day to day.
The day you have an ultrasound to check on follicle growth may be probably a very high-stress day. The day you give yourself an injection for the first time could be another stressful day. The ten or fourteen days before you take a pregnancy test could also be extremely tense.
However, every day won’t be a stressor. It may sound odd, but you can actually get used to sticking yourself with needles. By the fifth day of injections, it’s no longer as big of a deal. Even monitoring won’t always be as difficult to cope with as time progresses, especially if your treatment cycle goes expectedly. Whenever you know you’re going to have a very hard day, give yourself a break. If you must go to work right after a procedure, try to relax.
One of the paradoxes of living with infertility. You don’t want to stress during treatment as you’re afraid it’ll lower your chances for success. Treatment is stressful. Worrying that you’re stressing out is stressful. So you get stressed out not only from treatment but from, well, feeling stressed.
The good news is that feeling stressed about treatment doesn’t ruin your chances for treatment success. You don’t need to stress about stress. However, you shouldn’t ignore your stress levels. Getting support, finding ways to cope and seeking counselling are all good paths to take. Not because you’ll boost your chances for a positive pregnancy test. You should do what you can to lower stress so you can feel happier and healthier, pregnant or not. That is where Acupuncture could also play a role.