24 March 2020

The importance of psychological support during fertility treatment

Medical Director
Cesar Diaz-Garcia
MD PhD Assoc Prof
IVI London

 

Both you and your partner may have assumed that once you’ve made the decision to start a family, the rest will follow naturally. For most people, it does. But, for those who find out that they will need fertility treatment to fulfil their dream of becoming parents, it can come as a major shock to the system with high stress and anxiety. That’s why, in the UK, one of the criteria on which the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) judges the services offered by fertility clinics is the quality of the psychological support they offer.

In this IVI blog article, we take a look at the importance of psychological support during fertility treatment and howyou can take steps to minimise your stress levels at this time of heightened anxiety.

Accepting that you need support

Now is not the time for a stiff upper lip and suffering in silence! Not only the diagnosis of infertility is stressful in itself, but also uncertainty of success and the fact that in many cases treatments can be prolonged increase stress levels

Stress and mood can also have an impact in infertility treatments. So, a positive outlook may actually have a positive impact in the outcomes and it will help to make this experience less stressful.

Therefore, everyone needs all the psychological support they can get: there is no shame in needing the support of your partner, friends and family as well as professional help, and it would almost certainly be counterproductive to suffer in silence. In the same vein, it makes sense to be kind to yourself. Don’t force yourself to visit friends with small children if you know it will distress you and don’t feel that you have to discuss every detail of your treatment with well-meaning well-wishers if it’s just too exhausting.

A little help from your friends

When you’re going through a fertility treatment, you probably won’t feel like sharing all of the details with all of your friends. However, talking with your partner about how you feel and  recognising his or her feelings can make a very positive difference. By the same token, confiding in a close friend or family member can also help to reduce your stress and anxiety.

On the other hand, the experience of undergoing fertility treatment could be a direct cause of conflict and a lack of understanding with your partner or close family member. People feel anxiety in different ways and the way they react can take different forms. In this situation, seeking psychological support from a fertility counsellor, or make use of the counselling service provided by your fertility clinic, might be helpful.

Signals that it’s time for a counselling service

Everyone is different, but there are some commonly experienced signs that show professional psychological support is required:

  • Your fertility treatment seems to be taking over your life to the extent that it’s difficult to think of anything else, and you are struggling to cope with day-to-day daily domestic and work routines.
  • Your relationship with your partner and/or close family members has drifted from mutual support to a lack of understanding, leading to tension and conflict.
  • You feel ‘stuck’ in feelings of indecision, guilt or depression.

You can be absolutely confident that a trained counsellor has talked to lots of people going through experiences that are the same or very similar to yours. Counselling offers you a neutral space to share your feelings and counsellors are certainly not going to be shocked or judgemental in any way. You could also find that it’s easier to open up to a trained counsellor precisely because they are not a close friend or family member.

Psychological support you can expect from IVI

In the UK, implications counselling is mandatory for patients making use of donor gametes and naturally this is part of the service we offer. However, at IVI, we also offer counselling as part of our routine care for all patients before, during or after treatment. Even if you feel perfectly fine, it can be very helpful to talk about your situation to someone who is impartial yet friendly and knowledgeable. When making your decision, it’s worth bearing in mind that research has identified that women with a high anxiety level have a 20% reduction in ovulation, a 30% reduced chance of their oocytes being fertilised, and a 20% higher rate of miscarriage. In general terms of fertility treatment, it has been proven that women with a good level of mental health have a higher treatment success rate.

If you’d like to know what to expect from a counselling session in connection with fertility treatment with IVI, you may find it helpful to read this interview with Helen Swords, our IVI London Counsellor. It takes the form of a question and answer session on issues that, in Helen’s experience, commonly arise in connection with fertility treatment counselling, so you could find some useful information that applies to your own concerns.

Contacting IVI for more information

Our services reflect our belief that the best fertility outcomes result from treating the whole person, not merely a medical problem. If you’d like to know more about the importance of psychological support and how we go about meeting that need at IVI, you can get in touch using our online contact form and we’ll get back to you. Alternatively, to get a real feel for who we are and the services we offer, you could pay a visit to our flagship London clinic at a Patients Open Evening.

 

 

 

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