Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to increase your stress levels when doing IVF

Being infertile is stressful - and going through an IVF cycle can be even more stressful, because so much is riding on the outcome of the treatment. While the actual medical treatment in an IVF cycle ( shots, scans , pickup and transfer) is not physically taxing, the emotional demands ( because of the hopes, dreams, desires, fears which are such an integral part of all infertility treatment ) can exact a huge toll.

The one factor which causes the most stress is having unrealistic expectations . Every patient feels in their heart of hearts that " this is the cycle when it's going to work !" - and I do not think any one would ever start an IVF cycle if they did not feel it was going to work. Unfortunately, the only thing which is in your hands is the process. You can make sure you have a competent and caring doctor; and your doctor can make sure he provides you with high quality medical care. Sadly, no matter how good your prognosis; how good your doctor; and how perfect your IVF cycle, the outcome is always uncertain.

While we are good at growing eggs; making embryos; and then transferring them into the uterus, whether the embryo will become a baby or not is a biological process no one can influence. Implantation still requires a bit of luck ( for lack of a better word !)

This is why, when you can never be sure of the outcome , you should still be able to ensure you have peace of mind you did your best. This is why you need to reframe how you judge the "success" of the IVF cycle. For most people, the answer is easy - did I get pregnant or not ? However, from a medical point of view, this is too simplistic. Was the process performed properly or not is a better yardstick for judging the outcome.

Unfortunately, very few patients have the maturity to prepare for failure when they start an IVF cycle. This is why IVF treatment can be such an emotional roller coaster ride !

" It's got to work ! It's going to work ! I've said my prayers ! Everyone is rooting for me ! I have my lucky charm on ! My period is 1 day late ! I'm feeling some heaviness in my breasts..."

All these mind games just add to your stress levels when the cycle fails - and what's worse, you ( or your loved ones) will then start blaming this stress for the failure. " The cycle failed because you are too tense. If you just relax, I'm sure you'll get pregnant. I know this friend who..."

We find that along with encouraging patients to learn meditation and yoga, offering a guaranteed pregnancy option is very effective in helping them to manage their stress levels. Not only does it signal the fact that we are very confident that we will be able to give them a baby ( after all, I am putting my money where my mouth is !); it also helps them to keep their expectations realistic . When they select this option, they are helping themselves to prepare for possible failure ; and equally importantly, they are making a commitment that they will put in the time and energy needed to help them to reach their final goal.Each failed cycle helps us to tweak our protocol, so we can fine tune it based on your response, until we can finally give you a baby !
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