ELANZA Wellness expert, Dr. Madeline Katz, weighs in on what you can do to support your mental health while you await fertility treatment.
You may have had wonderful plans for 2020. Perhaps this was the year you were planning on undergoing IVF or egg freezing in order to become pregnant at a later time. You’ve prepared and were emotionally and mentally ready for next steps.
As with the entire world, it seems everything is at a standstill. In March, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommended that all fertility treatments should be suspended. There is not enough known about COVID-19 and its effect on pregnancy, and in adherence to local regulations of social distancing, many clinics delayed treatment cycles and cancelled transfers. Many clinics opted to instead utilize teleconsultations for treatment planning.
There are many reasons why you may be feeling grief or anger at this time. Not knowing when you’ll be able to complete your cycle can be frustrating. You may be feeling isolated, since you may not have (or want) your family and friends to support you. And being told that your treatment isn’t deemed “essential” may make you feel that getting pregnant isn’t as important as other businesses, like your local coffee shop, that have been able to stay open. All these feelings and more are valid and true to your situation.
There are numerous people feeling similarly, but of course, that doesn’t make this feel any easier. What are you supposed to do in the meantime?
The first thing you can do is remember that this time and these feelings are temporary. It may feel like this pause will turn into a full stop, but it won’t. In other words, focus on today, not tomorrow. Our world will eventually return to something normal, but continuing to focus on that fact won’t help you feel better now. What can you do now to prepare yourself for the time when treatments will start up again?
1. Reconnect with nature
Greenery and the physical world can be quite grounding. Even if you live in an urban city like I do, sitting on your front stoop and noticing the outside world while getting a deep breath of fresh air can be a valued reset in the middle of the day.
2. Learn from and with others
Enriching your brain can keep you centered and engaged. There are free courses online for everything right now from drawing and cooking to lectures from your favorite authors and interviews with broadway actors. Find a new hobby to keep you engaged and focused on the now. Signing up with a friend will help keep you accountable and make it social. My sister-in-laws, for example, have been taking various virtual exercise classes together, but from their respective homes, every morning.
3. Maintain a routine
With most of us stuck at home, it helps to have a routine. With little to no boundaries around our professional and personal life, we can struggle to get the respite we need. A good friend of mine still puts his shoes on before his commute to work, which happens in his living room. Find something to separate your work routine from your personal routine. ...Get up and get dressed, take the dog for a walk, and eat at regular intervals.
4. Communicate with your care team
Stay updated with what your clinic is doing and when they expect to reopen or if there are recommendations for things you can do in the meantime.
5. Join a support group or connect with others who are also experiencing something similar
Many of the women I work with have found support from each other in the form of a virtual support group. It can be validating to have a shared experience, even if that experience would rather not be had.
Bottom line, this is not an easy time. The best thing you can do right now is take care of yourself. Find something to laugh about or focus on one positive thing you did each day. With these skills, you will come out of this ready to take on your next challenge.