For many of you, your inability to conceive through regular intercourse has probably come as a shock to you. It’s likely that for a large chunk of your life you have been using contraception to try not to get pregnant, so the idea that you can’t, now that you want to, may feel even more frustrating.

For some of you, your journey will have been different. You may have been diagnosed with fertility issues earlier in your life, you may have realised that natural conception would not be an option, due to being in a same sex relationship, or you may have undergone cancer treatment or surgery.

Regardless of your starting point, protecting your mental health during your fertility journey is very important. So, how can you do this?

Make sure that you are communicating your feelings and needs.

Communication is key for protecting our mental health. There are ways that we can make sure that our needs are met, by keeping lines of communication open throughout our fertility journey. Open communication can help to prevent misunderstandings and misinterpretation and can reduce potential hurt and upset.

Communicate with your partner  

You are in this together. Emotions may be running high, but rather than treading on eggshells around each other, for fear of causing upset, talk about your feelings, so misunderstandings don’t arise. If you are aware of each other’s thoughts and feelings, you can support each other and reduce tension.  

Making time to do things together that you enjoy, can be a great distraction and give your mood and energy levels a boost.

Talk to your fertility consultant

As well as listening to what they have to say, ask any questions that will help you to better understand your diagnosis and treatment plan. Being well-informed can reduce stress and help you to feel more in control of things that you can influence.

Talk to a counsellor

Having an appointment with a trained counsellor, who is experienced in working with individuals and couples going through infertility, can be very helpful. It’s useful to attend as a couple, but you may also wish to have separate appointments too.

You may be experiencing a range of emotions, including sadness, hope, despair, shock, frustration, envy, blame, anger, guilt and even loss and grief (for the family life you thought you were going to have, that doesn’t seem possible).

It can be useful to talk through your feelings with someone who is not directly involved, helping you to accept your feelings, work through them and formulate ways to help you to move forwards positively, during treatment and whatever the outcome.  

Be prepared for insensitivity from others

You may be met with insensitivity from strangers, family members and even close friends. Comments can range from casual enquiries about when you are going to have children, to telling you the clock is ticking and you’d better get on with it. Others may laugh about how easy it was for them to fall pregnant, or people may assume that you don’t want children.

You can save yourself more emotional upset, if you have pre-prepared responses that will reduce further questioning or thoughtless responses.

Look after your physical health and general well-being

Having a well-balanced, healthy diet and being physically fit, is beneficial for conception and for mental health. Wholefoods, fruit and vegetables and other foods recommended for increasing fertility can also be beneficial for preserving your energy levels and lifting your mood.  

Try complementary therapies, that can work safely alongside your treatment

Certain yoga poses and acupuncture are believed to help improve fertility, by increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and they can also aid relaxation and reduce stress.

Make opportunities to have fun

Meeting friends, who understand and can distract you from thinking about infertility, can quickly boost your mood and reduce stress. Regular, gentle exercise is good for mental health and fertility. Getting involved in hobbies or interests that help you to relax and unwind is also helpful.

Ask for help when you need it

Asking for help, whether it is emotional, physical or practical support, can help to reduce pressure and stress. If you are struggling with your mental health, then speak to your GP. There are also a range of charities and organisations listed below, that you can talk to in confidence, if you need support. You are not alone.

Here at the IVF Network, we provide a range of information, through our website, blog posts and dedicated channel of experts, to help you to make informed choices on your personal fertility journey.

Mental health charities include:

Mind

https://www.mind.org.uk

Samaritans

https://www.samaritans.org

Fertility support groups include:

Fertility Network UK

https://fertilitynetworkuk.org

Fertility Friends

https://www.fertilityfriends.co.uk