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Your IVF Mindset – the missing piece in your puzzle

Karenna Wood
Award- wining International Fertility Coach, Your Fertility Hub

Category:
Emotions and Support

Managing your IVF mindset
From this video you will find out:
  • What questions do you need to ask yourself?
  • How are you feeling about IVF?
  • How do you want to be feeling about IVF?
  • How not to focus only on the positive or negative result?
  • How to start being more assertive?
  • What tools can I use for emotional support?

 

 

How to deal with the roller-coaster of emotions in your IVF treatment?

In this webinar, Karenna Wood, an international fertility coach, founder of Your Fertility Hub and a passionate advocate for emotional support and information for women trying to get pregnant was talking about how to get through the emotional roller-coaster throughout your IVF journey.

Mindset and our emotional side of things is often the last thing that we come to look at. It is often the last piece people start looking at, which is their emotions and thoughts because going through infertility and fertility treatment can be incredibly stressful. The levels of depression and anxiety among women going through infertility are very high and sadly undiagnosed. It is an area that should be looked at more, and that is what Karenna Wood has been doing for the last 10 years. Her role has been of emotional support.

When you are starting your journey, very often you look at medical diagnosis, and there can be numerous factors that can be the cause of not being able to conceive. There can be a male factor, there can be a female factor but also an unexplained factor. The next step goes to looking at a healthy lifestyle, diet is a very particular area of focus, supplements can be another area, and generally looking around lifestyle. However, very often this last piece in the puzzle is how you feel.

Dealing with IVF – steps to take

The first step is to think about asking yourself: how are you feeling about IVF? It doesn’t matter whether you’re preparing to go into IVF or you are in your mid-cycle, or you just come out of a cycle, wherever you are in the IVF process checking in with how you’re feeling is important. This will change as you go through different days and different processes. One of the best ways is through journaling. It’s about getting your thoughts out of your head because often they can be going round and round in a huge loop, and it’s important to break that cycle of thinking by getting it out. It can help you process some of those emotions in a much more productive way and help you move towards any sort of decision-making or clarity.

You can’t control infertility and that’s hard especially in the modern day to not being able to control something is very difficult. What you can do though, is control your response to it. You can control your thinking, and how you think about IVF. Trying to reduce your stress in trying to control those things. If you are thinking something that is unhealthy, then challenge that because you know you were the only one that can challenge these negative thoughts, you are the only one who can stop some of these negative thoughts, and you can’t change what’s going on, but you can change how you’re responding to it and how you’re thinking about it. Take a moment to just tune into what you intuitively are feeling, and that’s often the first voice that you say can be how you’re feeling.

The next question is: how do you want to be feeling about IVF? That’s a key question, once you are aware of how you are feeling and write those things down as well. Think about how you can work towards getting there. If you’re not feeling well and thinking some perhaps negative and unhealthy thoughts, try to change your attitude and say: ‘I’m not going to think like this, I’m going to choose to think that I’m moving forward in a more healthy way around IVF and the process.’

IVF is this two-horse race, you’re either positive or negative at the end, and that’s the result. There’s a lot of pressure, and it’s important to take away some of that pressure because we all want that positive result, but what we need to do is to do this realistically and manage the thoughts and emotions around the positive or negative outcome. Karenna said:

One thing I always say is to have a positive plan and a negative plan, especially if you’re going through 2-wait-week and you’re approaching your beta test, it’s good to feel like you have a plan, particularly a negative test result. For example, if you receive a negative result, who are you going to call, what are you going to do that day, is there something you’d like to eat that day, is there something you’d like to watch, or is there somewhere you’d like to go like a special place. You need to have those set boundaries. Even just knowing that you have that plan in case it’s a negative result is important.

Your best approach to go through this is to do it optimistically because underneath all those thoughts is hope within you that this is going to work. That little part of you, that hope is so important, and it is often shut out because it’s painful. However, you need to allow yourself to go into that on your good days when you can. Visualize this working, visualize becoming a parent, visualize the pregnancy, it’s okay to be optimistic about this cycle because, unfortunately, if it is negative, the fall is very hard, the sadness, the grief, the loss of it is so hard anyway that having gone through it in an optimistic way you’ll have gone through. A lot of the studies show how important optimism is to your mindset and your decision-making. When we’re feeling more optimistic a lot of things generally flow better in our life w

Another thing is to be assertive. Tune in to your every decision, and every appointment, it is so important that you are managing this in the best way that you can, you are asking the questions, and you are sure that you are understanding everything. Therefore, try to be more assertive with the people around you in terms of saying, I can’t do this right now, I don’t need this right now, I can’t attend this baby shower or family gathering, it’s just not healthy for me and so on. It’s the same with your clinic because you must understand what’s going on so that you feel that you’re getting everything you need, and it is also important in this doctor-patient relationship to not be passive in those appointments and make sure to understand them and that maybe means taking somebody else with you to those appointments, so you can talk about it afterwards.

Speaking about IVF, we cannot forget that it is a numbers game. You may have heard things along your journey like you have an X per cent chance of conceiving naturally, your IVF success rate might be this or that, you get X number of follicles, your FSH is this level, your AMH is this level, it’s all around. Particularly after egg retrieval, it’s all around fertilization rates and grading of embryos, how many embryos you have. The numbers are immense, and it is mind-boggling our core brain doesn’t work in numbers, you, as a person, work intuitively around how you feel. The numbers can be great in terms of your analytical brain and understanding things, but they can also be incredibly difficult to manage emotionally. Therefore, regarding the numbers, you need to understand what you’re going to do with them and rationalise them as well because they can become very overwhelming and again, you cannot control this. You can only control your response to them.

Tools to support you

Karenna worked for years to support women, and one of the things she focuses on is providing tools to support patients. One such useful tool is App called ‘Your Fertility Tool Box’ where you’ll find all useful resources on IVF but also other things like meditation for each stage. Meditation is one of the first tools because it is probably the most successful one. You have to train yourself to be able to sit quietly. One of the options is guided meditations, where you’re listening to a relaxing audio track with a voice talking you through something. Listening to some specific fertility meditations can be a good tool that you can use. Another useful tool is mindfulness, which means just being in the present moment. This is very powerful for you during infertility because you often spend the majority of your thinking time going over the past or the future. The present moment is the only thing that’s real, so instead of thinking about what am I going to say next or allowing your mind to drift, be present in those conversations with your partner, particularly it can be very powerful as you go through IVF. You may feel it is hard to achieve mindfulness when you’re going through infertility because the thoughts are very overwhelming, there is so much going on in your life. However, it’s not necessarily needed to be in silence or be very quiet, there is also active mindfulness, this could be going for a walk in nature and listening to the sounds and just being aware of your senses when you’re out. Another thing you could do is play the guitar, or if you’re an artist or used to doing some painting or exercising, you can mindfully exercise, it’s just a way of giving your brain space from all the thoughts.

You also need to feel supported either by your family friends, coach, doctor, nurse, community or even some groups. It’s important to keep in mind that sometimes it might be more beneficial to join some private group, so you’re not overwhelmed. Think about what is going to be best for you in terms of connection and support and making sure that you get what you need are the key parts of how you’re going to be feeling. One other thing is mindset, if you’re wanting to work on your mindset, tune into hope, gratitude can be a huge huge part of moving your mindset forward as well. You could just think of three things when you go to sleep each night that you were grateful for that day, however small they are. This can start to transform your mindset.

Life outside IVF, it’s important to find a way to widen your lens so that you are remembering yourself and especially you as a couple outside of IVF, it can consume you, and it is not healthy for you or your relationship and for sure not healthy for your emotional well-being. Relationships get stronger in most cases as you go through IVF, but there is a lot of strain, and that strength shows up later on, but finding ways to support your relationship as you go through IVF is crucial. Have limits around a fertility talk time and worry time, you can discuss it for an hour or so, but then cut it off and do something else with your partner. The last tool suggested is affirmations, which are positive forward-facing statements, it can be very powerful to be looking at a statement every day of where you want to get to, where you want your emotions and your mindset to get to. Find some positive fertility affirmations that resonate with you and stick them everywhere all over your house, so your brain is reading them over and over again, and what you’re doing is changing the neural pathways in your brain, so it’s very powerful brain training.

Lastly, IVF is an incredibly stressful thing but there are tools that you can use to experience IVF in a better way. You don’t want to just survive through IVF, you want to find ways to thrive through it. Even though sometimes you may not feel that’s possible, you can experience this in a better way, and it just takes a bit of that daily work and that decision to change that.

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- Questions and Answers

We’ve had 3 failed IFVs. I’m starting to notice that my husband is losing hope and interest. How can I talk to him and work with him to get a positive mindset and hope for the next rounds?

It’s really really tough, and you and your husband will almost wax and wane as to how you’re feeling, and I can imagine after 3 failed IVFs and presumably a whole journey just to get to those IVFs, that really does get to that point where you can feel like you’re losing hope. First of all, one thing that I always advocate for is to try a bit of active listening, so to really get to the bottom of how someone’s feeling, often you can’t have those in those quick conversations, or you’re often not really getting to the crux of how someone’s feeling straight away. I have an active listening exercise that I teach people where you’re basically sitting in front of each other in an undisturbed place and actually saying you’re not allowed to interrupt the other person at all, which is really weird, at first it is a little bit weird, and you’re literally saying: are you losing hope? How are you feeling about moving forward? Let him speak and then say anything else? Let him speak, again, what else, anything else and keep questioning because often it might not be the first thing he says or the third thing that he says, it’s likely to be the fifth or sixth thing that he might say when given that real space to say how he feels that might be the truth of how he’s feeling and where he’s at. Then you flip that around and do the same for you, he’s not allowed to interrupt, and you’re just basically asking anything else, anything else until you feel that you’ve bottomed that out and also repeat back what that person said, it can be very powerful when somebody actually sorts of summarizes what you’ve said and says: am I correct? Because communication is a two-way thing, but we often don’t hear what someone’s saying. We often miss things quite easily, so try that as an exercise, and I think that could be really illuminating to get to the bottom of some thoughts or feelings that he might be having, it is really common, after several failed attempts to lose hope and maybe it’s around the time of saying to him or talking about having a small break. I know people are very scared of taking a break in terms of feeling that time pressure, but that for him might be a really important thing. To just say look, we’re just going to have a month or two off, have a window of time to be just us, and reconnect again before even discussing the next steps, next rounds, etc. Having that healing time, you need to grieve and deal with some of the trauma that comes along with it. You’ve been through that journey of three failed IVFs, there were so many ups and downs, so if you can have a way to maybe think around that, that can be scary in itself, and I get that, but just have a think around what ways could you release that pressure off him in terms of the future rounds. Another thing may be that he might need someone to talk to himself. I purely work with women who are going through this, I often find when I ask that their partner has never spoken to anyone. I would say 95% of the partners have never gone off and spoken to a counselor or a therapist or gone to a men’s shed or whatever it is where they have their out, they have someone that they can talk to about this stuff because they do talk, in a different way and have different needs. So, maybe thinking about what he might need to get some more connection and support to help him, and finally, we talked a little bit around tuning into that original hope, asking him what he needs to reconnect with that vision of being a parent, reconnect with that path, that belief that you will get there one day, don’t know how, don’t know when yet, but you will get there and what he needs to help to be stronger on that. There’s a few sort of little tips in there, but you’re welcome to connect with me afterward if I can help at all with that.

My third IVF attempt ended in miscarriage in the 6th week. That was 3 weeks ago. I want to try again, but I’m scared. What would you recommend for me as the first step to get the right balance?

First of all, I’m incredibly sorry for your loss, a loss is a loss at any stage, and I think that’s really important, particularly when it comes to dealing with miscarriage around infertility, there is so much riding on a positive test to get a positive test and then to lose that is incredibly painful and unfortunately incredibly common. I actually did a poll in our toolbox community last weekend and asked how many women had suffered a miscarriage, and 82% have suffered one or more miscarriages, so this is frighteningly common, unfortunately. With miscarriage, what we’re often not doing is grieving this loss, and it is a loss. It varies between individuals about how you think around whether life starts at which point, or whatever, but to you when you got that positive pregnancy test, there was hope, there were dreams, there was a due date that you were looking forward to, all of those things you need to process and work through and grieve. This week, on the 15th, is international baby loss awareness day, we’ll be holding a wave of light at 7 PM at your time wherever you are in the world to light a candle and leave it burning for an hour, just to mark the loss because with miscarriages we don’t ceremonies or mark the loss but we need to because that is having a ritual around as we do with death, having funerals, it’s a really important part of being human, of marking that loss and we often don’t do that with miscarriage, so maybe have a look around the wave of light, we’re holding a ceremony in Sydney that I am part of, but there are also events going on around the world or just doing it privately in your own home, finding a way to mark that loss is really important, your loss was only three weeks ago, so it’s still very raw, very, very real where after the third IVF to then get pregnant and then lose that baby, this is really huge, so I would love it if you could take some time out to really process your grief and work on your grief before necessarily moving on to any next step because you’re scared and you’re fearful because that really hurt and it’s scary to think about going through that again and putting yourself up into that place where that hurt can happen again so you have to be ready, you have to be stronger, again and finding the ways to get stronger, so I would definitely take some time and look at ways that you can grieve, some of the trauma and the loss that you’ve been through.

Do you recommend to be on IVF facebook groups if I am still a bit stressed? I get the impression those groups overwhelm me at times.

It’s really common, I get told that a lot that these groups can be as I said, amazing places to get some information and some tips and that you can’t take away, they’re wonderful for that, but overwhelm is definitely an issue with them and we go on Facebook technically to be entertained so when you’re going on and your newsfeed is full of other people’s negative or positive experiences, it can be incredibly draining, so draining when they’re negative and incredibly hurtful when we’re seeing trigger posts so really tuning in, I think you’ve almost intuitively said they are overwhelming you at times, so maybe just give it a try, just mute the group for a little while and see how you feel or limit your time within the group, just find some ways to manage that because you’re not going to miss anything and I think that’s the key, it’s not a FOMO situation, fear of missing out, you’re not going to miss anything by muting the group for a while, you need to look after you first and particularly having discussed what you’ve just been through, taking a mental break is really important right now and definitely, that will mean from these groups. What I’ve actually been told by many of our members inside the toolbox is that they have left every single one of the IVF groups and are purely now a member of our positive private community where we don’t even allow trigger posts or anything like that, so really there might be one group that you find really great, using that group but not the others. Whatever it is, tune into your intuition about what you need right now, and it’s totally okay to do what you need, you’re not going to miss anything, and you’re not letting anyone else down, you need to do what you need to do and if those groups are overwhelming you then absolutely it’s definitely something that you could have a look at to improve your emotional well-being by leaving them, muting them just for a little while, or leaving them completely.
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Authors
Karenna Wood

Karenna Wood

Karenna Wood is an international fertility coach, founder of Your Fertility Hub.com and a passionate advocate for more emotional support and information for women trying to get pregnant. She’s an expert in mind-body tools and has supported over 1200 women all over the world in learning relaxation and stress-reduction techniques, relationship tools, mindset techniques and coping skills. She uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, professional personal and relationship coaching, proven relaxation techniques and visualisation/mediation to transform the experience of infertility. The Your Fertility Hub website and popular podcast aim to help women reduce the negative impact of infertility and optimise their natural fertility through learning highly successful mind-body tools.
Event Moderator
Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka

Caroline Kulczycka is managing MyIVFAnswers.com and has been hosting IVFWEBINARS dedicated to patients struggling with infertility since 2020. She's highly motivated and believes that educating patients so that they can make informed decisions is essential in their IVF journey. In the past, she has been working as an International Patient Coordinator, where she was helping and directing patients on their right path. She also worked in the tourism industry, and dealt with international customers on a daily basis, including working abroad. In her free time, you’ll find her travelling, biking, learning new things, or spending time outdoors.
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