On Your Mind: IVF and the roller coaster of infertility

Response by Jessie Nelson, Associate Clinical Director at Ozark Guidance

My husband and I just finished our first round of IVF, which unfortunately failed. We are planning to do a second round. I knew that infertility treatments would be hard, but I had no idea how much of an emotional impact it would have on both of us. Now I don’t know which side of my brain to listen to. Part of me thinks we should just keep going and see it through no matter what. The other part of me already feels so overwhelmed and disappointed by this crushing defeat, and I’m scared to go through these feelings again and again. Won’t it hurt even worse if it fails again? How can we protect ourselves emotionally while we try to make this dream come true?

First, thank you for reaching out about this topic. Infertility can be a sensitive topic and many women and couples have reservations about openly discussing it. I applaud you for being willing to start the conversation – it’s a strong and courageous outreach. The decision to start and continue with IVF can be an emotional process, in and of itself.

With a lot of investment in the process, infertility can take an emotional toll with not only disappointment being part of the process, but repeated disappointment. Other emotions related to IVF can include anger, sadness, worry, stress, and grief. Managing the stress and emotional roller coaster of fertility treatment is possible. With the right self-care and support, you and your husband can thrive through this journey together. Here are some ideas that might help:

Preparation is key and doesn’t end once IVF starts. Lean on your treatment team. They can help you understand the facts. It is essential to be realistic about the prospects and discuss these with your treatment team. Proper preparation and mutual support throughout the treatment cycle can help both partners cope more effectively with the roller coaster of emotions.

Keep it simple. Between all the appointments, testing, retesting, and waiting, the IVF process can seem like a full-time job. Because of that, it’s important for you and your husband to save your energy and not make other big life-altering decisions during this time. This can include moving, attempting to find/start a new job, or taking on more than you want/need to in other areas of your life.

Work with your partner. Couples’ counseling could be a good option. Counseling provides a safe space to openly discuss emotions and concerns you both are experiencing during the IVF process. It’s important to remember that your husband could be going through similar or perhaps different emotions, but sharing those experiences can be beneficial to you both. Having a scheduled date night or planning an activity together can be a good emotional experience.

Discover new stress management techniques. Yoga, meditation, emotional grounding exercises, breathing techniques, and massage are all effective ways to reduce and minimize stress. Another option is discovering a new hobby as it can provide a welcome escape. Putting aside time to be creative and fun can help.

Talk about what you are experiencing and allow time to process your emotions, including grief.  This is not to say that you have to shout it from the rooftops, but entrusting the people close to you with this information can be relieving. The more you’re able to discuss IVF and the impact it’s having on your life, the better you might feel. Consider telling your family/friends – they can support and encourage you. Consider telling your boss – it can take a lot of pressure off of you at work. Consider joining a support group – understanding that you aren’t the only one experiencing these emotional highs and lows can be a game-changer.

Click here for a link to a Fact Sheet Series, developed by Resolve: The National Infertility Association that has some additional guidance that may help you.

It may not be possible to remove all the stress and impact IVF has on your life, but taking a few simple steps can help you and your husband. The most important thing to know is that you’re not alone: your dilemmas, worries, and fears are common, natural, and shared by many women (and their partners) going through IVF.

Therapists at Ozark Guidance would be happy to answer your questions and read what’s on your mind. Click here to read more questions and answers in the On Your Mind category. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback.

Disclaimer: This RESPONSE does not provide medical advice It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on nwaMotherlode or Ozark Guidance websites.