According to ACCESS, Australia’s infertility network, 15% of Australian couples of reproductive age have a fertility problem (1).
And so begins the infertility roller coaster – a dizzying blur of tests, temperature charts, fertility drugs, medical appointments and surgical procedures. One moment hopes are raised, the next they come crashing down into disappointment.
If you and your partner have been trying to have a baby for a while, but have been unable to conceive/maintain a pregnancy – or maybe you are thinking of doing this on your own – you might be considering the option of In Vitro Fertilisation or IVF.
The Ups and Downs of the IVF journey
While it’s true that IVF is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology (2), there are still no guarantees and the IVF journey can often be a turbulent one.
It is a very emotional time and due to its somewhat clinical nature it often feels like nothing is within your control. The whole experience can feel like a massive invasion of your privacy – something you only tolerate because of the depth of your desire and longing to have a baby.
Doctors are often busy and don’t always have the time to explain procedures in detail – and they tend to focus only on the medical solutions, rather than the emotional impacts. It is at times like this that counselling from a psychologist, or connecting with a support group, can be invaluable.
Not only can the experience of infertility batter your self-esteem, it can place huge strain on your relationship with your partner, as well as affect your relationships with family and friends. It can be particularly hard to cope as one by one your friends seem to fall pregnant with ease; and every time you see pregnant bellies or prams, it just reminds you of your pain.
Then there is the whole process of IVF, which while it can open up a whole new realm of possibilities, can also cause unbearable heartbreak.
Some of the common questions that arise when I am working with people on the IVF journey include:
- What am I doing wrong?
- How many rounds do I do? When will I know it is time to stop?
- My partner wants to keep going – but I don’t want her to go through the pain of another failed attempt. What can I do or say?
- Should I try another clinic/doctor?
- I still have frozen embryos left and I can’t decide what to do with them.
Unfortunately the answers to the above questions are not simple or easy.
On top of the many questions and worries that are part and parcel of the IVF process, it is common to experience a range of emotions, such as:
- grief and loss.
Types of Counselling
Counselling can be a valuable support to you in your IVF journey, and although it is not required (unlike in the case of donor assisted conception or surrogacy arrangements), can provide a safe place to explore the myriad feelings and emotions. It is tailored to the particular stage of the individual’s or couple’s treatment, and may include:
- Looking at ways of coping with the consequences of infertility and treatment, and resolving issues arising from a diagnosis of infertility.
- Adjusting expectations of treatment and moving towards acceptance of their particular situation.
- Making decisions involving the management of their treatment.
- Emotional support and assistance at times of high stress, or following a crisis or adverse outcome during treatment.
- Discussing the implications of treatment on key parties.
If you have found yourself on the IVF roller coaster, and would like some support to help you through the highs and the lows, I welcome you to make an appointment with me.
Author: Nicole Wimmer, B Sc (Psych), MA (Psych), PG Cert Mgmt, Grad Dip Safety Science, MAPS.
Nicole has an interest in working with individuals and couples experiencing the heartache of infertility; she has personal experience in IVF treatment. Nicole is a member of both ANZICA (Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association) and FSA (Fertility Society Australia), and is able to provide counselling and reports for Surrogacy or Donor arrangements.