Causes & Treatment

How to break the IVF anxiety loop, according to a fertility nurse

Poppy Millar-Maher, in partnership with Embrace Fertility  |  15 Apr 2023


Coaching support for IVF anxiety

No one chooses to go through fertility treatment for fun. IVF can have a profound effect on your physical wellbeing, and what about the psychological impact of repeated disappointment? When IVF anxiety – or fertility struggles in general – set in, it takes a huge amount of mental strength to remain optimistic.

For many patients, the emotional struggle of IVF is a hidden one. Feelings of worry and frustration can lead to guilt, shame and isolation, none of which are conducive to getting the results you want. It’s a horrible Catch-22 situation: your mental state plays a big part in helping your body respond well to treatment, but if the treatment isn’t working, how can you be in a good mental state?

Lauren Haring is a nurse, IVF coach and founder of Embrace Fertility, who is on a mission to support patients on their fertility journey, whichever stage they’re at. Lauren offers IVF cycle coaching as well as 1-to-1 fertility support, all informed by her experience as a qualified fertility nurse. We spoke to Lauren about the most common anxieties and she kindly shared her expert insight from two decades in the field.

Let’s get out of this loop, together.

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Before you start, ask any and every question

If you’re about to embark on your first round of IVF, you’re probably brimming with questions – questions like:

  • How will I ever be able to inject myself?
  • What if I mix the medication wrong/make a mistake?
  • What if I don’t respond to the medicine? 
  • What if it doesn’t work? How will I be able to cope?

Big questions, but if you speak to a compassionate, medically trained professional, you’ll get the answers you need. It’s a good idea to try and work methodically through each anxiety or concern, knocking each off its pedestal one-by-one. The aim is to be as informed as possible before starting treatment. Of course, you can’t control everything that’s going to happen; you can, however, face your biggest worries head-on at the beginning, and this will put you in good stead for what’s to come.

Note: Quickly on injections, most people find that the anticipation is worse than the shot itself, and are surprised by how quickly they get used to it. If you’re really worried though (understandable – lots of us hate needles), you should speak to a professional and get the reassurance you need.

Always advocate for yourself

Your fertility journey is unique to you: the outcome is not set in stone, and the chances are you’re investing a lot of time (and money) into this process. It is absolutely your right to put yourself first and to demand honest and unwavering help from both the clinicians and the people around you. 

Lauren says: “​​You don’t have to just go with the flow and follow orders blindly. Learn to advocate for yourself by asking questions, voicing concerns, and seeking additional support if needed”. 

Additional support can be in the form of professional guidance, seeking counseling for yourself and/or your partner, and finding a peer support network like the squad here at Fertility Help Hub.

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Prioritize (or learn) self care rituals

“During IVF, you have full permission to put yourself first and need to plan regular time for self care.” This time more than ever, you really deserve to give yourself a break, pay attention to your mood, and treat every shift in emotions with as much self-compassion as you can muster.

Self care is about being attuned to what your brain and body needs on a deep, individual level. That means taking that long bath with the expensive bubbles you’ve been saving, sitting with the sun on your face for a good hour, indulging in a delicious meal that you’ve been craving, taking a walk in nature without being plugged in, or just binge-watching that Netflix series you’ve already seen eight times but that brings you so much joy.

For some of us, altruism is a form of self care – it gives a sense of purpose and it can be a great distraction from our own (sometimes all-consuming) thoughts. However, this is a time where you shouldn’t pressure yourself to give too much. Lauren says: “Be sure not to over-commit your precious time. It is important to be social, volunteer etc, if it helps you, but it’s okay to protect yourself from saying yes to everything you’re invited to participate in”. 

Self care means something different from person to person, so find what works for you (it can take a fair bit of trial and error), and follow those feelings.

Remember that there’s no definitive timeline

The difficulty (and beauty) of fertility is that it’s not a perfect science. You can approach your IVF journey with the best mindset and all the tools you need for success and still not get the results you’re looking for. Likewise, you can be filled with doubt and things can work out anyway. 

Try to accept that, for a lot of people, IVF doesn’t work the first time and you cannot put strict time limits on the process. For some of us who like to plan, this can be yet another cause for anxiety, but learning to let go of what you can’t control is a genuinely powerful way to improve your mental health, which will in turn help you through the process.

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If in doubt, consult a professional

Lauren Haring first entered the fertility world when she donated her eggs to pay for nursing school and went on to become Director of Nursing, as well as helping to launch the Fertility Preservation Center for Cancer Patients at one of the first clinics to pioneer egg freezing in the US. With experience on both sides of the process (as an egg donor and a medical professional), Lauren is especially well-placed to understand the emotional resilience it takes to go through IVF, and how devastating repeated IVF disappointment can be.

Dealing with the anxieties around fertility is no mean feat and a deeply personal journey. Many people find it helpful to find a compassionate yet impartial support figure. You can find further in-depth guidance on IVF prep from Embrace Fertility here, and sign up for professional IVF coaching or a tailored support session with Lauren today.

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