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Coping with going through fertility treatment

October 28, 2016
Coping with other people telling you they are pregnant
November 1, 2016

I found it hard at first going to the assisted conception unit. You don’t hear much about IVF and in a way it felt a bit like admitting failure (which it absolutely isn’t).

The way I rationalised it was to remember that we were coming to hospital for something positive rather than life threatening. We were going through treatment to create a life and a family and that was something we should celebrate and be excited about - this was giving us hope. You will be at the hospital for lots of appointments so it is worth remembering this to get you through it. We also treated ourselves to a costa each time (decaf obviously!)

The hospital will feel like your second home – get used to being at the hospital because at times during the process you will be there every day. The staff will feel like close friends and they will all be rooting for your success. The process requires a lot of commitment emotionally and physically, it may be difficult to take the time off work or explain where you are going at the times of your appointments – you may need to confide in a manager to ease the worry and stress of having to hide your appointments.

Waiting – one of the hardest parts of the process was the waiting – it already feels like you have been waiting forever to have a baby, and then the waiting time for treatment, then waiting for the optimum number of eggs, for them to be fully developed, for the fertilization period, for the results. Each additional day you have to wait can seem difficult, but try to remember it is all to increase the chances of you finishing the process with a baby, so is worth it.

Telling work/friends/family - it may be useful to have someone that you confide in. You can then be honest about appointments and not have the additional stress of lying about where you are. Having someone to talk to (friend/family member or professional) can help you talk through feelings and worries rather than bottling them up. Sometimes it is nice to talk to someone other than your partner about it to gain a different view.

Injections - this was the thing I was most worried about in the process. I hate needles so had planned to get my Mum (a nurse) to do them for me - when the nurse showed me what to do I cried because I was so scared. That night I decided that I was going to do them myself. I told myself that doing the injections could eventually create a baby for us, which really helped me get through it. I think I needed to prove to myself that I could cope and that I wasn’t a failure. They weren't as bad as I had thought they would be and the reason for doing them outweighed the worry of doing it. I am really proud for surviving this part of the process (whether you do them yourself or someone else does them) and you should feel the same, it’s a great achievement.

Egg collection process - you don't remember anything about it as you are sedated, so try not to worry. It is over and done with very quickly. The last thing I remember was the nurse asking me what I was doing at the weekend, then I woke up saying ‘Is it all over? That was quick’. Try not to think and worry too much about what happens during the procedure because you won’t remember it.

I ended up with ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome so had to have a freeze all on my embryos. I found this quite difficult to deal with as it felt like another delay in the process. I had to wait for my body recover before they could do the egg transfer – which was another couple of months.

I found this really hard but had to think that whatever the doctors/nurses decide, it is the right and best thing for me. Decisions are made with your best interest in mind and to make sure you have the optimum chance of achieving a live pregnancy. It is hard to hear that you need to wait and that the process will take longer, but take time to recover and remember that as soon as your body is ready you can continue with the process in a better state.

Egg transfer process - We tried to think about it as being exciting rather than worrying, It is no more invasive than a smear test, and is less uncomfortable. Again it is a fairly quick procedure and the staff were lovely which really helped. You don’t have to take time off after the procedure, but I would recommend it - take a couple of days if possible to relax - watch TV, go out for lunch - don’t sit about thinking about it, keep busy but relaxed.

Control the controllable - You may feel like the process is out of your control, with all the timings, hospital visits and medications. It is good to take control of what you can - you can then know in your own mind that you have done everything in your power to make it happen. Allow plenty of time for appointments and especially the egg collection and transfer as they are so time sensitive. This will stop you worrying about missing your appointment. We stayed over the night before the transfer to avoid being delayed by the heavy snow that was due. We went out for a nice tea and tried to relax.

This also covers things like eating well, avoiding alcohol at key times and taking your medication as advised.

Call from unit with result - the time from having the blood test to making the call felt like waiting for a week rather than a few hours. It is hard to think of anything else, so my advice would be to keep yourself busy, you may want to take the time off work so you are together for the result and somewhere private. We went for breakfast together and had a walk around a nice local town - try to keep positive, keep busy to stop you thinking and worrying about it all morning. Try to remember that you may be pregnant at this point so it is better to keep positive and keep the stress levels low.

Dealing with failure - when we found out that the first transfer wasn’t successful we were so upset. You know the chances of success are one in three but you really hope that it has worked. We allowed ourselves time to get over it, doing nice things together to take our mind off it. I think its good to allow yourself that time to get over it. It was after this that I went to see a life coach. I wanted to make sure I was in the right frame of mind to start again. I knew that I was letting my previous experience affect how I felt going in to it - I felt that it was never going to happen, that we were never going to have a baby. I felt that I needed to go in to the second round with a positive attitude that ‘it could happen’ rather than ‘it’s never going to happen’. I think it is important to go in to each new cycle with a positive attitude (with a belief that it could work) to give yourself a good chance of success.

Consider the following 10 survival tips coping with the process: 

  • Think about who to tell. If you have told people you are going through the process, and they know the dates, it is worth thinking about how you will let them know the results. We told people the waiting timeframe was longer than it was so we weren’t being asked questions on the results day (as if you need the extra pressure!) that way we could tell them when we were ready. Some couples tell their family and friends, "No news is bad news," to eliminate the need to call them with bad news.
  • Treat yourself. Spend time doing the things you enjoy the most: shopping, watching your favourite movie, cuddling with your other half or reading a good book.
  • Talk it out. Make time to talk with your partner about your feelings, talk with a friend who has experienced infertility and understands how you might be feeling, or join a support group.
  • Set expectations. Decide with your partner what you will do if the results are negative – do you want to do something to distract yourself or be at home to deal with your feelings privately. That way you won’t be expected to make decisions if you don’t feel up to it, and can deal with the news in the best way for you.
  • Breathe. Take slow, deep breaths when you are feeling anxious – in through your nose and out through your mouth. This basic technique relaxes your body and can calm you mentally.
  • Try to keep a positive frame of mind around the result. This isn’t about raising your hopes, but more about not thinking negatively. Instead of thinking ‘I know it’s not going to have worked’ think ‘There is every possibility that I could get pregnant and I am doing everything I can to help it happen’
  • Stop negative thoughts. As soon as you realise you are having a negative thought about not getting pregnant use a thought stopper to block it and change your frame of mind. This could be as simple as saying ‘Stop, that thought isn’t helpful’, or singing a song in your head that stops the thought (mine was ‘What’s the use in worrying’ and another friend used ‘Let it go’ from Frozen).
  • Write in a journal. If writing down your thoughts helps you could write about how you feel. Sometimes just the act of writing eases anxiety. You don’t have to show any one and you can be completely honest about how you feel without fear of being judged.
  • I took a week off work after the embryo transfer so I could relax, be away from the stress, I caught up with all my trashy TV programmes, did some shopping and just enjoyed the time off. I didn’t feel guilty for slobbing as I had given myself permission to have a lazy week focussing on me and giving the embryo chance to attach. This may not work for everyone, especially if you will spend a week obsessing about it
  • On the day of the pregnancy test, my husband and I took the day off and went straight from the hospital after the blood test for a nice breakfast together. We tried to spend a nice morning together without obsessing over what the results would be.

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