Treatment Tips – Coping with Anxiety


Fertility Treatment Anxiety

It is totally understandable why you would feel anxious as you embark upon your fertillity journey, especially as much of this journey is unfamiliar and out of your control.

Meet our Counsellors

Anxiety is a common and very natural feeling for lots of people going through fertility treatment. With over 30 years of experience, each member of our team is committed to supporting you physically, mentally, and emotionally at all stages of your fertility journey. Our Patient Support Manager, Debbie Howe, has written this guide for coping with anxiety during fertility treatments like IVF to shed some light on the concern.

Stress before, during, and after fertility treatment can vary from person to person. Many of our patients find their energy becoming depleted during fertility treatment due to stress and medication.

However, you can always reduce stress and anxiety by engaging in self-help and psychological techniques, which we will run through later in the article.


[Quote: “It is totally understandable why you would feel anxious as you embark upon your fertility journey, especially as much of this process is unfamiliar and out of your control.”]


The connection between anxiety and IVF

It is totally understandable why you would feel anxious as you embark upon your fertility journey and why you may experience nervousness and unease as treatment progresses, especially as much of this process is unfamiliar and out of your control.

Anxiety is a generic term, and it is important to appreciate that there are many specific types of anxiety, including generalised anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias, some of which you may be familiar with and can be triggered as a response to life events or experiences you have been through.

There is another type of anxiety which may be closely linked with fertility: anticipatory anxiety. This is when you may experience a real sense of fear about the future and concerns that your hopes and expectations may not be fulfilled.

Anticipatory anxiety tends to keep your thoughts in the future and can feel overwhelming, especially if this triggers a pattern of negative thinking about what may be ahead of you. Anxiety can invite itself into your thoughts; however, it does not have to stay there all day, as there are some simple techniques which you can use to manage the symptoms.


Recognising the signs of fertility treatment anxiety

Some symptoms of anxiety during IVF are very easily identifiable, but others are trickier to spot. Identifying symptoms early on can help you control your IVF anxiety. Here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Behavioural symptoms: avoiding circumstances that make you experience anxiety
  • Psychological symptoms: worrying, obsessing, and finding it difficult to focus
  • Physical symptoms: experiencing a higher than usual heart rate, feeling restless, having difficulty sleeping, and suffering from fatigue


What techniques can I use to ease the symptoms of fertility treatment anxiety?

There are some very basic ways to control and reduce your anxiety, based on being in the present and focusing on what is happening around you, such as relaxation training and engaging in support groups. Listed below is a range of self-help and psychological strategies which can be used before, during, and after your fertility treatment.


How to treat pre-fertility treatment anxiety

There are a few self-help strategies to help treat your anxiety in the lead-up to your fertility treatment. By taking care of yourself early on, you can manage your stresses more effectively when it’s time to undergo the treatment.

  • Plan ahead

IVF treatment requires several clinic visits, including scans and blood tests. You should determine how you will get to these visits and how they will fit into your current work schedule.

You must also monitor your finances before starting fertility treatment, ensuring you know where you stand with costs and how many cycles you are willing to undergo. To start, check out our price list to gain a better idea of what you can expect.

Another thing to consider is the possibility of multiple pregnancies. Fertility treatment can result in multiple pregnancies, which increases challenges during pregnancy and birth. So, you should consider if you can finance and handle multiple pregnancies as part of your preparation. Additionally, think about if you want to freeze excess embryos and how you would deal with the situation in which embryos must be discarded.

Planning ahead will help you prepare for treatment thoroughly and could reduce your stress levels by giving you less to worry about. Our knowledgeable team are on hand to discuss such possibilities and will give guidance and support at all stages of your fertility journey. If you have any questions, please contact one of our specialists.

  • Make some lifestyle changes

Exercise, healthy eating, and hydration are crucial parts of your new self-help routine and have been proven to boost well-being. Implementing these three elements into your day can help decrease stress and anxiety.

  • Breathe

Pay attention to your breathing, as regulation of your breathing will help lower anxiety symptoms. Focusing on breathing deeper and the timing of your breathing can distract from anxious thoughts. Physically, you will inhale more oxygen, which may slow down your heart rate as you fill your lungs with oxygen and can help you feel calmer.

There are many types of breathing exercises, and I have listed a couple of common breathing techniques to try here. However, I believe finding a breathing pattern you are comfortable with and can practice consistently is important, so it becomes part of your anxiety-reducing routine.

Square breathing: Imagine a square and draw it out mentally or with your finger. Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and then repeat this sequence if necessary.

Belly breathing: Pay attention to breathing deeply into your stomach so that you use your lungs’ full capacity to expand your belly. You may wish to place a hand on your stomach to help you focus.

Breathing techniques with apps: There are many apps available which will provide guided support for breathing and visualisations, such as Breath Ball and Breathwrk.

Learning to recognise your own warning signs and triggers will help you to recognise where your levels of anxiety are and when to implement your calming techniques.


How to treat anxiety during fertility treatment

During your fertility treatment, it is normal to experience anxious thoughts. However, self-help and psychological strategies can help you identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts during this time.

  • Connect with others and access support when needed

Social time is an important factor that impacts well-being. Where you can, ensure that your social time is supportive. For some, going to a support group or hopping on an internet forum can be incredibly useful to gain connections with people going through similar experiences. Just make sure you always communicate how you feel with someone you are comfortable speaking with.

  • Reduce the pressure

Never underestimate the power of downtime and how much you are treating yourself to. At the same time, evaluate what is causing you stress in both your personal and professional lives. Try to decrease the pressure in these situations, whether it’s saying ‘no’ to going out when you don’t feel like it or reducing your workload. Step back and enjoy some time to yourself. Additionally, I strongly recommend avoiding significant stressors at this time, such as changing your job or moving house.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, more commonly known as CBT, is a psychological strategy that can address and challenge dysfunctional thoughts, emotions, and behaviours during your IVF treatment. By considering the evidence for and against these thoughts, you can develop more realistic conclusions and gradually change how you feel over time to target anxiety.

  • Mindfulness

Whilst you can implement mindfulness into your self-help routine, I would recommend reducing anxiety by engaging with professional mindfulness. There are mindfulness-based therapies designed to manage anxiety symptoms by encouraging non-judgemental awareness. Staying conscious of negative feelings can help you learn how to modify your response to them and increase your resilience.

  • Test the 5,4,3,2,1 grounding strategy

By paying attention to five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste, you can ground yourself in your present environment and distract yourself from the thoughts and feelings accompanying anxiety.


How to treat post-fertility treatment anxiety

Even after you have completed fertility treatment, the worries may continue – but don’t worry, you are not alone in this. In fact, waiting to hear the results after the embryo transfer can be the most stressful part of the journey for many people. It is normal that you may face more challenges in this part of the process, and here are some ways to address these effectively:

  • Take it one day at a time

During the two-week wait period leading up to when you find out the results of your fertility treatment, you need to take things one day at a time. Worries and anxiety are to be expected throughout your IVF journey, but by taking on some chunks instead of looking at the whole picture, you can make things seem less scary and reframe your worries into more productive thoughts.

  • Continued self-help techniques

If the pregnancy is a success, many individuals still worry throughout this period. I recommend continuing with the self-help strategies we have mentioned above to help you manage your anxiety and stress levels throughout the pregnancy. If these strategies aren’t working for you, one of our counsellors would be happy to share additional techniques for you to try.

  • Give yourself a worry time limit

If you continue to worry post-treatment even after implementing self-help suggestions, I suggest you put a time limit on your worrying. Establish a time and space for half an hour or less every day when you can worry.

Limiting the worrying to this short period allows you to use the rest of your time to become more productive. If you catch yourself worrying outside of the timeframe, make a note to worry about it later.

  • Access the support you need

If the cycle is unsuccessful, you can discuss your next steps with our consultants in a follow-up session. We will help support you to the best of our ability and provide you with the information you need to proceed. We also provide counselling if you are struggling to manage the process emotionally.


How CRGH can help with fertility treatment anxiety

Whether you’re a single patient or in a couple, it’s normal to experience fertility treatment anxiety. However, you’ll never have to worry about receiving the support you need at our clinic.CRGH has a wonderful team of in-house counsellors who are on hand to support you during and after treatment.

If you have been experiencing fertility treatment anxiety and want to discuss this with a member of our team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today. One of our experts is always on hand to assist you with any questions or concerns, and you are always welcome to book a consultation to discuss your treatment in more depth.

Learn more about our counsellors