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Trying IVF? You Need a Therapist. Here’s Why

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a series of treatments a woman undergoes where mature eggs are retrieved from her ovaries, fertilized by sperm in a lab, then the fertilized egg (embryo) is transferred to her uterus. One full cycle of IVF takes about three weeks and can cost upwards of $12-14k.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the symptoms that might pop up during IVF and how therapy can help: 

Symptoms you might experience with IVF 

Fertility stress 

If you’re considering IVF or currently undergoing it, then you know the journey toward IVF can be stressful. Couples who pursue IVF usually have some form of fertility complication whether it’s blocked fallopian tubes, PCOS, irregular cycles, low sperm count, other male infertility challenges, etc. Couples have usually been trying to conceive naturally for at least 12 months if not much longer to no avail. This can be draining and frustrating on its own. And while IVF is a hopeful option for many women and couples, it is still a complicated process of researching doctors, understanding the success rates (studies rate a success rate of 20-55% depending on age), and navigating symptoms and emotions. 

Relationship tension 

Couples who pursue IVF are more likely to experience relationship stress. However, this is not the case for all couples and can be avoided with appropriate coping methods in place (like therapy!) 

Keep in mind it’s normal and natural for couples to experience more tension given it can be a challenging time in the relationship, but it doesn’t have to mean anything negative about the relationship, and oftentimes, couples come out the other side stronger than ever before. 

Pursuing IVF as a team can make all the difference, especially as it’s the woman who is undergoing the medical treatment. For partners reading this, it can make all the difference to have a supportive partner by her side. 

Undergoing IVF alone?

For those trying to conceive (TTC) without a partner, having a therapist may be even more crucial. A good therapist can help fill any emotional support gaps that may arise during pre-conception planning, an IVF cycle, pregnancy, and even postpartum and beyond!

Hormonal changes and physical symptoms 

The IVF process typically requires an injection of hormones to retrieve multiple mature eggs, which can result in uncomfortable physical symptoms, including headaches, hot flashes, blurred vision, nausea, and bloating. It can also lead to swelling or bruising at the injection site, irritability, breast tenderness, and in the case of conception can result in multiple births or ectopic pregnancies. 

The hormone injection can lead to emotional symptoms similar to PMS symptoms (irritability, heightened emotions, and tenderness) and sometimes they’re more intense than what a woman regularly experiences in her cycle. 

Dealing with uncertainty

And last, there’s the psychological stress of undergoing medical procedures and the uncertainty of whether the treatments will be successful and result in a healthy conception. As we mentioned above, studies show a range of success rates anywhere from 20-55% depending on the woman’s age.

How therapy can help during IVF 

Now that we’ve covered some of the not-so-great elements of IVF, we can dive into ways to cope and explore the more positive side of IVF: the journey toward conceiving! 

Here’s a few key ways that therapy can help on this journey:

Exploring thoughts and emotions with an objective third-party 

As the person undergoing IVF (or the partner) it can be incredibly helpful to explore your feelings in a safe place away from your romantic partner. While it’s wonderful to lean on your partner, family, and friends for support, it’s also helpful to have an objective third-party to take your emotions, especially if the people in your life aren’t able to fully support you in this season or just simply aren't equipped. 

There’s no shame in seeking outside support; in fact, it can be a huge superpower to not only feel your best, but to also show up as your best self for your partner.

A safe space for your emotions 

IVF is a season of uncertainty. Emotions can be up and down, and it can be hard to remain positive at times. Having a trained therapist on your support team can make all the difference. Your therapist will help you walk through all the emotions that come up and help you get safely to the other side feeling more empowered and trusting in the process. 

Healing relationship tension and boosting empathy and communication

Remember that relationship tension we mentioned? Therapy, whether it’s solo or coupled, can help you cope with any unwanted tension, find resolution faster, and move forward stronger together.

Learning coping skills for physical changes and stress 

The physical element of IVF can make it harder to cope with emotions. If you’re not feeling physically your best, it’s that much easier to feel emotionally worn out. Therapy gives you an outlet to process everything you’re feeling. And while your therapist can’t do anything to make physical discomfort go away, they can help you manage the stress of it better.

How to find a therapist 

People who pursue therapy tend to have outstanding results. As we wrote in our article comparing therapy modalities, it doesn’t matter as much what modality you choose (cognitive-behavioral, etc), however it does matter that you feel a safe connection with your therapist. Read our tips for finding the right therapist for you

Resources before, during, and after IVF 

  • Resolve.org can help you find a support group, learn about your fertility options, and find experts to talk to 
  • Here’s are our favorite books for any readers who want support on the IVF journey 
  • Here’s an in-depth guide on the IVF process 

Find a therapist on Psychology Today, Therapy Den, Good Therapy, or Open Path Collective

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Touchy Feely does not provide any form of medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this company or brand is not intended as a replacement for medical or mental health advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your physical or mental health.

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