In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) can be life-transforming when it works. Unfortunately, it can also be a source of physical and emotional stress for both partners.
While emotional distress is inherent to infertility, IVF protocols have a number of stressful aspects that often increase emotional distress.
These stress factors include:
- the initial stages of IVF may be taxing because of the time involved in scheduling frequent doctor visits
- daily hormone injections
- frequent blood draws
- ultrasounds two-three times a week
- there is a two-week waiting period after each IVF treatment cycle, before the pregnancy test is given
- the possibility of an IVF cycle being canceled, at any stage, if your body is not responding to the IVF medications
All of above can magnify the stress you are already experiencing from not being able to conceive.
The problem with emotional stress like this is not only that it affects your daily life and your relationship with your partner; it may, in turn, interfere with the success of IVF treatment. In other words, stress can also reduce your chances of conceiving.
Research on How Stress Impacts IVF Treatments:
High stress hormones have been found to disrupt reproductive functions, which can, in turn, decrease the success-rate of IVF.
Studies have shown that:
- Negative emotions (i.e. depression, anxiety, and anger) predispose women to negative IVF outcomes including a decrease in the number of eggs (oocytes) retrieved and fertilized
- Negative emotions are also associated with poor semen quality
- Acute stress negatively affects not only your ability to get pregnant, but also your ability to stay pregnant and deliver a healthy baby
- An increase in positive emotions increases a woman’s chances of carrying and delivering a healthy baby
- The more negative a woman’s outlook the lower the chances are of conceiving through IVF
- Marital distress in women increases the number of IVF treatment cycles required for pregnancy
- The second major reason, after financial limitations, that couples drop out of IVF treatment is emotional stress, burnout or marital conflict- premature drop-out reduces your chances of getting pregnant
Research Findings on the Benefits of Counseling for IVF Patients:
Although it is never too late, the most critical time to identify and reduce your stress level is before IVF treatment. Whether you chose a one-time, pre-IVF consultation with a psychologist, or ongoing counseling sessions during your IVF treatment, these are the benefits you can expect from counseling:
- Optimizing your chances of conceiving by reducing anxiety and infertility- related stress and their negative effects on your reproductive hormones
- Learning about the stages of IVF treatment and the common stressors you will encounter in each phase- you can then set the stage for having realistic expectations
- Strengthening your resilience in order to increase the effectiveness of IVF
- Lowering IVF treatment costs by reducing the number of cycles required for you to conceive
- Preventing becoming demoralized and dropping out from treatment due to emotional stress
- Reducing marital distress which will, in turn, reduce treatment costs:
- Counseling improves communication with your partner during the demanding process of IVF
- You will find ways to understand each other better
- You will explore you and your partner’s coping strategies and their usefulness during the IVF treatment
- Resolving any differences you may have with your partner regarding expectations of the IVF treatment and increasing your level of intimacy
- Becoming more sensitive to the gender-specific experiences of infertility by finding out what typical experiences are for men and women
- Receiving continued psychological support, if needed, during IVF treatment (e.g., to handle the up and down emotions associated with discovering that you have had a failed cycle)
- Getting support after IVF treatment to help prepare your life and your relationship for the eventuality of having a child
Research has shown that even women who were initially reluctant to receive counseling, found it to be helpful. They felt reassured, gained knowledge of ;personal resources; and the solidarity in their relationship was strengthened through counseling.
Counseling may improve the success rate of IVF and improve your overall sense of well-being.
If you want to schedule a pre-IVF consultation in order to be better prepared for treatment, please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Irena Milentijevic at (281) 267-1742.
Dr. Irena Milentijevic is a licensed psychologist who specializes in helping couples who are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant. Her number one priority is helping couples feel empowered and find options for fulfilling their dream of becoming parents.