Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) practitioners can be so concerned with the science of fertility treatments that we sometimes lose sight of the emotions – specifically the power of the mind-body connection – in the process.
Consumed by devising best-case outcomes, we tend to focus on advancements in medicines and labs, as well as new discoveries in the science and genetics of reproduction. And yet the mind controls and interacts with the body. Research shows that the stress levels of women with infertility are equivalent to those of women facing other serious illnesses such as cancer. And just as modern medicine now talks about the needs of cancer survivors post treatment, so too must we learn how to better support those who have undergone fertility treatments and help prioritize the emotional healing process.
So how then can fertility specialists help women get to the other side and release the stresses of needing help with conception?
In my experience, I realize that I not only need to treat infertility medically, but I also must provide my patients with advice and counseling to have a healthier, more positive outlook. For example, a 32-year-old patient of mine told me she is afraid to do IVF because if that fails, then she’ll feel as if there’s no hope. But as a young woman under the age of 35, statistically speaking, she actually has an excellent chance of success. And delaying treatment can make failing to conceive a self-fulfilling prophecy, as IVF will be less effective as she ages. By sharing this insight with her and providing her with the facts, I was able to support her through the fear to be able to come to a place of understanding and hope.
Stresses that stem from the expense – both emotional and fiscal – of undergoing treatment for infertility are also real. Because these procedures are rarely covered by insurance (they’re considered “elective”), women who need assistance with fertility may not only feel stressed out by the financial burden incurred but also penalized by answering the call to reproduce, which is a basic human urge and desire. This may lead to dropping out of the process entirely, which can come with its own host of emotional issues if the choice comes from a reactive versus a thoughtful, reasoned place.
My approach to help patients heal from infertility includes:
- Accepting their feelings by listening and feeding back what they are expressing.
- Being nonjudgmental of their choices of treatments or decisions to forgo certain treatments or procedures.
- Doing my best to assist in finding financing to help defray the costs.
- Reminding my patients that to the entire staff at West Coast Women’s Reproductive Center and to me personally, they are not a number or a statistic, and each and every one of them is more than a diagnosis.
- Exploring core beliefs, and helping identify what may be preventing them from moving forward with successful treatments.
- Helping patients stop blaming themselves, their partners or even their doctors or nurses.
Treating infertility is not just a function of medicine and technology. The emotional and even spiritual components need addressing and healing, too, and it’s an equally important function of a fertility specialist.
If you would like more information or to discuss you fertility, please contact the West Coast Women’s Reproductive Center.
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