Tips for Coping with Infertility Treatment
Coping With Procedures
- Educate yourselves about treatment. Read written information provided. Discuss the procedures and your options with your partner. Prepare a list of questions after your assessment and contact the program to review these before treatment.
- Plan your cycle in advance. Discuss treatment decisions. In IVF, consider how many embryos it would be appropriate to transfer. Are you comfortable with embryo freezing? How might you cope best with anxiety during egg retrieval? Does it help to involve yourself in the procedure, ask questions, be told what is happening? Do you prefer to distract yourself? How will you do that?
- Travel. Will you travel to lab and ultra-sound appointments alone or accompanied? If you experience medication side effects and don=t feel up to driving, who could do the driving? Would relocating to London for all or part of the cycle lessen the stress?
- Work. Appointment times are unpredictable and short notice. Would you be more comfortable if work knows the reason? Will work be supportive of time away? Is it better for you to take a block of time off (fewer demands) or is it better to continue working to take your mind off treatment?
- Medication Injections. If self-injections cause irritation or discomfort, consider using a homeopathic gel, a prescribed anaesthetic cream to numb the site. Alternatively, ice the area for 10 minutes before the injection.
- Restructure your schedule. Recognize that treatment will be disruptive. Consider the possibility of restructuring your usual schedule of activities. Will taking some time away from work be helpful? Are there obligations you can take a break from in the interest of reducing stress?
- Be self-nurturing. Treatment can be tiring and energy absorbing. Eat and sleep properly. Exercise moderately (e.g. vigorous walking). Pay attention to your own needs.
- Plan some enjoyable activities. Go to a movie, catch up on your reading, do something you enjoy to take your mind off treatment.
- Talk to yourself in a calm and reassuring manner. Learn phrases you can repeat to yourself such as “I can get through this”, or “Just think about the next step”. For some, expressing your thoughts and feelings in writing can relieve tension.
- Practice relaxation strategies. Use slow deep breathing. Reflect on an image, word or thought, something which evokes feelings of calm serenity. Picture a favorite vacation spot. If you are experiencing high levels of anxiety, relaxation teaching is available through the program.
- Take the long view. If you are planning to try several cycles, try not to emphasize the short term ups and downs of one cycle. Focus on your overall plan for treatment.
Regaining a Sense of Control
- Take charge of the things you can control. Infertility and treatment absorbs tremendous energy, time and effort. Other needs are often neglected for long periods of time. Much about infertility is beyond your control, but take charge of things you can control. Taking care of the basics: eating regularly, healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercising moderately.
- Be an active participant in discussing treatment with medical professionals. Ask questions, voice any concerns. Ask for information to be repeated if you don’t understand. Indicate your preferences for treatment and ask for feedback. Discuss with staff when you would like to begin.
- Understand Your Treatment. Good decision making means being well informed about your options and the details of the treatment procedure. Prepare a list of questions after your assessment and contact the program before your cycle to review these.
- Plan Your Cycle In Advance. Will you travel to lab and ultrasound appointments alone or accompanied? If you experience medication side-effects and don't feel up to driving who will accompany you? Discuss decisions that may need to be made during treatment. For example, in IVF, how many embryos to transfer and what to do with extra embryos.
- Recognize and respect disruptions in your lifestyle during treatment. Plan ahead as much as possible but keep in mind that certain aspects of treatment can=t be predicted and will be beyond your control.
- Pace your treatment efforts. Be aware that disappointments can accumulate like a growing snowball. If you have an unsuccessful cycle, avoid trying to feel better by immediately beginning another cycle. Give yourself time to feel better, both physically and emotionally before restarting treatment.
- Structure treatment so it doesn't take control. Treatment can absorb all your attention and time if you allow it. Think about other activities or interests that you enjoy (or used to enjoy). How often would you like to do these? What factors are preventing you from returning to these?
- Think about your goals for treatment. What are the factors that you need to consider? Weigh the physical stress, the emotional stress, the financial costs and the chances of success? What seems like a realistic number of cycles for you as a couple?
- How do you measure success? A live birth is always the main goal. But if that hasn’t happened yet, are there other personal goals that are achievable? What treatment, or how much treatment, would allow you feel that you have done all you reasonably could? What do you need to do, so that you could feel you have tried hard enough? What would allow you to move on with other aspects of your life or pursue other options for parenthood?