Darling St Health’s acupuncturist & TCM practitioner Amy Forth shares her top tips on navigating the journey of IVF: I have seen hundreds of IVF patients over the years and everyone wants the same thing – SUCCESS. But how do we get this? Patients must navigate a sometimes tricky terrain of IVF treatment which often involves a steep learning curve. Here are a few things I have learnt from many patients going through IVF and how they achieved success.
Firstly we need to define what ‘success’ really is in this context. In this article ‘success’ is making a baby, staying sane, healthy and enriching the relationships around you whilst undergoing IVF. It can be done, and I will share with you what I have learnt on the how to do it!
- Choose a specialist carefully. (Of course you say!). It’s like choosing someone to work with on a very special project. If you have specific fertility issues choose someone who has extensive experience in this area, somewhere reasonably convenient to get to and someone who shares your values. The first step to success is having a specialist who will keep you informed, understand your unique case and offer you the best possible care. At Darling St Health we work alongside many fertility specialists and also hear firsthand experiences from our patients undergoing IVF, so we can share with you our recommendations. Statistics are also available on IVF clinic websites to give you an idea of each clinic’s success rates, so these also provide a great lead. If you are not happy with the specialist you are seeing I suggest first trying to discuss your concerns with them, and if that doesn’t leave you satisfied don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
- Get SUPPORTED! This is probably the trickiest part of IVF treatment for most to manage. IVF is stressful for everyone. If you are undergoing IVF you are highly likely to experience emotional, physical and financial stress. Stress is often defined as being unable to provide the resources needed to meet requirements of what we are trying to achieve. That is why you need support. Privacy is often a huge concern for those undergoing IVF as some feel they don’t want to disclose personal information about what they are going through, especially if it doesn’t go well or they don’t get the results they expected. However it is vital for both your well being and the treatment process that you are able to find the support you require from those that can provide it.
- Physical Support: In Chinese Medicine we view the physical body, mind and emotions as intrinsically linked and one area cannot change without affecting the others. If you are taking IVF medications it can have a physical and emotional side effect. Physical support can assist with emotions and emotional support can help with physical symptoms. It’s important to physically keep healthy. Have a support team with friends, partner, practitioners, naturopaths and acupuncturist to provide nutritional support, lifestyle support and to keep you balanced and get the most out of an IVF cycle. And don’t neglect the basics- eat well, get plenty of sleep and absolutely cut out all booze and nasties as this will help your baby be the healthiest it can be and help your body to be physically prepared for pregnancy. As mentioned before, what happens physically is reflected emotionally- keep post-natal blues away and fatigue during pregnancy by doing thorough preconception care.
- Get Financial: For most, IVF is a big financial investment. It makes it trickier to have the financial resources to continue other projects that take financial resources such as holidays, work/life balance, house renovation/ buying/upgrading and other family expenses. My top advice is see a financial adviser and plan according to the statistics for your age and medical issues, as well as for worst case scenario for IVF. This way you go in with a clear budget, clear expectations and knowing that the financial side of things is all under control, mapped out and not another thing to cause stress whilst undergoing treatment. Do your homework regarding rebates from private health funds and make a sensible PLAN.
- Support your EMOTIONAL well being: For so many patients relaxation and meditation is key to staying calm and positive. Some of my patients say they also feel the calm they gain from acupuncture and yoga is key to being able to roll with the IVF roller coaster. Decreasing stress can help keep perspective, a clear head and healthy relationships. I know this is so much easier said than done. Make a list of what makes you happy; it might be sex, cooking, dog walks, certain types of music, coffee with friends, movies, comedies, cuddle mornings with your partner, dancing in the lounge room or just afternoon naps on Saturdays. Pop these into your calendar. Stress doesn’t get busted by itself so you need to make the effort to set aside time for relaxation and stress relief. Also access counsellors or psychologists if you feel like the process is weighing you down. Mental health issues increase in severity the longer you have been doing IVF, so take precautions by giving your self the support, care and love that you need. At the clinic we recommend and sell fantastic guided meditation tracks specific for those undergoing IVF called Be Fertile. http://befertile.com.au/
- Keep ALIVE! Support having a life! This is a gentle reminder that you are still alive. When doing IVF it is very easy to feel like you aren’t really living but rather you are waiting for your life to start. It can be tricky with treatment to plan and finance a holiday but at this point in time it is vital to make sure you are having some R&R and time out from the whole process, and regrouping with your partner and your friends. Sometimes women are at a cross-road in career paths and are hesitant to change things too much. Understandably, and there is no one solution. Although it can seem difficult it is important that you keep living. Plan holidays, weekends away, outings with friends and continue working towards your other aspirations. If you can keep other parts of your life as fulfilling and as rich as possible it helps to keep the ‘qi’ (pronounced “chi”) moving. Stuck qi can makes us feel gloomy and well, stuck! I say keep on moving!!
- Support your helpful belief systems: And if you have to at times, “Fake it til you make it”. I am not a fan of phoney positivism and when things don’t go well it is a indicator you need to reassess, regroup and reevaluate what needs to happen in the future to make sure things go better. BUT, look at what you have done and feel proud. IVF is massive undertaking. Use the affirmation as a way to use your thoughts as a positive reality and re-frame your experience as a positive, courageous journey.
I admire every single one of you undergoing IVF – it is brave, tenacious and takes courage. You are doing a great job!
Amy Forth is available for acupuncture and TCM appointments for IVF and fertility support every Friday at the clinic. Please call or email reception to book.