It’s incredibly important to look after your emotional wellbeing when you’re going through fertility treatment.
This can be a challenging and – at times – distressing period. Taking care of yourself and your partner is incredibly importance. Peppy’s Director of Fertility Services, Francesca Steyn, explains what you can do to look after your emotional wellbeing.
- The stress of fertility treatment may leave you feeling impatient, anxious, scared lonely or restless, and these emotions may intensify throughout the treatment,
- It’s important to name these emotions, as they are valid, and denying them can often make them worse,
- Consider reaching out to a therapist or support groups, but don’t forget that the most important care will come from the self.
Recognising the need for emotional support
Stress can often come across as impatience, anxiety, fear, worry, loneliness, poor appetite, tearfulness and restlessness. Fertility nurses report that those undergoing fertility treatment often display many of these signs of poor emotional wellbeing, and they can intensify at each stage of treatment.
These triggers can affect you in many ways:
- Too much sleep or too little
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Lack of concentration
- Pulling away from family and friends
- Inability to focus on work
If you are experiencing any of these, you may need to access some emotional support.
Identifying your feelings
More often than not, the emotions associated with fertility struggles aren’t caused by one single thing. Successfully managing your emotions requires you to try and name the feelings you are experiencing. These may include feelings of failure, loss, guilt, shame, anger or jealousy. You may feel a loss of self-esteem, or as though you are being judged. You may experience a sense of being out of control.
It is essential to understand that any emotions you may experience during this time are valid. Trying to deny them can often cause the thoughts and feelings to intensify, so it’s crucial, where possible, to process them.
Where to find support
Research has found that being open about fertility issues, and seeking support, can help both men and women cope with the emotional distress that the issues may be causing.
There are many ways to seek support. Below are just a few.
A qualified therapist in licensed fertility clinics.
Counselling must be offered and accessible to all women before, during, and after treatment with a BICA accredited fertility counsellor.
There are different types of counselling, but the main two are:
- Implications counselling — a type of counselling for those going through assisted conception treatments including IUI, IVF, treatments involving the use of donor eggs, sperm or embryos. Implications counselling aims to enable you to reflect and understand the proposed course of treatment for yourselves, your family and any children born as a result of treatment
- Therapeutic counselling – this is focused on helping individuals to understand their thoughts and feelings
Friends and family
Reach out to friends and family, but consider who you lean on for support. Some of the feelings you’re having could come from those closest to you, so choose people who are positive and who you feel safe around.
These peer groups may be helpful, allowing you to voice feelings and thoughts. They can often allow understanding from others who have been there or are on a similar journey to you.
In addition to these, there are many things you can do to calm your mind and body. During fertility treatment, the body and the mind are very closely connected. Relaxation methods can include:
- Listening to music
- Listening to guided imagery
- and Tai Chi
These are all useful ways to bring your emotions into balance.
Some companies offer their employees workplace fertility support to help guide them through potentially difficult fertility issues. This support can be in the form of a health app, specific policies for those needing help, or more tailored approaches.
The impact of Covid-19
In the first lockdown, fertility clinics were closed and fertility services were shut down. They were seen as non-essential, and staff from those areas were, in many cases, transferred to other areas where they were needed. Social-distancing measures have also impacted clinic openings and capacity – they’re often busy places.
As a result, many people who had begun their journey in accessing fertility investigations or treatment were stopped from continuing. And those who were newly trying to conceive, and in need of advice and support, found that it was no longer available. The toll that those cancellations took on mental health and wellbeing was enormous.
The knock-on effect of these closures, as well as all of the recent restrictions, is huge backlogs. More and more people are sitting on waiting lists for investigations, treatments and diagnostics. There are a huge number of people who need help.
Remove-access fertility support
Fertility Network UK frequently hosts webinars, and they also have closed Facebook groups for people in similar situations to connect and feel supported. The Fertility Podcast (hosted by Natalie Silverman) chats about different aspects of the fertility journey and features expert interviews, as well as real stories.
The work that Jessica Hepburn does with Fertility Fest (an arts festival dedicated to fertility and infertility) is incredibly important and has helped so many people, through the sharing of experiences and bringing people together. I’ve been really proud to be involved with that over the years.
How alternative treatments can help
Therapies like acupuncture and reflexology will not improve your chances of conception taking place, but they can improve your mental health and emotional wellbeing if you find them useful. There should be no contraindications with your treatment, but check with your fertility specialist if you are unsure.
Like your fertility journey, tools and tricks to improve emotional wellbeing are personal to you.
In an attempt to gain control, often people engross themselves in medical jargon while ignoring their emotional needs. A lack of attention to your emotional needs can lead to thoughts and feelings seemingly spiralling out of control.
Looking after your mental and emotional wellbeing can help to prepare you for the personal journey ahead. A strong support network can lift you when you feel low, and provide the strength to help keep you moving forward in the direction of your dreams.