“Your Top Infertility Worries and How to Manage Them” | myMindBodyBaby
It is obvious that infertility can cause stress. But what is the impact of that stress on your fertility? Research has shown that taking steps to reduce “psychological distress” can actually improve pregnancy rates. Conversely, higher levels of perceived stress in women has been associated with slightly reduced fertility.
Infertility requires significant mental, physical, emotional, and financial investments. Being that is all-encompassing, how does one effectively manage the stress that stems from it?
To start, let’s take a look at what women in our myMindBodyBaby community report as their top infertility worries, and then we explore options to help manage them.
#1 How will this impact my relationship?
Infertility can impact your relationship in a number of ways. Some women and men have admitted they are worried that their partner will resent them if the infertility diagnosis is related to themselves.
Others acknowledge that they feel like their partner isn’t taking their fertility issues as seriously. Men and women alike have stated that they feel like their partners aren’t taking the same measures to improve fertility – such as changes to diet, exercise or alcohol, and recreational drug use.
Infertility can also lead to increased tensions regarding when to start treatment, how much treatment costs, and when and if to tell friends and family what you are struggling with.
And then, of course, there is the intimate impact of infertility. Instead of intercourse being solely an expression of love it is now precisely timed.
Finding Ways to Come Closer
On the other hand, many couples report their journey to start a family has brought them closer together. Couples who are able to talk to each other about how they are feeling often also report feeling closer to one another. Infertility is not an easy road, but it can impact partners differently – and at different times. Being open and honest about how you are feeling and when you are having a hard time can enable your partner to try to find ways to support you. There is a wonderful book by Dr. Gary Chapman called “The 5 Love Languages“. The premise is that everyone has a predominant love language – understanding what yours is and what your partners are may help strengthen your bond. We have adapted Dr. Chapman’s model for infertility that you can download for you and your partner to use.
While talking about your situation and feelings is critical, it is equally important that infertility doesn’t take over your relationship. Couples who are able to find time to connect without discussing their fertility say they are able to continue to enjoy what makes their relationship special. For more on keeping your relationship strong during infertility check out this article.
#2 How are we going to afford this?
The cost of fertility treatments varies significantly between and even within countries. Treatments can become quite costly, particularly if coverage doesn’t exist where you live, and this can be a significant source of stress and concern. Before you begin treatment, investigate what type of coverage exists where you live:
- Contact your insurance company. Ask your fertility clinic for a list of all possible medications and treatments you might require and then check that against your insurance coverage. In some cases, there are options as to which medication is prescribed. Your doctor may be able to prescribe one that you have coverage for over one you do not. Also, make sure to understand what percentage of medication is covered and which medications and treatments have annual coverage and which ones have lifetime caps.
- Look into government funding. Some places, like Ontario, Canada now cover treatments – like IVF or IUI cycles. If you live in an area with some government coverage make sure you understand the fine print. Are there age limitations? Limits to the number of cycles? In Ontario IUI and IVF procedures are covered, but not the costs associated with medications.
- Workplace benefits. Some companies are now providing fertility treatment funding. Check with your Human Resources to see if you may be able to obtain some funding through your employer.
- Infertility Treatment Grants. There are non-profit organizations that can help cover some of the expenses of fertility treatments. Check to see if there are any you might be eligible for.
- Discuss treatment options with your doctor. Options like mini-IVF or multi-cycle discounts may be options. Sit down with your healthcare team to understand what options are available.
Setting a Budget and Limits
You may also want to decide on your personal limitations based on budget. Once you understand all of your coverage options talk to your clinic about the total costs associated with each treatment available to you. Discuss a reasonable amount of time to spend doing medicated cycles before trying IUI. Then discuss a reasonable amount of time to try IUI before moving on to the more costly IVF. Create a budget so that when your clinic presents you with an invoice following an appointment or procedure you are prepared for that cost – and it is not another stressful event that day.
#3 Are we ever going to be able to have the family we dreamed of?
This can be very challenging to deal with mentally. As the months go by you may feel that proverbial internal clock ticking. Many people have a rough life timeline in mind: “I’ll be married by 30, we will have our first child at 32, our second…”. And as those birthdays go by, the stress can mount.
Life certainly does not always go according to plan (you can read more about Michelle’s and Lyndsey’s stories). But just because your life may not look as you thought it would, doesn’t mean it is not going to be wonderful. Perhaps your children are closer together in age than you had planned. Maybe you do not have the number of children you initially thought you would. You might begin to consider adoption. Or you might choose to stop trying to conceive and embrace your life as a couple without children.
All of these changes require significant thought and acceptance. Some couples find having clear timelines and limits helpful: “We will only do X rounds of IVF. Once we turn Y age we will stop trying.”
It may help to speak with a counselor about these types of limitations. Many clinics have a counselor on staff. See if your clinic has one available to speak with or someone they can refer you to.
#4 The treatments seem so complicated – how do I know I’m making the right decisions?
Fertility treatments can seem overwhelming. We covered what to expect when you first start fertility investigations in this article. Here are a few additional steps to help you make decisions:
- Talk to your clinic about what options are appropriate for your diagnosis. Understanding upfront all the routes your journey may take can help ease some of the anxiety. For example, IUI might not be an option for you – are you only left with IVF?
- Determine if your clinic offers information sessions to provide more detail on treatments like IVF. Attending one of these sessions will provide you with a lot of information that might help you make more informed decisions.
- Check if your clinic offers access to a counselor – this can be a wonderful resource when it comes time to make important treatment decisions.
- Find a fertility mentor. Someone who has been down the bumpy road of infertility is a great support to have in your corner. They have the experience, they know the lingo – and they have often faced the types of decisions you will have to make. This article talks about all the benefits of having a mentor – and how to find one.
#5 There are so many “add-ons” for IVF – how do I know which ones are necessary?
If you pursue IVF you will find you are presented with a number of options. This article takes a look at various “add-ons” like ICSI and PGS – as well as different routes like mini and effortless IVF.
Talk with your healthcare team about the costs and statistics associated with each option. How much will ICSI potentially increase your success? What are the downfalls of PGS? If you proceed with PGS and you have embryos that come back as mosaic, are you still allowed to transfer them? Understanding the details associated with each option can help you to make an informed decision.
#6 Exercise is my go-to stress reliever. Can I continue to exercise during fertility treatments?
Regular, moderate exercise can help support your fertility. For all the benefits of exercise to fertility check out this article. Exercise leading up to IVF has also been associated with, “increased rates of clinical pregnancy and live births”. Another reason to throw on the running shoes!
Exercise is also a great non-pharmaceutical option for helping reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. It has also, “consistently shown to be associated with improved physical health, life satisfaction, cognitive functioning, and psychological well-being.” So we want to make sure you keep moving – safely – throughout your fertility treatments! This is one of the drivers behind creating our treatment specific Fitness & Nutrition Guides.
We have guides specific to monitored and medicated cycles, IUI cycles, and IVF cycles!
Each guide provides a day by day exercise schedule tailored specifically to the treatment you are going through. As your body responds to the various medications associated with the different treatments you will need to adapt your exercise type and intensity accordingly. Our research-based, doctor-recommended guides ensure that you can keep moving, safely, throughout your treatment. The program comes with full-length exercise videos that you can follow along with as well as a workout tracker. Each one also comes with a unique meal plan loaded with delicious recipes – but we will get to that in a bit!
#7 Am I eating the right things to support my fertility? I’ve heard of “fertility diets” – should I be following one?
Nutrition is one of the primary building blocks to your health, and your overall health can support your fertility. Research has shown that “Diets high in unsaturated fats, whole grains, vegetables, and fish have been associated with improved fertility in both women and men”. The meal plans that come with each of our guides is based on a Mediterranean style diet, which is “associated with a higher likelihood of achieving clinical pregnancy and live birth among non-obese women <35 years of age.”
FYI, sugar, on the other hand, has been associated with reduced fertility. If you struggle with sugar cravings use this FREE sugar showdown challenge to get that in check.
For more on foods that can help support fertility check out these articles written by our resident Nutritionist:
#8 How am I going to manage my career AND time-intensive fertility treatments?
The time and stress associated with fertility can impact you at work. Women in our community have expressed concern both over how they will be able to cope day-to-day at work, as well as whether they should be focusing on advancing their career as they struggle with infertility. These are very weighty topics and we have addressed each in the following articles:
Managing Your Career During Infertility Part 1: Coping in the Workplace
Managing Your Career During Infertility Part 2: Advancing Your Career
#9 How do I deal with the mental anguish?
You may find some parts of the journey harder than others. Or some days the weight of it all may feel heavier than on others. As everyone’s journey is different, and everyone deals with things differently, finding what works best for you might be different than what helps someone else. Here are some options to try:
Determine your social support:
Some people would rather keep their journey to themselves, others find comfort and support in opening up to their family, friends, or even their broader network. Talk to your partner about what you are both comfortable with. Even if you aren’t up for telling everyone – having a few close confidantes to lean on during difficult times can be very helpful.
Lean on a Fertility Mentor:
Fertility mentors are different than friends and family. A mentor is someone who has been down the same road you’re on now. Someone who can understand exactly what you are going through. They have the perspective of time and experience – very valuable when you yourself are in the thick of it. Check out this article on all the benefits of a mentor and how to find one you can lean on.
Determine which parts are hardest for you:
Some people find the anxiety of new procedures difficult (if this is you check out this article on preparing for fertility treatment). Others find the waiting really hard (if this is you check out our article on the TWW). Once you identify which parts are the hardest for you, you can work on strategies to find extra support during those times.
Try different mental-well being tools:
We have a number of tools and resources on our site – give some of these a try to see if they provide some calm and comfort.
Reduce waiting room anxiety:
Is the waiting room a particularly trying experience? Check out this article.
Utilize mindfulness techniques:
Research has shown that leveraging mindfulness tactics, those which enable you to be “fully aware of the present moment without the lens of judgment, seems to help women relate to their infertility and IVF treatment in new ways.” Women who utilize this type of mindfulness in research demonstrated statistically higher pregnancy rates. Each of our programs provides day by day specific mindfulness tactics to help you through the specific cycle you are in.
Understand the coping strategies that work best for YOU. It might take some trial and error but once you find options that work for you, you can employ them during the really hard parts. This Coping Strategies tool is a good place to start in understanding what options might help you out.
# 10 Is there anything else I can be doing?
When I (Lyndsey) was actively giving myself an injection, I felt like I was actively doing something to get us to our goal of having a baby. But the rest of the time I kept thinking, “what else can I do to support my fertility and to help make this next cycle a success?”.
I searched online – Google, Pinterest, PubMed – I tried to find research-based recommendations that could help me feel like I had a bit of control over this situation. I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything I could to support my mind, body, and the creation of our future baby. It was this need that led Michelle and me to create myMindBodyBaby – an online community to increase awareness of and provide support for women struggling with infertility. We wanted to provide research-based, doctor-recommended advice, and guided programs to provide women with what we ourselves tried to piece together during our own journeys.
In addition to our guided fitness, nutrition, and mental well-being programs that are specific to the different types of cycles you may be going through (Cycle Monitoring or Prepping for a Treatment, IUI, IVF, or struggling with PCOS) we have a ton of articles to help you understand more about optimizing your fertility, getting pregnant and dealing with the mental and emotional aspects of infertility:
- Understanding Female Fertility
- Lifestyle Factors that Affect Conception Rates
- Improving Egg Health
- Fertility Supplements
- Reasons Why You Might Not be Getting Pregnant
Finding Your Means of Control
When there is something you so desperately want – to grow your family – and it feels like the outcome is out of your control you can feel so helpless. Your worries and stress start to mount. It can feel like your sole focus becomes your fertility and getting pregnant. We absolutely understand. It is awful. It is all-consuming and it can impact every aspect of your life. We hope this article helps to address some of your worries and that you are able to take some actionable steps that enable you to feel a little more in control – at least of some aspects of this journey.