A tool box of ideas to manage your mental health and relationship through your IUI / IVF journey
After some back and forth and many meetings with doctors you both have decided to start your medical journey towards having a baby. Here are some tips you could use to help you plan and manage the journey better.
The Tool Box
Tool 1. The Beginning
During the first appointment you will be exposed to a lot of new information. If possible, bring your partner so you will have an informed ally, as often people can feel a bit overwhelmed with all the information they receive. Please ask your nurse or treating Doctor to explain anything that you feel you are having difficulties in understanding with your treatment. Carry a little diary with you for your appointments, so you can write down instructions or questions that might arise for you.
Tool 2: Organise your life:
People vary in how difficult or easy they find their cycles. As a general rule of thumb, the egg stimulation phase is usually well tolerated. The egg retrieval phase, which involves a minor operation, usually requires a day off work and can cause some physical discomfort in a few. Emotionally, the research has shown that the two-week wait for the pregnancy test is often filled with anxiety.
It might be useful to organise time off work on egg retrieval day. But whilst some like to have some time off during their two week wait, others like the distraction of work during this time. Pick the option which works best for you.
Tool 3: Create a ‘care package’
The infertility roller coaster is tough for most people. Be kind to yourself. Whatever you are feeling is really normal, this situation that you find yourself in, is rather challenging. Treatment can be emotionally and physically exhausting. Do not feel guilty about taking time out. It is helpful to discuss with your partner or a trusted family member, before and during treatment, in what ways and when you need support, so that they can step in when it’s needed. Help with groceries or around the house, spending time going for a walk with a compassionate friend, or watching a movie together could be part of your plan!
Tool 4: Create a distraction plan for the two-week waiting period
Make sure you have a plan for the entire time two-week wait period. Consider projects to undertake, such as gardening, painting the house, work projects, creative pursuits. Distract yourself and your partner: DVDs (feel good and entertaining ones) – e.g. work your way through best 100 movies of all time; distractions that keep your mind and your hands busy – such as crosswords, knitting a complex pattern, sewing, making a wooden project, gardening. Spend time in nature (at a park or on the beach) as nature replenishes. Plan a range of pleasant activities such as eating out, cooking healthy meals, visiting beautiful places, trying a fun new sport or activity or hobby. Plan a list of people you enjoy spending time with (you might not discuss anything about your treatment).
Tool 5: Create treatment free zones
As treatment continues, a lot of time, energy and focus is spent on thinking and doing things for your treatment and trying to have a baby. It is essential to create times during each day when you are not thinking or talking about your treatment. Spend time with your spouse doing fun activities, meet friends that you can laugh with, do solo activities that bring add joy to your life. Let this it not take over your WHOLE life.
Tool 6: Take control where you can
In a situation where you do not have the ultimate control on the outcome, take control of what you can control…learn, ask questions, speak to other people in treatment. As an informed patient you can list your treatment options, discard the not acceptable and work with the acceptable. You could also seek to take control of projects or aspects of life that are not related to trying to have a baby, for example, hobbies and interests and/or career.
Tool 7: Build a support network
Consider who is the best person for different kinds of support you might need during treatment. For example, who can cheer you up, who can be empathetic, who has a comforting energy, who can you confide in, who you can laugh with, who could help with some chores etc. Many patients do not want to inform family / friends / colleagues that they are under going IVF/IUI treatment, however research suggests that it can be very helpful. It is not suggested that you announce to everyone that you are undergoing treatment and in many situations a little support is useful. If you do not want to share this news with anyone you know, do consider joining the Support Group at the clinic, it is a great way to be a part of a community that understands and get support.
Tool 8: Focus on ‘what IS’: Fertility treatment can cause ‘brain fog’ i.e. many patients say that their mind is constantly preoccupied with where they are in their cycle. Relaxation techniques and Mindfulness exercises can help manage this natural reaction to the stress of a fertility cycle. Taking one day at a time can help alleviate becoming overwhelmed with fears about the future. Please reach out to the fertility coach at the clinic to learn some relaxation techniques.
Tool 9: Prepare for how to receive the news of the cycle outcome:
Try to allow time and space to process the news. For example, some patients ask to phone in for their results and organise to have at least an hour following the news to be somewhere they find comfortable, peaceful, or to be around someone who can care for them. Others prefer leaving the house and getting the news at a park or at the beach. Some just have their partner or a close friend with them. Others have their partner receive the news for them and then gently break it to them. Design what you might need.
Tool 10: Find helpful ways to think about the outcome:
Everyone is different and their reactions to the cycle outcome can be vastly different. Some people find it helpful to really acknowledge the sadness of the loss; others like to concentrate on the positive or anything in between.
For example, some people like to remind themselves that ‘An unsuccessful IVF cycle does not mean the end of the world. It just means that it wasn’t my time this cycle.’ While, others might like to consider IVF as ‘a numbers game, which they must eventually win.’ Again, some like to stay grounded, keeping both clearly focused on the fact that it may not happen for them but keep their fingers crossed for a good outcome’.
Remember, you are NOT alone, If you find yourself overwhelmed and needing support, please reach out to me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the website.