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Putting Life On Hold During Fertility Treatment

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April 4, 2013

Oftentimes when we are in the trenches of fertility treatment, we tend to put our lives on hold to focus solely on the goal that seems most important to us at the time. We may lose touch with friends or family, lose sight of our hobbies or interests, and forget to take the time to treat ourselves.

Andrea Braverman, Ph.D., a health psychologist specializing in infertility counseling in Philadelphia, says it is common for fertility patients to put their lives on hold, and they do it in so many ways. She says: “On a practical level, you can’t plan because you don’t know if your treatment cycle will be successful or not. Should you take a new job? What if you need the insurance coverage? On the day to day, you might think: ‘Am I going to have to run to the office for blood work and ultrasound or insemination?’” It becomes difficult for fertility patients to plan for life- vacations, get-togethers, or even daily events and work functions. So much of our lives are consumed by fertility treatment and it becomes more difficult to manage when we keep our struggle private.

During the process of building a family, it is vital for couples to take time for themselves and for each other. Being mindful of the stress that comes along with fertility treatment, couples should find ways to reduce stress and pursue enjoyable activities to maintain emotional and physical stability throughout their cycles. “I tell fertility patients: ‘We have to keep you in shape because we throw you into the ring round after round after round’,” says Braverman. Because couples are working through their infertility as a couple, open communication and taking the time to reconnect is key.

Dr. Braverman advises couples to reconnect by checking in with one another. Whether it is a 20-minute talk once per week or a 10-minute talk each day, couples should listen to each other’s thoughts, discuss fertility treatment milestones, and make sure they are on the same page about future goals. Be mindful of the fact that we process information differently and use different mechanisms to cope with infertility. It is important not to make assumptions about how the other person is feeling just because they may not show outward signs of emotion. Remember that conversations should happen often and be ongoing. They do not always have to be face-to-face and it is sometimes productive to send an email or text message to get the conversation started when thoughts are fresh on your mind.

Most essential to taking your life off hold is to focus on your basic needs: eating, sleeping, and exercising. “Never forget the basics of self-care,” Braverman says. Fertility patients should take control of their diet and exercise to promote overall health and foster a sense of control in an often uncontrollable situation. Couples can use their exercise time as a chance to reconnect and check in. Consuming a balanced diet and getting enough sleep are also helpful for feeling good and taking care of your body.

Overall, Dr. Braverman encourages fertility patients to focus on coping mechanisms and stress relieving techniques to promote a balance between fertility treatment and everyday life.

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