Are you and your partner struggling to conceive? If so, you’re not alone. In Ireland, it’s estimated that one in six couples experience fertility problems.
This is partly to do with the fact that, as a country, we have a particularly high rate of older first-time mothers, according to Dr Bartlomiej Kuczera of the Beacon Care Fertility Clinic, Dublin.
Most of the couples he treats are in their early to mid-30s. He also deals with increasingly younger same sex couples. Single women, typically in their late 30s and early 40s, are seeking fertility treatment too.
The treatment involves surrogacy, of either the sperm or the egg, and these days there are a few different medical options. “Treatments vary depending on circumstance and include ovulation induction, insemination, surgical sperm retrieval, IVF and ICSI,” says Dr Bart.
Success is strongly linked to the age of the female and often involves a number of attempts, all of which can be highly stressful for those involved.
A Stressful Experience
“Stress related to an infertility diagnosis and failed treatment can actually be comparable to a death in the family or divorce,” says Dr Bart. “Whilst undergoing treatment, it’s easy for a person to fall into a vicious cycle of negative thinking, resulting in high levels of stress.”
To help ease the burden, counselling is offered to those undergoing treatment. The right mind-set and management of stress, says Dr Bart, are just as important as the medical treatment itself. He highlights too the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Life & Fertility Coach, Alison Reede, counsels couples undergoing infertility treatment. She says it’s important to accept from the start that it will be a stressful process. “Stress is inevitable with infertility. It’s a natural reaction to a very difficult situation,” she says.
“Stress and anxiety levels can rocket alongside feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, failure, isolation and immense sadness. It really depends on why you’re experiencing fertility issues.”
Financial pressure due to the cost of the treatment, can also increase stress and naturally lead to a strain in relationships.
“But the hardest part for most people is the uncertainty and lack of control, of not knowing when, or even if, they will become a parent,” says Alison.
How to Combat the Stress
She recommends looking after yourself on a basic level during the treatment. For example, make sure that you get enough sleep, eat a nutritious diet, maintain a work-life balance, exercise moderately and limit the amount of time spent in front of a computer screen.
What’s more, you should also do things that make you happy to help reduce stress. “Think about what lifts your spirits and takes you away from your fertility challenges,” says Alison. “It could be watching a good movie or walking the dog on the beach.”
Importance of Mental Health
Maintaining good mental health is also important as many underestimate the psychological impact of fertility issues.
“Practice calming your mind and unwinding through yoga, guided meditation or mindfulness,” she suggests. “It’s important too to have support from others. Some people will benefit from therapy.”
“Think about your own emotional health and how you react to challenges,” she adds. “If you think too much about the challenge of conceiving, it’s important to find a way to break the pattern and reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and panicked.
An integrative approach, working on both the mind and the body is critical, she says. That way, you give yourself the best chance of conceiving and you’re as prepared as you can be for all outcomes.
For those who may be considering fertility treatment, Irish Life Health offers a 10 per cent discount on fertility treatment at Beacon Care on a number on plans.