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Fertility and the Holidays: How to Avoid Unnecessary Stressors as a Team

December 18, 2012

The holidays can add undue stress to fertility treatment cycles. You may be feeling anxious about family gatherings and dodging questions about your intentions of becoming parents. Family and friends mean well, but their comments can come with bad timing.

Especially during the holidays, it is important to think of yourselves. Many men and women fear they will appear selfish if they decline invitations to holiday gatherings, but during fertility treatment is the best time to conserve your energy, sanity, and maintain your health.

It is easy to become stressed over every detail of your cycle: taking your fertility drugs at the proper time and dosage, worrying about your follicle growth and estradiol levels, planning for egg retrieval, and trying to appease family by attending holiday events when you’d really rather rest in the peace and quiet of your own home.

Daniel Rychlik, M.D., F.A.C.O.G. of Partners For Fertility and IVF, urges patients to put themselves first and alleviate the sources of unnecessary stress. Worrying that you’ve forgotten to take your fertility drugs on time and forcing yourself to visit with family are just a few of the things fertility patients should be less concerned with. “We’re all human and IVF is stressful enough. We don’t want patients to stress because that impacts the entire cycle. Less stress during IVF promotes better outcomes," Rychlik says.

As long as patients are taking their fertility drug doses around the same time (within a few hours of the previous day’s dose), no major harm will be done to the cycle. Dr. Rychlik reminds fertility patients that to some degree their cycle protocol accounts for human error. “There is some leeway with IVF. We keep going uphill and can readjust the next day”. To alleviate this concern, take your fertility drugs at night before bed and ask your partner to remind you also. Having a routine and night time associations will help to trigger your memory. If you do forget a dose of medication, contact your fertility clinic so they can adjust your treatment plan for the next day.

Another stressor in a fertility treatment cycle is the anticipation of negative side effects. Patients expect to feel sick which induces anxiety. Truthfully, every case is different. Some women may experience side effects while others will not. Dr. Rychlik says a patient should go into the cycle with a positive outlook. Patients who have been told the potential side effects feel similar to pregnancy have an easier time during their cycle. Those who are led to believe they will experience negative side effects will report feeling much worse. “There is a degree of uncertainty. [Patients] hear the worst things when really [they] need someone in [their] corner to say it’s not that bad”. Your partner might consider encouraging you and taking your mind off any side effects you might experience.

Perhaps the greatest anxiety comes from surviving the holidays themselves. Friends and family get together. There are holiday parties, office luncheons, and malls crowded with mothers and small children. Between the ill-timed comments of friends, family, or strangers, and the exhaustion of fertility treatment, you might just want to stay home- and that is perfectly acceptable. Couples should anticipate a higher level of stress during the holidays and factor in the strain of fertility treatment. They should not be afraid to be selfish during treatment cycles and should share the task of turning down holiday event invitations. Dr. Rychlik encourages men to take an active role as the “coach” during fertility treatment cycles allowing their wives or partners to “train for the gold". “As a coach, you wouldn’t want your athlete to focus on anything other than themselves and winning.” It is OK to stay home and rest. Recognizing when your partner needs a break is important. “You are creating life…nothing is more important than that,” he says.

Remember, the holidays are a time for love and celebration. Acting together to alleviate stress during fertility treatment will make you a stronger team- a real cause for celebration!


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