It is estimated that more than 8 million babies have been born globally through IVF over the last 40 years, which is a wonderful statistic for each of those proud parents involved. It’s also important to remember, however, that the most recent statistic in Australia (2018) on live births per embryo transfer is 27.3% or slightly more than one in four. From those numbers stems a waiting game that can involve a great deal of anxiety – the waiting to know if the procedure has been a success.
Anxieties raised by IVF
As well as that overwhelming ‘Will I become pregnant?’ anxiety, IVF can involve other concerns and fears for women and their partners:
- Procedural anxiety Some aspects of the treatment itself can be anxiety-inducing for some people. Daily injections and the ‘medicalisation’ of something so personal can increase psychological burdens during the process.
- Financial anxiety Estimates place the cost of one IVF cycle anywhere between $9000 and $15,000. It can depend on individual circumstances and what treatments and services are required. In Australia we are lucky that a proportion of this – up to 50% or 60% – can be covered by Medicare. The remainder can still place a significant financial strain on hopeful parents-to-be, and can exacerbate any existing tensions between partners.
- Physiological issues The side-effects of hormone treatment (which can include both birth-control pills and hormone injections) can include anxiety and depression, as well as some of the common physical symptoms of anxiety; increased heart rate, restlessness, sleeplessness and fatigue.
Navigating the stress of IVF
Combining all of these emotional triggers – a fear of failure, anxieties over particular procedures, financial worries and a physically demanding series of processes – it’s no wonder that women who undergo IVF treatments are likely to experience stress at all stages of an IVF cycle.
The physical and emotional experience of fertility treatment is different for every woman. The following are some methods of dealing with the compounded anxieties that can arise:
First and foremost, look after yourself.
This can mean physicThis can mean physically, with physician-approved exercise, healthy eating and adequate sleep, but also mentally and emotionally – perhaps by saying ‘no’ to obligations that are currently draining or overwhelming, by making time for meaningful social connections or by exploring calming practices such as journaling, meditation or yoga.
As a medical process, the world of IVF can include plenty of ‘medicalese’ and jargon. If there’s anything you don’t understand, make sure you ask questions and obtain clarity. Learning about the process can bring a sense of empowerment and make the unpredictable feel a little less frightening and out of control.
Find support groups to join or podcasts to listen to.
Or talk to a friend who has been through the IVF process. Discovering you are not alone in your IVF anxieties can be cathartic, and you may be surprised by the number of resources available – and by the number of individuals around you who have gone through, or who are going through, infertility treatment.
Set boundaries around who you tell.
IVF is a very personal quest, and choosing the people you will take on that journey can be important. Some people may choose to be very open about their fertility treatments, while others may tell only a small group of close family members or friends – the thing to remember is that the decision is yours.
Seek outside support.
It can be advantageous to get professional support before, during and after IVF to help maintain your mental health and to help you to make sense of your experience. Although a level of anxiety is a normal response to the ups and downs of an IVF cycle, seeking help is recommended if your anxiety symptoms become more frequent or persistent, or if it begins to interfere with your daily activities and quality of life.
Contact our Compassionate Bellarine Peninsula Psychologists
At Happy Minds Psychology, our goal is to help you identify strategies, strengths and support networks that will enable you to flatten the curve of the IVF roller coaster and to take on your treatments with calm. Using evidence-based treatment modalities, we can explore and normalise the emotions that accompany fertility treatment, helping you to approach this journey with a positive outlook.
Our warm and supportive counselling sessions are available face-to-face in our Ocean Grove office or via Telehealth across Australia. For appointments, reach out to the team at Happy Minds Psychology on ☎0431 666 050, fill out our contact form, or email us at email@example.com.