So often, a great ending has a difficult beginning. If your journey to parenthood includes In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF), chances are your beginning has already been a bit challenging.
IVF is a big step and it can be overwhelming on so many levels- physically, emotionally and financially. My clients often ask me if IVF is just something they have to endure or if there are things they can do.
The good news is there are things you can do to optimize your cycle experience and progress through your treatment in a positive way. Shannon Carr, founder of Lighthouse Fertility & IVF Coaching, Fertile Body Method Practitioner and IVF veteran shares these 6 tips.
Tip #1: Understanding Your Energy
When it comes to improving your experience through IVF, it is helpful to start with an understanding of your personal energy. Your energy is not about how much ‘drive’ you have or a reflection of your initiative. It’s an understanding that your thoughts and feelings have an effect on your body. The things you do and say, the beliefs you hold and the way in which your internal dialogue unfolds all contribute to your personal energy. The Mind Body Connection is a powerful tool to harness throughout your cycle. There are lots of Mind-Body techniques that can help, some examples include setting Affirmations, guided visualizations, meditation and breath work. A great resource to learn more about how the mind body connection relates to fertility I suggest reading Dr. Alice Domar’s book, Conquering Infertility
Tip #2: Building your A-Team
Having the right type of support in place is a critical piece to a positive IVF experience. Advice I give to my clients is to deliberately choose their A Team. For example, your A Team could include a mix of online and in person IVF peer support groups. Support diversity however can be helpful, for instance it can be refreshing to talk or spend time with a friend during your cycle who is not particularly interested in fertility or baby talk. If you choose to confide in a family member or close friend about your Retrieval or Transfer then be prepared that they might ask questions. Or it’s perfectly fine to set the expectation up front that you will share any updates when you’re ready (more about boundary setting in Tip #3) Again there is no formula for a good IVF support team, but my advice is to carefully short list the resources/people that work best for you that you can lean on during your journey.
Tip #3: Editing the World Around You
Setting healthy boundaries is an effective tool to help you feel empowered and calm instead of hurt or infuriated. Start by identifying potential situations or events that ‘trigger’ negative feelings or stress. With fertility struggles there are so many but identify the most upsetting one’s. Pregnancy announcements, or being asked when you are having children are common triggers. For me personally, it was the baby showers. Once you’ve identified your top triggers you can be more prepared to better handle them. You can choose your response to the insensitive questions. You may edit the way you engage in social media, or you might need to be more selective about your social commitments. Boundaries can at times be difficult to enforce, as we often have external pressures that cause friction with said boundary, so another tip is to find an alley to help you stick to your boundaries. Your partner, a friend, fertility coach are all great resources.
Tip #4: Be Your Own Advocate
Clinics are busy spots with many patients demands. During your IVF consult make sure you ask any questions you may have regarding process, medication, etc. and if you don’t get the clarity you need ask again. There are time sensitive aspects of a cycle so be sure to ask for the clinics off hours nursing contact information. Give some thought to how you would like the clinic to communicate your daily results and evening meds protocol as well as how you would like them to deliver any critical updates. Not all clinics are as flexible with this, but if you have a preference on the mode of communication especially for the more emotionally charged updates than ask for that.
Tip #5: Finding Your Life Raft
Given the trials and for some lengthy duration of IVF treatments, having a ‘life raft’ could help provide you with a mental and physical escape. IVF can be all-consuming so the idea is to make time for things that help you feel a sense of joy and fulfillment. A common challenge with infertility is a sense that you have lost part of yourself during the struggles. Much like your support system, your IVF Life Raft needs to be tailored to your interests and passions. Your Life Raft can be simple, such as giving yourself the space and time to practice to the Mind Body approaches as a way to reduce the stress of it all. Others examples are scheduling in activities that bring joy or volunteering may help you escape the constant cloud of infertility. This can sometimes be a difficult concept to see when you’re in the thick of your treatment but it’s worth a try.
Tip #6: Be Kind to Yourself
While all of my tips encourage an element of mind body and positive thinking, I do recognize there will be days where you feel anything but positive (I had lots of those days myself). But with practice and self-compassion I hope these tips will offer you some ideas on how to move through your fertility journey and IVF more constructively and peacefully.