Psychological and emotional preparation for IVF brings numerous benefits including an improved likelihood of success -The Fertile Body Method
- Why we need mind-body approaches for fertility
- What is the Fertile Body Method (FBM)?
- How the FBM helps woman prepare for and cope with IVF?
- Some of the benefits of psychological and emotional preparation for IVF
Since the wonderful scientific advances that have happened in the field of reproductive endocrinology, fertility issues have become more widely recognised and more readily addressed.
The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) defines infertility as ‘failure to conceive after frequent unprotected sexual intercourse for one to two years.’ According to the Fertility Society of Australia 1 in every 6 couples in Australia experiences fertility problems.
In the UK, fertility problems currently affect about 3.5 million people. The number of women treated in the UK has increased steadily since the early 1990s; over 2½ times between 1992 and 2007 (http://www.hfea.gov.uk/2585.html).
Infertility is often thought of as a female concern, but in fact approximately equal numbers of patients sought treatment for male (29.7%) or female (28.5% in total) factors. A further one in ten patients received treatment because of both male and female factors. Nearly a quarter of patients treated had unexplained infertility (HFEA, 2005).
IVF is one of many treatment options available and is normally recommended when a woman has blocked fallopian tubes, a male factor is present, other fertility treatments have failed or if the diagnosis has been unexplained infertility. In the UK, over 50,000 In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) cycles are performed each year.[i]
The IVF process involves hormonally controlling the ovulatory process, removing ova (eggs) from the woman’s ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them outside of the body, in a fluid medium. The fertilised egg (zygote) is then transferred to the womb so that implantation can occur. Pregnancy will result if the implantation is successful.
We know that fertility problems can be really challenging on a number of fronts. And going through fertility treatments like IVF can compound the struggle and stress of infertility. IVF is a very time consuming, intense and demanding procedure. People put a lot of financial and emotional investment into it, and some believe that their happiness depends upon the successful outcome. Irrespective of the outcome, going through a cycle of IVF is likely to have a negative effect physically, emotionally and psychologically, the impact of which is likely to be magnified by treatment failure.
In this article we will introduce the Fertile Body Method (FBM), a mind-body approach for fertility and look at how this approach prepares women for IVF and how that preparation brings numerous benefits including an improved likelihood of success.
2. Why we need mind-body approaches for fertility
Fertility problems are caused by a combination of many factors. Often overlooked are the psychological and emotional factors that influence the hormonal system and the ability to have children.
We know that the mind and body are interactive and constantly influence and affect each other. After prolonged periods of unhealthy emotions like anxiety, the body’s natural hormonal balance becomes disturbed. Excessive stress can lead to complete suppression of the menstrual cycle, and in less severe cases will lead to anovulation or irregular menstrual cycles. Research has yet to fully explore the impact of stress on the IVF process however we do know that in order to create positive changes to health and fertility, thoughts and emotional responses need to be healthy too.
Fertility problems increase the pressure and strain on all areas of health and well-being. People who have problems conceiving may experience a reduced sense of mental, emotional and physical well being which may leave them feeling frustrated, angry, jealous, guilty, hopeless or anxious. Fertility problems can affect their work, friendships, family and relationships. People’s self esteem and worth are often affected by ongoing fertility problems and increased levels of stress and depression often results (Domar, 1992). Much of the above is exacerbated by IVF treatment, especially repeated IVF cycles.
Fertility problems are amongst the most challenging life difficulties that we can go through. For many women, just the thought of starting IVF treatment can place them under huge mental, emotional and physical strain. Their path to fertility has been far from straightforward, with many disappointments along the way. And now they face a major medical procedure at a time when they may well feel extremely vulnerable.
As a result, women who are due to undergo IVF often have high levels of stress and anxiety, or present with depression. In a study by Dr. Alice Domar, women who had been diagnosed with infertility were compared with a group of women who had a terminal illness. Dr. Domar found that the depression levels were the same in both groups of women (Domar, 1992). Another study by Chen et al (2004) showed that of 112 infertile women entering an artificial reproductive therapy (ART) clinic, 30% had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder. Most common was generalised anxiety disorder (30%), followed by major depression (17%) and a form of low-grade chronic depression called dysthymic disorder (9.8%).
And it’s not just women who are negatively impacted by the prospect of IVF. Men too suffer mentally and emotionally, often as a result of seeing their loved one in a high state of anxiety (Chiaffarino, 2011).
These studies illustrate the magnitude and the impact that fertility problems have on how women and men feel. And if couples go into IVF without addressing their emotional health this vicious cycle is likely to continue.
Medical interventions can certainly help to address and take care of the biological aspects of fertility, but without the necessary psychological and emotional support these treatments are somewhat compromised. An integrated approach to IVF, combining physical, mental and emotional interventions, is more likely to produce positive results and help make the procedure and outcomes much easier for people to deal with. The benefits are immediate and long term, helping people to undergo IVF feeling calm, empowered and well resourced.
[i] IVF figures include all IVF, ICSI, PGD, PGS, natural cycles, treatments using donated eggs and those where fresh and frozen embryos were transferred in the same cycle. Data extracted from the HFEA data warehouse containing Register data at 24 November 2010 unless otherwise stated Publication date 08 December 2010 Version 1.0