The waiting period between embryo transfer, or insemination, and the results of the pregnancy test can be particularly tough. Here are some suggestions to help you through what is commonly called “the rollercoaster”.
Nurture yourself. With all the unpleasant things you have to do (from injections to ultrasounds) it is important to treat yourself well. Do something you really enjoy. For every unpleasant aspect of treatment you have had to undergo reward yourself with something pleasurable.
Stay fit and healthy. It’s important to eat sensibly and to get enough sleep and exercise. It will also help to limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you consume. Physical exercise is a great stress reliever. Exercise in moderation, is fine to do in combination with treatment.
Talk to your partner (if you have one). You’re in this together so it’s important to work as a team and be there for each other. Go to medical appointments and plan the treatment regime together. Regularly let each other know what’s going on for each of you, but don’t let treatment become all you talk about.
Keep being intimate together. Many people find that infertility and treatment can put a strain on their sexual relationship: intercourse turns into ‘baby-making’ sex, or the side-effects of medication reduce your libido. Even if you don’t feel like having sex, keep cuddling, kissing, touching and making time for each other.
If you don’t have a partner. Find a supportive friend, or family member, who’s willing to share your experiences and come to appointments with you. If you’d prefer to do this on your own, consider keeping a journal, a blog, or joining a support group for single women undergoing ART.
Let it out. Express yourself. Bottling up strong emotions can lead to sudden outbursts, or leave you feeling constantly brittle. If you have a partner going through this too, they may not be able to fully support you as it is tough for them too. Talk to close friends and family you can really trust. If you don’t want them to share information with others, it’s important that you tell them to keep this confidential. Some people also find it useful to keep a journal.
Keep having fun. Distract yourself. Make a list of things you like to do by yourself, with friends and with your partner (if you have one) and make time to do at least one nice thing every day. Keep this list on the fridge as if you feel really down it is hard to think of activities that you feel like doing. Take turns with your partner to pick an activity. This can be particularly useful to do if you are waiting on a pregnancy result or have just had a disappointing result. It is also good to plan a break from treatment where you can leave it behind if you are feeling emotionally and physically run down.
Live in the moment. Try to think only about what is happening right now. Experience fully what you are doing: if you’re walking, look at the colours, smell the aromas, listen to the sounds around you.
Do something nice for someone else. It’s easy to become totally focused on your own issues and lose sight of the fact that other people are experiencing tough times too. Sometimes when we help someone else, we forget our own issues for a while.
Find support. It’s usually very hard to ask for help. What would you find most helpful? Someone to talk to? Help with practical tasks such as cooking and housework? Someone to inform friends and family of your progress? You might consider joining a support group, an internet chat group or talking to a counsellor.
Knowledge is power. If you are reading this, then you are already looking for information that will help you to cope with your treatment. See the Resources section of the VARTA website for more useful information.
Managing treatment and work. Life becomes very busy balancing work and treatment. Treatment is likely to have an impact on your work performance and you’ll be absent from work when you have appointments and medical procedures. You might consider trying to arrange more flexible work arrangements e.g. working from home on some days or working part-time if you can afford this. It is not usually a good time to be taking on new demanding roles. If you trust your manager or HR representative, you might want to confide in them. See the Handling Work and ART section on the VARTA website for more suggestions about work and treatment.
Coping with others’ pregnancies. It may seem like everyone else is having babies except you and that you are isolated from an exclusive ‘club’. Social events can become difficult especially when babies seem the only topic of conversation. You may feel quite guilty about feeling this way too, as you may genuinely feel happy for them, but just wish that you too could ‘join the club’. Let a close friend or family member know how you are feeling. They will usually understand if you explain.
When asked, “Do you have children?” Work out what you are going to say when you are asked the inevitable question: “Do you have children?” Some good non-committal responses include, “Maybe one day,” or “When the time is right”. Don’t isolate yourself from your friends and family. You may find it easier to just spend time with the very closest people in your circle of friends and family if you don’t feel like dealing with others.
Have a treatment plan. It’s important that you plan your treatment so that it doesn’t take over your life. You may need to take a break at times to recharge, although this can be difficult if you feel the pressure of advancing age. It is important to return to your doctor to discuss future options.
Ending treatment. If your treatment is ultimately unsuccessful and it’s time to stop, you might benefit from counselling to make this decision and to support you through disappointment. Ending treatment might also mean reviewing your goals and looking at other ways to enrich your life.
Posted with permission from author: Kate Bourne is VARTA’s Senior Community Education Officer. Kate is also the Chair of the Australia and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association. This article is informed by Kate's 20 years of counselling in the assisted reproduction field.