How to stay calm through IVF

Are you stressed about your imminent IVF cycle and wondering if all that anxiety will affect the outcome? Stress is not good for conceiving and you’re probably already looking for tips on how to stay calm through IVF.

A Swedish study found that among twenty-two women who went through IVF, the physiological stress levels among those who did not become pregnant were slightly higher than those who did achieve pregnancy (1).

Research has also linked physiological stress with reduced reproductive outcomes from reduced oocyte quality and cell death (2). Thus, knowing how to manage stress effectively during IVF could be more important than you think.

How to stay calm through IVF

Here are a few things you can do to stay calm during your IVF journey and optimize the possibility of a positive outcome:

1.     Ask questions

Before starting IVF, make sure to research the procedure and prepare yourself mentally. You should learn all you can about the IVF process before going through with it. Besides researching online, find communities, healthcare workers, and consult with multiple doctors, if required.

There are some standard questions to ask before IVF and some people find talking to others to be a good release for their stress.

How to Relax During IVF?

1.     Ask questions

Before starting IVF, make sure to research the procedure and prepare yourself mentally. You should learn all you can about the IVF process before going through with it. Besides researching online, find communities, healthcare workers, and consult with multiple doctors, if required.

There are some standard questions to ask before IVF and some people find talking to others to be a good release for their stress.

2.     Find a good support system

While it is recommended to ask your friends and family for emotional support during any medical procedure, not everyone will have the care they need by their side during IVF.

It might be even more difficult for single women opting for IVF.

Being alone for an important and emotional treatment like an IVF can cause a person to feel disheartened and anxious, and if you are feeling alone during your fertility treatment, below are the things you can do:

  • Talk to a therapist about your worries regarding the process and come to terms with all possible outcomes.
  • Connect with family and friends and create a support system to help you take care of your responsibilities while undergoing treatment.
  • Talk to the doctors and nurses about your queries and concerns regarding IVF.

3.     Get enough rest

Rest is vital for a healthy body and mind. You cannot expect to have a calm demeanor approaching your procedure if you are tired and have a hundred worst-case scenarios running through your mind. Getting enough rest will allow you to think clearly, voice your feelings and concerns better, and make you feel at ease.

4.     Exercise and yoga

Mild exercise and movement are good for both the body and mind, especially while undergoing hormonal treatment. Getting out of the house and going for a walk in the park will also help rejuvenate your body and mind.

Research has shown that mild exercise or walks after the success of IVF are also helpful in minimizing fetal and maternal pregnancy risks like hypertension and diabetes.

Yoga is not just about uncomfortable stretches; it is a programmed combination of rhythmic breathing and stretching, which helps improve blood flow, massage your organs internally, and stretch your muscles, helping both your mind and body relax.

IVF stress busters

5.     Healthy diet

IVF diet is nothing but healthy food that can provide optimum nutrition for the egg and sperm, and can positively affect the success of IVF.

The right food is also responsible for having a positive impact on your mental health. Foods rich in healthy fat like avocados, fish oil, and nuts can also play a vital role in balancing your reproductive hormones. Similarly, protein and minerals have anti-inflammatory and body-protective functions. Water and fiber help the body eliminate toxins.

Certain food items are also associated with negative effects on fertility, mental health, and general health. These include alcohol (4), caffeine, soy, and foods with high mercury content.

6.     Pamper yourself a little

IVF involves too many appointments, calls, and tests. It is vital that you make it to the appointments without pushing yourself too hard. Many women who underwent IVF advise to clear one’s calendar of non-essential events and make room for appointments and relaxation.

Whether it is buying yourself some flowers or going for a hair appointment, make sure to have some time for yourself during the day. This time will also allow you to see and accept the gradual changes in your body rather than just confronting it after the process and thinking that IVF ruined your body.

7.     Acupuncture

Research has shown that acupuncture during IVF brought about relaxing effects that further aided in the success of the procedure (5).

After discussing with your doctor, you can consider making appointments twice a week during the follicle stimulation phase, before and after embryo transfer, and weekly till your pregnancy test.

8.     Anxiety medications

If you are taking regular anxiety medications, be sure to discuss with your doctor about whether or not they might affect your IVF treatments and pregnancy. The US CDC has found a small increased risk for certain congenital disabilities with the use of some medications used to manage mental health conditions (6).

If not absolutely necessary, you may cut down on the medications and try alternative therapy, like meditation, to cope with anxiety while undergoing IVF.

9.     Meditation and deep breathing

Try practicing regular meditation like mindfulness or even simple breathing exercises to stay calm during IVF. Some methods of relaxation are:

  • The benefits of deep breathing exercises have been known to the Indians for thousands of years. Now, Harvard Medical School (7) also found that deep breathing “can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.” For long-term benefit, make this a daily routine.
  • You can lie down, close your eyes, and clench and relax your muscles, starting from the face to your toes.
  • Practice mindfulness, where you focus and tune into your senses and notice your thoughts and emotions.

When researchers studied the effects of mindfulness-based intervention on Chinese women undergoing their first IVF-ET cycles (8), they found that mindfulness helped improve infertility-related quality of life for the participants. It also allowed them to have greater awareness, increased acceptance and helped them regain a sense of control over life. 

“When I think about my infertility and IVF treatment, I am so sad and helpless. However, by focusing my attention on breathing in and out, I can return to calmness and relaxation. Breathing is just like my soul harbor. I am less irritable and impatient than before,” said a one of the participants.

“I always worry about my follicular growth and endometrial pattern. Sometimes, I think of dead fetuses, making me panic. However, during sitting meditation, I am in calmness and stillness because I learn that thoughts will come and go, just as clouds do in the sky.”

She further added, “I divide unpleasant experiences into thoughts, emotions, and body sensations. Then I can respond to it in a creative way and not perceive it as overwhelming. Therefore, I have a greater tolerance for my IVF.”

If you have any tips or suggestions on how to stay calm during IVF, please share with the rest of us below:

References:

  1. CSEMICZKY, G., LANDGREN, B.-M. and COLLINS, A. (2000), The influence of stress and state anxiety on the outcome of IVF-treatment: Psychological and endocrinological assessment of Swedish women entering IVF-treatment. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 79: 113-118. https://doi.org/10.1034/j.1600-0412.2000.079002113.x
  2. Prasad, S., Tiwari, M., Pandey, A. N., Shrivastav, T. G., & Chaube, S. K. (2016). Impact of stress on oocyte quality and reproductive outcome. Journal of biomedical science, 23, 36. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12929-016-0253-4
  3. Charkamyani, F., Hosseinkhani, A., Neisani Samani, L., & Khedmat, L. (2019). Reducing the Adverse Maternal and Fetal Outcomes in IVF Women by Exercise Interventions During Pregnancy. Research quarterly for exercise and sport90(4), 589–599. https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2019.1639601
  4. Rossi, B. V., Berry, K. F., Hornstein, M. D., Cramer, D. W., Ehrlich, S., & Missmer, S. A. (2011). Effect of alcohol consumption on in vitro fertilization. Obstetrics and gynecology117(1), 136–142. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0b013e31820090e1
  5. Johnson, D., 2006. Acupuncture Prior to and at Embryo Transfer in An Assisted Conception Unit – a Case Series. Acupuncture in Medicine, 24(1), pp.23-28. https://doi.org/10.1136/aim.24.1.23
  6. Pregnant Women Report Taking Medicines for Anxiety and Other Mental Health Conditions https://www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/meds/treatingfortwo/features/pregnant-women-taking-anxiety-meds.html  
  7. Harvard Health Publishing; Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/relaxation-techniques-breath-control-helps-quell-errant-stress-response
  8. Masoumeh Sadat Hosseini, Parvaneh Mousavi, Khadijeh Hekmat, Mohammad Hossein Haghighyzadeh, Reza Johari Fard, Razieh Mohammad Jafari, Effects of a short-term mindfulness-based stress reduction program on the quality of life of women with infertility: A randomized controlled clinical trial, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, https://doi.org/10.1002/nop2.232

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