Psychology of IVF and Infertility
Infertility causes very significant levels of stress, anxiety and depression in couples. Men and women do not react to infertility in the same way at the same time or with similar level of commitment. In many cases the infertile couple is surrounded by the fertility of their families, friends and co-workers. If most of the couples who surrounded them have achieved one or two pregnancies during this time then the infertile couple is likely to feel more and more dejected and left out.
Infertility treatment is expensive and entails plenty of visits to the clinic which can make it difficult for working couples with strict office hour schedules. Most of the young couples seeking help for infertility are successful working professionals who would have achieved most of their major goals that they set for themselves in their lives. A majorities of the couples believe in a higher power and pray regularly. For many, this is the first time that God has not answered their prayers, leading many to question either their own level of goodness, or the existence of God. A well documented study done on women prior to beginning an IVF or ICSI cycle, clearly shows the co-relation between the baseline stress level in the women and various parameters pertaining to the IVF procedure like the number oocytes retrieved, percentage fertilized, pregnancy rates and live birth rate. The strength of the co-relation between distress and pregnancy was strong – the subjects who expressed the least baseline level of distress were 93% more likely to give birth than the patients who reported the most baseline of distress. The majority of research does prove that stress reduces the effectiveness of ART. The exact mechanism of action however is unknown.
The other important disadvantage of being very stressed and depressed is that the chance of the couple dropping out the IVF program after a single cycle failure is extremely high. This drops out very obviously limits a couple’s ability to get pregnant. One of the most effective ways to reduce on-going stress during IVF treatment is in the form of counseling by the IVF clinic staff. This counseling is best when it is personalized and includes plenty of attention and support. If has been found helpful for couples to include stress management strategies, life style modification and other relaxation techniques into their daily life during IVF treatment. It may help to have a support group comprising of other couples going through similar treatment and have regular group meeting with them. What makes the stress less for different couples may vary. The doctor and couple can plan out different strategies that could ultimately work best in a particular couple. It is important to stay relaxed, calm and realistic. This is the most effective way by which a couple could achieve a pregnancy, go through the ups and downs of IVF cycles with equanimity and not stray from their objective of achieving parenthood through Art.
It was about 4 years back, there was plenty of joy and celebration in family as my pregnancy test had come positive but it turned into sorrow…