Infertility is not just a medical condition; it's a life-altering experience that affects every part of your life. The constant cycle of hope, heartbreak, and uncertainty can impact on your emotional wellbeing, your relationships, your work and your physical health. Many individuals and couples dealing with infertility experience feelings of grief, anxiety, depression, and even isolation, so you are not alone if this is how you are feeling.
Going through IVF you have to accept that the medical side of treatment is out of your control. This can feel overwhelming and scary, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t take control of some parts of treatment. You can make choices to help you cope through treatment and ensure you are in the best state, emotionally and physically, to start treatment.
In this blog we will look at actionable strategies to take control of your mental and physical well-being throughout this journey.
People often tell us that they feel really overwhelmed when they are told that they need IVF, and this can make them panic and feel scared about starting treatment. They don’t know how to reduce their worries and take positive action.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, a great way to identify the things you are worried about, and find solutions is to write everything down.
Grab a pen and paper and write down everything that is making you feel overwhelmed or worried - is it the cost, juggling work and treatment, that you don’t fully understand treatment, that you are scared about injecting yourself…
Once you have your list you can start to think about what action you can take to make yourself feel better about the worries, what you can delegate to your partner (e.g research, finances), what can you find out more information on and who can you ask, what can you cross off your list because it's not really important. It will help you feel more in control and more prepared for starting treatment.
When you are feeling like you’re lacking a bit in the control department, think about the different areas of your life where you do have control over the choices you make.
Take control of your lifestyle
- Eat well - you can make sure you are eating fertility friendly foods and getting all the nutrients and vitamins that you need to be in the best state possible for conceiving.
- Get enough rest - give your body a chance to rest and recover.
- Look at your lifestyle choices - work on cutting down or ideally giving up the things that can harm your fertility - smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and drugs.
- Download the Leeaf app for fertility friendly recipes and lifestyle advice.
Take control of your mindset - get your mind in the best state for going through treatment.
- Make time for doing the things that help you relax and recharge your batteries. Plan in time for self care into each day, however small. When you plan in the time you are more likely to make sure it happens.
- Manage negative thoughts - identify patterns of negativity (is there something in particular that you are worrying about), make a note of all the negative thoughts you are having, then think about whether they are helpful, and whether they are true. If they are not helpful or true, then give yourself permission to let them go. There is a negative thoughts activity in the IVF Positivity Planner that can help you with this.
- Affirmations - affirmations can be a great way to reframe your negative thoughts into a more helpful thought pattern, Once you identify your negative thought patterns and worries, you can think of how you would rather be feeling, and create a positive statement that you can repeat whenever you are feeling wobbly.
- Build your support network- surround yourself (either virtually or physically) with people who understand how you are feeling and that will support you through this challenging time.
Take control of your emotional wellbeing
- Be kind to yourself - don’t judge yourself harshly for how you feel, it is normal to feel upset, jealous, frustrated and a whole range of other feelings. Accept when you are feeling more negative emotions, and think about how you can make yourself feel better.
- Plan in time to see friends that lift you up, that will support and distract you, especially during the more challenging points of treatment.
- Seek professional support if you feel you are struggling emotionally, and need some support to deal with your deeper emotions.
- Look at holistic wellbeing support as an additional support tool for you. Acupuncture and reflexology are reported to be helpful from an emotional wellbeing perspective as well as having physical benefits. You can look into whether these would be helpful for you.
- Find ways to cope as a couple - keep talking about how you are feeling, what support you need, and what you can do together to look after each other through treatment.
Take control of practical things
- Do your research - on clinics, add ons you want to consider, the support available… so you know what is right for you.
- Read up on the treatment process and different types of treatment (IUI, IVF, ICSI, Clomid) so you can go to your appointments fully prepared with questions and know that you are making informed decisions about your treatment.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed about treatment write a list of all your questions and how you can find out the information from a reputable source - ask your clinic, speak to a counsellor, visit a reputable fertility website.
- Keep track of your finances and have a plan for funding IVF and other areas of your life.
- Track your treatment process on the Leeaf app so you can access step-by-step guidance through treatment, and use the calendar function to log appointments and set medication reminders.
Grab a notebook and pen and start thinking about the different ways you can take control (from the list above and anything else you can think of). Once you have your list you can start working through it - keep it small steps so you don’t feel too overwhelmed.
Remember that infertility doesn’t define you and it doesn’t have to take over your life. There are lots of ways you can take control of aspects of treatment, and even more ways you can regain control over your life and future.