When you’re on the rollercoaster ride of IVF, the endpoint seems quite simple: conception. Unfortunately, what can come as a surprise for some women and couples who have reached that wonderful marker is the unexpected tumult on the other side – the anxiety of the pregnancy itself and the fear of losing the baby.
Anxiety after positive IVF is completely normal. Some people may be here after their first treatment. Many may have arrived at this point after multiple treatments and possible losses. For all of these women, however, IVF has involved some level of emotional, physical and psychological upheaval. Not to mention financial sacrifices. To suddenly be on the pregnant side of the IVF equation can be incredibly daunting.
Will it get easier?
‘Pure joy mixed with pure dread’ is how one mum-to-be described the moment she knew her IVF was successful. For many women that dread does ease. Often when the heartbeat is first heard or when the baby starts to move. For some women, however, anxiety over the health of the baby, and over their own body’s ability to ‘do what needs to be done’, can be a constant shadow over the pregnancy.
Becoming pregnant after IVF involves a huge identity shift – from that of ‘infertility patient’ to that of ‘potential parent’. Navigating this transition is an emotionally (and physically) complex experience that will throw up numerous questions and concerns. Recognising if those concerns are affecting your mental wellbeing and day-to-day life is an important step towards seeking help if you need it. Common signs of anxiety include:
Physical manifestations such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, difficulty falling or staying asleep, panic attacks, or feeling restless or agitated.
Psychological signs such as irritability, difficulty concentrating, or obsessive or catastrophic thoughts.
Behavioural reactions, particularly avoiding social situations or situations that make you feel anxious.
As a pregnant mum-to-be, your goal is to look after yourself and your growing baby. Alongside good nutrition, regular exercise and adequate sleep, finding ways to lessen the impact of worry and anxiety is an important part of this journey:
- Seek out medical professionals who understand the anxieties involved in pregnancy after infertility. Who will respond positively to your need for reassurance in the pregnancy. Whether through telephone contact, flexible medical appointments or extra opportunities to hear the baby’s heartbeat.
- Re-establish coping strategies learned during infertility treatment. These could include relaxation techniques, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, keeping a journal, or seeking out support groups – either in person or online.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. This may be your partner, a close friend or a family member. A problem shared may not be a problem halved. However, it will certainly take some of the weight from your shoulders.
Possible Next Steps
Anxiety during pregnancy is common, but the important thing to remember is that there are safe and effective treatments available. If you feel as though your negative emotions are interfering with your life or adversely impacting your pregnancy, it may help to seek additional support. Early intervention with a trained counsellor who understands the ins and outs of IVF, post-infertility pregnancy and antenatal anxiety can help you manage your fears and reduce your symptoms as safely and quickly as possible.
Using evidence-based methods that include positive psychology, cognitive-behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy, the caring and understanding Happy Minds team are on hand to help you navigate the unique issues that surround pregnancy after infertility. Counselling sessions are available face-to-face in our Bellarine Peninsula office or via Telehealth across Australia.