Many couples turn to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment after years of trying to conceive naturally. As the most common form of assisted reproductive technology, IVF also is the go-to conception method for many single women or same-sex couples who want to start a family.
Although IVF has a relatively high success rate, the process itself isn’t always quick or easy. Here at California Center for Reproductive Health, we’ve helped countless families in the Los Angeles area become pregnant through IVF, so we understand the unique emotional and physical challenges that IVF patients face.
If IVF treatment has left you feeling anxious or frazzled, these strategies can help you manage your stress and stay calm each step of the way.
IVF is a multi-step process that’s carefully planned and carried out within your monthly cycle.
Learning everything you can about each step of that process — the medication you take to boost egg production, the egg retrieval procedure, artificial insemination, embryo cultivation, and finally, embryo implantation — can help normalize your expectations and make the overall process less stressful.
Even if you’re well-informed as you head into the process, don’t be afraid to voice any questions or concerns you may have; your fertility team does whatever they can to alleviate your doubts and ease your anxiety.
You already know that taking care of yourself boosts your odds of becoming pregnant and having a healthy baby, but good self-care goes beyond the basics of avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking.
You should make exercise a priority because it increases your strength and endurance, and because it helps you stay energized — even on days that are emotionally draining. Exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins, which can help you maintain a positive outlook. Good options include brisk walking, swimming, and yoga (but not hot yoga).
Getting regular exercise actually can help you sleep better at night, which is another major self-care priority when you’re going through IVF treatment. To minimize anxiety and give yourself the best chance for IVF success, it’s important to protect your bedtime and get the rest you need each and every night.
When you’re going through something that’s as stressful as IVF treatment can be, it’s beneficial to discover and embrace a few stress management techniques that can instantly take the edge off and help you relax.
Simply learning how to press pause when feeling anxious or experiencing stress-inducing thoughts is a good way to start. Once you’re ready to take charge of your thoughts and feelings, taking deep, calming breaths can help slow you down so you can find your center once again.
While sitting or lying comfortably with one hand on your diaphragm, inhale evenly, slowly, and fully for a full count of four. Hold your breath for a count of one before you exhale for a count of four, using the same type of control.
In addition to alleviating stress and anxiety instantaneously, deep breathing also can help you find a more complete connection to your own body and the process it’s going through.
For many patients going through IVF treatment, the thought that it may not be successful is both realistic and a major cause of stress. This is only natural, of course, especially for couples who have struggled with infertility — IVF represents a real chance for the family they’ve dreamed of for years.
IVF does have a high rate of success because it bypasses many of the biological processes that lead to natural pregnancy, but worrying about whether or not you’ll become pregnant each IVF cycle won’t help you reach your goal.
In fact, a small 2010 study published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics found that women who are stressed or worried while undergoing IVF treatment were less likely to become pregnant than women who successfully managed their stress and anxiety.
Instead, try reframing your fear by viewing failure as another step on your journey toward the pregnancy you’re trying for. An unsuccessful IVF cycle allows your fertility team to better perfect your treatment protocol, ultimately increasing your chances of success.
And in the meantime, keep practicing good self-care and stress management techniques.
Going through IVF can make you feel isolated, especially when it seems like no one else in your circle of friends and family has struggled with fertility. Infertility actually is a common problem, however, and it’s important to allow others to support you in your IVF experience so that you don’t end up feeling like you’re alone.
Lay the groundwork for honest and open communication with your partner if you have one, and seek out supportive family members and friends you can rely on. To minimize your stress and maximize your chances for success, give those you’re closest to a chance to understand how you’re feeling, to support you emotionally, and to help you through the experience.
If you aren’t sure you want to lean on your partner, family, or friends, you may be able to get the same benefit from a counselor, therapist, or IVF support group.