Minnesota couples experiencing infertility have already gone through intense emotions before deciding whether to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF) or another assisted reproductive technology (ART) method. A 2018 National Institutes of Health study reported that fertility issues often lead to depression, comparable to those diagnosed with cancer.
Psychologists specializing in ART say people with fertility issues often feel guilty, ashamed or isolated. Those complicated and all-consuming feelings can also become the biggest challenge to relationships. And when couples decide to pursue IVF, it only adds more stress to an already strained situation.
Steps to successfully navigate IVF
Mental health experts say couples can do much of the heavy lifting before starting the procedure to manage their mental health. Success is not necessarily measured by whether a pregnancy happens but by how well couples prepare themselves for any outcome. Here are some issues to consider when preparing for IVF:
- Finances: Money can be one of the biggest IVF stressors, as one cycle typically costs between $12,000 and $15,000 or more. You should consider other expenses and whether insurance will cover any costs. More and more employers are starting to offer some level of infertility coverage through their group plans. If you have no coverage, do either or both of you want to set a limit on how much you are able and willing to spend?
- Legal concerns: Most people are anxious about or unaware of the many laws and court precedents governing assisted reproduction. Even when creating embryos with your own sperm/egg, there are legal issues surrounding control and use of those embryos should a couple later separate or divorce. The clinic consent and disposition forms are not necessarily sufficient or binding if a future dispute arises about the use of the embryos. It is helpful to speak to an experienced lawyer specializing in this area so you are fully informed about all the possible legal issues before the embryos are created. This may relieve any worries and allow you to focus on the process and your mental health.
- Give each other space: Everyone handles stress differently. Communicate your expectations to your partner and allow them to do the same. Discuss whether a therapist experienced in ART processes and mental health issues may help one or both of you better cope with the situation.
- Decide who is in the loop: IVF is tremendously personal and stressful. You may want to limit the knowledge to close family members and set parameters for when updates are given. Instruct those in the know exactly how you want the information guarded.
- Don’t forget the big picture: You and your partner fell in love and decided to start a family together. That deep bond should never be forgotten. Pledge to enjoy each other’s company and make an effort to plan dates and romantic surprises instead of solely focusing on pregnancy as the only means to happiness.
Addressing these issues and others before your first IVF procedure can help ease the stress you’ve no doubt felt since discovering your fertility challenges. The good news is that you don’t have to go through it alone and uninformed. Being on the same page as your partner is the first step to successfully managing your IVF journey.