Staying Positive While Trying to Get Pregnant: Meditation for IVF
For many of us, there comes a time where suddenly all our friends are starting families, and our social media feeds become a deluge of happy announcements and chubby-faced cherubs. But when we decide to take the plunge ourselves, falling pregnant doesn’t always happen as easily as we might have imagined – and if you are facing fertility issues, you are far from alone.
Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving, with around 16% of couples not falling pregnant after a year of trying. This can feel hugely unsettling – while some of us may have been aware of long-standing fertility issues, for others it’s entirely unexpected. With the majority of people taking extensive measures not to have children for much of their early adulthood, being suddenly faced with a struggle to conceive can be extremely disruptive to our peace of mind.
For those who have tried to conceive naturally for over a year, (or a shorter amount of time, if they are older) fertility treatments up to and including IVF are often recommended – taking couples of a journey of hormone treatments, hospital appointments, blossoming hopes and lingering anxieties. In amongst this upheaval, using a practice such as meditation can provide an anchor – helping us to find a point of emotional stability at a time when we need it most.
IVF and stress
Laura Click, who wrote extensively about her experiences with IVF for Medium, said that this process was “one of the most grueling and gut-wrenching experiences I’ve even been through in my life. And, I’ve ran marathons, started a business and supported my husband through cancer”. While this isn’t necessarily going to be everyone’s experience, it’s likely to ring true for many people who are undergoing IVF – especially if they’ve waited a long time and tried other methods before arriving at this point.
One of the common challenges people face through the IVF process is loneliness and social isolation. There are still widespread misapprehensions and even prejudices regarding fertility treatments (there are few people who haven’t encountered teeth clenching moments with well-meaning but insensitive phrases like “if you just relax, it will happen” or “at least you can adopt”). And while happy events can cheer us up and provide a break from the daily grind, it can sometimes be hard to attend events like baby showers or kid’s birthdays.
Feeling that other people don’t understand what IVF truly entails can put many off socialising, and discourage them from talking about their fertility issues. But no matter how strong the urge is to hermit ourselves away, the inevitable result of this feeling alone – something that can worsen feelings of depression and anxiety. It can be really helpful, if this is the case, to seek support groups and couples who have gone through (or are going through) the same thing.
Juggling our professional responsibilities around frequent appointments and the side-effects of hormone treatment is also very draining, especially as we try to maintain our work performance with so many other things to think about. The notorious “fertility rollercoaster” of hopes and disappointments – complete with seemingly endless waits between consultations, referrals and results – can leave us in a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, and stress is a key factor of this experience.
The comforting news for people understandably stressed out by the IVF process is that, contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that stress doesn’t appear to have any impact on the success of IVF. It’s theorised that this is because, while stress certainly can affect our fertility when we’re trying for a baby, during IVF hormones are administered which override our natural processes in this regard anyway. This vastly reduces the negative influence of stress hormones, so couples needn’t add “being too stressed” to the list of things to worry about.
Stress does, however, have a very big impact on our wellbeing. While we can’t expect life to go smoothly, (and IVF is one of those moments that many find problematic) we shouldn’t have to put up with being extremely stressed and unhappy for extended periods of time in any circumstances. Meditation lets us feel better in the moment while also helping us to build resilience over the long term, and is an ideal stress-reduction method for couples going through IVF.
Meditation for IVF
For some, especially if they have already been through many years of fertility treatments and rounds of IVF, the main focus is to emotionally survive the next step on their journey. However, staying positive while trying to get pregnant needn’t be a huge struggle, where you fight against yourself see the best in every situation – and absolutely shouldn’t involve pushing down your true feelings in order just to get through.
No matter if you are on your first round of IVF with a great prognosis, or facing your fifth and battling to retain confidence, you are going to have worries and this will be an unavoidingly hard time. It’s likely if you have faced fertility issues that you have been recommended and explored a variety of complementary therapies, with one eye how much they may help you conceive, but it may be best in this instance to think of meditation as something that’s just for you.
With all the aforementioned deluge of appointments to get to, you may have found that you are busier than ever – and with a lot of worries that make the idea of focusing or emptying your mind simply impossible. This is where a meditation technique like Beeja can be so helpful. While mindfulness can be very helpful and may work very well for you, you may be struggling with it, simply because it requires quiet, focus and concentration at a time where your mind is busy with apprehensions and to-do lists.
Beeja meditation, on the other hand, simply requires you to repeat a personalised mantra in your mind and flow effortlessly into a deeply relaxed state. So rather than trying to body scan, be aware of your thoughts or focus on a leaf, you simply repeat a mantra, and guide yourself back to it if you become distracted.
The benefits of this for our state of mind and general wellbeing are manifold, and meditation for IVF really can help us stay positive simply by making us actually feel that bit happier and less anxious; we aren’t just telling ourselves to look on the bright side, it’s happening naturally.
By allowing us to comprehensively escape negative self-talk for 20 to 40 minutes every day, with its regrets over the past and fears for the future, meditation allows us to quieten our irrational worries and accept the things that are out of our control. We find ourselves more able to let the little things slide and be kinder to ourselves, seeing things for how they really are, rather than how we fear they may be.
For example, rather than spiralling into a spin of panic if your employer mentions that your performance has suffered during the absences and distractions that come with IVF, you can see that this situation a) isn’t urgent b) is perfectly understandable given the circumstances and c) can be rectified. Forgiving yourself for not being at your best and letting go of the small stuff will make going through IVF that little bit easier to deal with.
Meditation will also help you sleep at a time where an overactive mind can easily keep you up at night. Everything seems that much greyer and more difficult when we are exhausted, creating a cycle of stress that further compromises your ability to sleep once bedtime rolls around. By meditating every day, even those living with chronic insomnia have been able to achieve deep and satisfying sleep and move on from their constant wakefulness.
With a full nights’ sleep behind you, naturally more positive outlook and fewer worries rushing around your mind, you should also find that meditation makes it easier to connect with and support your partner. Fertility treatment isn’t easy for any couple, and with so much strain it’s no surprise if we sometimes snap at those closest to us. Meditation removes the barriers of stress and tiredness that so often get in the way of true communication, making it that bit less difficult to be giving and considerate when you need to be.
If you are currently going through IVF and feel that meditation could be beneficial to you, get in touch with a member of our team.
Words by Holly Ashby