- Women and couples undergoing fertility treatment will at some stage face the two-week wait – the time it takes until a pregnancy blood test can be performed following an embryo transfer or IUI procedure
- Up to 40% of women suffer from high levels of stress during this time, meanwhile a new study has shown that the stress hormone can negatively affect IVF outcomes
- Specialists at IVI recommend patients to access fertility counselling from the start, so you’re equipped with the tools you need to cope with this period of uncertainty
Nerves, fears, and endless waiting
These concerns can undermine the hopes of those trying to build their family through fertility treatment. Whether alone or as a couple, one of the most anxiety-inducing phases is the two-week wait: the time that passes between an intrauterine insemination (IUI), or embryo transfer in the case of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), until the day a blood pregnancy test (otherwise known as a beta hCG) can be performed. Colloquially, the test is sometimes known as a beta test because a pregnancy is confirmed by the presence of the beta-hCG hormone in the bloodstream. This time is full of hope, but it can also give way to a great deal of anxiety for most people.
At the same time, it’s important to recognise that in most cases individuals may be facing this situation after long and difficult journeys with fertility. Many will have spent months or years trying to conceive. For some, seeking professional help may also have been a source of pain and worry. And finally, the impact of an infertility diagnosis can be devastating. To reach this point in your journey and not yet know the outcome can understandably be a very uneasy time.
“Women […] are much more prone to feel they carry the responsibility in a very individual way”
“The two-week wait takes up a huge amount of emotional energy, especially for women, who are much more prone to feel they carry the responsibility in a very individual way. Women go through each stage of treatment with an established roadmap, with carefully scheduled consultations, scans and procedures. It is understandable that a period spent waiting over which they have no control can feel like forever. During this time, managing stress so that it affects your day-to-day life and the process itself as little as possible is very important”, explains Soledad Chamorro, psychologist at IVI Madrid.
When starting a fertility treatment, it’s normal to visualise pregnancy as something idyllic. If things do not progress as expected, these desires become blocked and frustrated, and fear and apprehension can appear. Feeling fear in the face of uncertainty or the unknown is normal. However, problems can occur when it reaches an extreme level. Up to 40% of women suffer from high levels of stress and anxiety, and many complain of finding it difficult to think about anything else. This rollercoaster of emotions, as well as creating suffering, can also put strain on a couple’s relationship.
“It’s very important to learn ways to manage these emotions in advance, to achieve greater emotional well-being and reduce stress when you find yourself facing this two-week wait”, added Dr Chamorro.
Tips to cope with the two-week wait
It’s essential to have tools in place to help you cope with this period of uncertainty in the best possible way. Here are a few tips to help you prepare:
- Resist the temptation to do a pregnancy test at home. We know how appealing it may be. But we strongly recommend that you avoid doing a pregnancy test at home during your two-week wait. Taken too early, over-the-counter pregnancy tests can give false positives or negatives. This can contribute to anxiety about your blood test result and negatively impact your state of mind during treatment.
- Refrain from overanalysing every sign or symptom. It’s normal to track every possible pregnancy symptom, however you’re just as likely statistically to have no symptoms – so try not to worry. Implantation bleeding is also fairly common, so the same goes for constantly checking for spotting or bleeding. Overanalysing your body’s behaviour will only make you more anxious about your pregnancy blood test, and can even manifest into obsessive behaviours. This can take a real toll on your mental health. If you can, focus on other activities and keep your mind and body active.
- Try to avoid talking about it too often. Talking about our feelings is good and necessary. Acknowledging emotions helps us to manage them. But we should not let these conversations monopolise our lives. This also applies to questions from our friends and family: don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
- Engage in activities that keep your mind occupied, or take you out of “your habitat”. Keeping your mind busy with activities you enjoy will distract you from negative thoughts and help you think positively. It’s even better if these activities take you outdoors.
- Have trust in yourself and the professionals who are treating you. Consulting the internet is not always a good idea. Especially when you’re likely to encounter unreliable websites with information that isn’t scientifically proven. As it will only make this time more difficult, avoid it at all costs. Instead, try to address any questions you have with your consultant or treating team.
- Focus on the present, the here and now. Thinking “what if?” will only cause anxiety and open your mind to negative thoughts – it can be very difficult to reason while emotions are running high. By letting time flow and living day by day, you can break this vicious circle. This will make the wait more bearable.
- If you’re struggling, ask for help. Arguably the most important tool of all is knowing when to ask for help. Struggles with fertility can be very isolating, so any support you can get from an understanding loved one, a patient support group such as those found on Fertility Network UK, or a professional fertility counsellor could be hugely beneficial.
“Mental health is very important during fertility treatment. No-one should have to go through this process with an emotional overload that disrupts their daily life. The longer it takes, the more the process wears us down, so it is important to seek help when we see these episodes appear. This is even more essential when they begin to disrupt our day-to-day activities and social life. In short, it’s important to tackle issues before they take their toll and discourage us”, explained Dr Chamorro.
At IVI, we strongly believe in a holistic approach, taking care of our patients both physically and emotionally. Professional counselling is always available at any stage of treatment, providing essential support throughout our patients’ journey.