5 Tips for Managing Stress of IVF Treatment

If you and your partner have been struggling to conceive naturally for months — or even years — without success, then you know just how frustrating and emotionally exhausting infertility can be. While in vitro fertilization (IVF) can give you both the optimism and encouragement you need, it’s also important to know what to expect along the way. 

Although IVF has a relatively high success rate, the process itself can be quite demanding. When asked how it compares to other major life events, many women undergoing IVF say it’s almost as stressful or more stressful than separation from a partner, a divorce, or the death of a loved one.

The stress of IVF treatment comes from a variety of fronts. Many people feel some sense of disappointment or unfairness from the outset, as the very thing that comes so naturally and easily to most others — getting pregnant — requires medical intervention, multiple rounds of treatment, and enormous dedication. 

Others feel stressed out by the IVF cycle itself, which often gives rise to mixed emotions — from anxiety and nervousness to optimism and hope — all with an ever-present fear of failure lurking in the background. Add surging hormones, repeated injections, and routine side effects into the mix, and the stress of IVF is amplified even more. 

Although IVF has the potential to be emotionally, physically, and financially demanding, there’s a lot you can do to minimize the stress you experience throughout the process. Here are a few helpful strategies.  

Get informed 

We’ve all heard that knowledge is power, but did you know it’s also an excellent antidote for uncertainty, which is one of the main drivers of stress and anxiety? To curtail IVF-related stress and anxiety before it has a chance to take root, educate yourself about the treatment process. Find out what you can expect at every stage, including how it may impact you physically and emotionally. 

 To feel as empowered and at ease as possible before your treatment begins, read as much as you can about IVF, talk to others who have been through the process, and take advantage of the many resources our team has to offer.  

Create a support network

While many partners turn to one another for comfort, encouragement, and strength during IVF, it can be incredibly helpful to have a wider network of support as you go through this emotionally and physically challenging process.

Give select family and friends — those who are most likely to provide the positive support you need — an opportunity to help you through this important and life-changing experience. If you’d rather work through the emotional experience of IVF with someone who’s been there or knows what it’s like, then try joining an IVF support group, or enlist the help of a therapist who specializes in fertility issues. 

Move your body

Exercise is an ideal way to relieve stress of any kind. When you get your body moving, you encourage the release of feel-good hormones called endorphins. Once endorphins wash over your brain, it’s that much easier to put your worries in perspective so your tension can subside. 

When the weather is cooperative, walking outside is an excellent choice — it’s low-impact, you can do it with your partner, and spending time outdoors is often therapeutic. Running and cycling are other popular endorphin-releasing activities that can be done outside or at the gym; swimming is another great option if you have access to a pool.  

Find ways to let go

With something as consuming as IVF, it’s essential to find simple strategies and practical activities that can alleviate stress and help you unwind, both in the moment and day-to-day. 

First and foremost, make self-care a top priority. Get enough sleep, eat a balanced diet, and find relaxation techniques (yoga, tai chi, massage, meditation, mindfulness, or deep breathing) that help you stay centered. Controlled breathing can be especially helpful for releasing your worries and restoring emotional equilibrium when you’re feeling out of control, overwhelmed, or tired.  

Another helpful de-stressing technique is cognitive restructuring, or choosing the thoughts and behaviors that reinforce your sense of control over those that leave you feeling anxious or hopeless. 

Simplify your life 

With its various steps, stages, treatment protocols, and continuous monitoring, IVF can feel much like a full-time job. Because you’ll spend a lot of energy navigating the process as well as its emotional stresses and physical demands, chances are you won’t have much leftover for other major pursuits, projects, or life changes. 

If possible, take time off from other important endeavors and create some space in your daily life — give yourself time to simply breathe and process your experience. Remember, having too much on your plate can leave you feeling overwhelmed at the best of times, but you’ll never regret having less on your plate as you go through IVF, especially when the going gets rough. 

If you’d like to learn other ways to manage the stress of IVF treatment, Dr. Loucopoulos can help. Call our Upper East Side, New York City office today, or use the easy online tool to schedule a visit any time. 

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