Karen Potter
Psychologist and Psychotherapist
Lismore, NSW

Conceiving – The Emotional Journey of IVF

IVF is a medical treatment that has helped many couples to conceive when they haven’t been able to naturally. This process is one that can ultimately bring joy to many families. However, IVF is also a very emotional journey for both men and women as they make their way through this medically assisted process.

 

Most people do not expect that they will be unable to conceive naturally, so the initial emotions that many couples experience is shock, frustration, and grief.  Coming to terms with not being able to conceive naturally’ and grieving this loss can be a very painful experience.  However, the idea of IVF can make this process less painful as it gives couples hope by offering another way to have the much-wanted baby. That is not to say it is an easy process or that it is a guarantee of a baby and as such many couples and single women experience anxiety and/or stress through the process.  IVF has often been referred to as an emotional rollercoaster as there can be many ups and downs along the way.

 

Why do people experience stress and anxiety when doing IVF treatment? 

Often by the time couples embark on IVF they have been trying to conceive for a number of years.  And, for many single women who turn to IVF, they have come to a point in their lives where they don’t imagine meeting a partner in time for them to conceive, and having a child feels extremely important.  Given what people have already been going through emotionally and psychologically and knowing the IVF process is not a guarantee means a level of anxiety and stress is often inherent in undertaking the process.

 

For some, the idea of the conceiving process being in the hands of an outsourced medical program and not ‘natural’ can be very challenging.  The loss of control and intense medical intervention can generate anxiety, distress, and stress for many women, as well as men, in their daily lives.  During the process of IVF, many people especially feel that they are continuously waiting – waiting for either the window of opportunity to begin some kind of treatment or waiting for results.  Then of course, if results are negative, there is often disappointment, grief, and frustration as well as the additional stress and anxiety of going through the process again.   Also, for many people going through IVF, it can be the center of their lives where everything revolves around it, as there is so much involved and invested in it (physically, emotionally, financially, practically).

 

So, although IVF can result in a much-longed-for and wanted positive outcome – a baby, it is very often still a highly stressful experience that can take a toll on each person’s mental health and the health of their relationship.

 

How to stay as emotionally grounded as possible through IVF

It is important for couples and individual women who embark on IVF to look after themselves and their relationship throughout the process.  Some couples can become disconnected from each other or may not be on the same page with things and resentment can develop, or one partner may feel guilt or disappointment in themselves (even though there is no fault).  There are a myriad of ways in which the psychological and emotional stress of wanting a baby and trying to conceive through IVF can impact on individuals and couples.  If you are currently considering or going through the process of IVF the following tips may help.

 

Tips for individuals:

  • Write in a journal – putting your thoughts & feelings on paper can help them be released
  • Meditate and/or practice yoga regularly
  • Talk to a supportive friend or family member
  • Exercise regularly as this helps regulate hormones
  • Continue to be involved in hobbies, activities, and interests you would usually enjoy
  • Consider alternative therapies for relaxing and/or nourishing the mind and body
  • See a psychologist individually if you need additional support

 

Tips for couples:

  • Talk to each other about how you are feeling in a constructive way, starting with the words ‘I feel’ to communicate emotions effectively (tip: make sure when you plan to talk about this topic, as it is sensitive, that both people are in the right headspace). Be open and non-judgmental of each other’s feelings and experiences, especially when they are different
  • Make sure to talk about things other than the IVF process; work, hobbies, friends, etc
  • Plan dates to de-stress and experience joy together as a couple
  • See a psychologist as a couple if you need additional support for the relationship

 

 

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