Advice From Therapist, Michele Carroll
Michele Carroll is a psychotherapist with 10+ years of experience working in the field of reproductive medicine. Michele specializes in working with women and couples navigating the stressful and challenging world of fertility treatments and fertility preservation. Michele works with Kindbody to offer clients strategies and support to help alleviate any confusion, anxiety, and other feelings and/or issues that arise during their fertility journey. Michele has a master’s degree from Columbia University School of Social Work and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
How Should I Mentally Prepare Myself (and My Partner) Before Starting IVF?
Some of how one should mentally prepare is mentioned above. Ask questions of your physician and clinical team (nurses, PAs, etc.). Figure out how you typically react to stress and put a plan in place to help you, if needed.
I have worked with many couples who just want to focus on the positive and are truly optimistic and hopeful, which is great. However, I worry about when things don’t go according to plan. Talk about what you need from your partner during treatment and what you can give your partner in ways of support. Write that list up and put it somewhere you both will see.
When going through IVF, your body becomes a lab. You’re poked, prodded, and injected. Intimacy can be lost and it can put a strain on the best relationship. Finding the right path forward can be tough. There is a path, though. Communication is key in finding it. If you need assistance from a mental health professional, speak with your clinic. They likely have resources or referrals.
How to stay positive when going through IVF:
Mental health and IVF can be tricky combo. No matter how balanced or prepared you think you might be, feelings of stress or anxiety can truly sneak up on you when preparing for or going through IVF. In our society, the story we are told from when we are small (whether you buy into it or not) is that when you get older, you have children/start a family. The story has always implied that there’s one way to do that – the “natural way.” When our bodies, our partner’s bodies, or our life situation means that we need to deviate from that storyline, it can affect people deeply and in a variety of ways. In regards to staying positive throughout, it must be noted that there is no one combination of things that works for everyone. It’s not prescriptive.
For individuals and/or couples, It’s important to think of previous life stressors and to really evaluate what worked and didn’t work for you in those instances. It’s important to think of what works for you day-to-day, too. Use those coping and stress-reducing skills throughout the cycle.
Also, IVF or other ART can be very isolating. Yet, we don’t want everyone to know our business. Having everyone clued in can bring a barrage of questions that sometimes we just don’t want to answer. Find the people in your life (and if you’re in a partnership, find someone outside of that relationship) to speak with, vent to, be silent with, cry to, do activities with, or all of the above or none of the above and something completely different that feels relaxing, distracting, etc. I’ve worked with so many people who have found comfort in office discussions with a co-worker, a neighbor, a good friend that they never knew proceeded with treatment. Having a support system to rely on really helps when moving through a process where a lot of it is out of your control.
Another thing that really seems to help some people is to ask your doctor questions. All of them. Many times if you need to. Knowing what’s coming next in the process and when you’ll get information regarding follicle count, fertilization, embryo quality can help manage feelings of stress or anxiety.