Couples about to undergo in-vitro fertilization have already come a long way even before they start treatment. For them, IVF is not the first course of action in seeking treatment. Rather, it is often their last resort: the culmination of months and years of reproductive frustration, failed medical treatments, and the associated financial costs. Emotional and physical costs, which take their toll over time, can be especially devastating.
In-vitro fertilization, therefore, presents several important challenges, since it is the most stressful and aggressive of fertility treatments. The inevitable stress experienced by patients undergoing an IVF cycle is unique, however, many patients rate their stress levels as high as experiencing death in the family, divorce, separation, or other emotional trauma.
Before beginning the initial IVF cycle, the following considerations must be made:
1. Education and Planning Ahead: Good decisions are made if they have a strong foundation on education and information. In-vitro fertilization is a high-stakes and “end-of-the-line” treatment modality as compared to other forms of assistive reproductive therapy techniques. Understanding the process can reduce stress. Talking to couples that have undergone IVF, reading articles and literature on the topic, and attending educational IVF classes can also help. If both partners are involved in the education process, they will both be better prepared for what lies ahead.
2. Anticipate Difficult Decisions: Discussing imminent moral and ethical problems, as well as possible solutions ahead of time, is an integral part of the process of emotional preparedness. With the advice of the IVF specialist, be sure to discuss the number of embryos to be transferred in order to maximize reproductive success and minimize the possibility of multiple births. The fate of extra eggs and embryos is another issue to discuss, as they can be disposed of, frozen, or donated. Your IVF specialist can refer you to counseling services to help you make the right decisions.
3. Talk to Your Partner: It is important for couples undergoing IVF to have strong communication lines, and to make sure that their relationship is on solid ground. Facilitating communication is vital to the success of IVF therapy. Both partners should know what to expect from each other, and what their own responsibilities are. If you want your partner to be more involved in the process, whether by accompanying you to your appointments or making decisions, it is important to discuss involvement ahead of time.
4. Manage Stress: You and your partner will have different ways to deal with stress. Accept those differences and take them in stride, as this will greatly reduce conflict between you and your partner. Relaxation techniques and regular exercise can benefit you both. Look for stress management classes and support groups ahead of time, as these can help greatly. Eliminate unwanted and unnecessary stress, such as changing employment or moving to a new home. Maintain control over the simple daily choices you make while leaning on your support network for help.