The importance of psychological support during fertility treatment

by Silvia Moreno, psychologist at Clinica Tambre

Silvia Moreno, psychologist of our team, gives the lowdown on why talking about your assisted reproductive journey can help keep your mental health healthy…

There are many doubts that arise during such an important process as In Vitro Fertilization and many emotional processes that our patients go through. Therefore, we have spoken with our expert in Psychology to resolve all questions that may arise.

What is the main objective of the psychological intervention during the assisted reproduction process?

There are two key elements. The first is the selection of donors who come to the clinic through a protocol interview to know their personal and clinical history, their family history and their vital circumstances; if no aspects are detected compatible with our exclusion criteria, then we undergo a test to detect psychopathology, in an objective manner, which may be susceptible to being rejected.

The second is support for couples or women who have found complications in their assisted fertilisation process, in most cases, because they have made several attempts to become pregnant and are starting to have a hard time, since they are not succeeding, or because they have doubts in the process.

Is the psychological evaluation of all donors mandatory?

Yes, the first filter is through nursing and the second through psychology. If the donor, both male and female, is suitable, we continue with the relevant studies.

What about the couples who want to undergo fertility treatment? In this case we do not carry out any evaluation, but they can access the psychological care service at the moment of the process if they need it.

In which type of treatment is the intervention of the psychologist more frequent?

Above all, one of the cases that often occur is that of couples who want to undergo the fertility program with their own gametes, and discover in the middle of the process that one of the parties does not have sufficient quality and must resort to donation. Here we help them to clarify any doubts that may arise in this matter: whether or not to tell the child, when, how, the psychological and social effects that this may have for them in the future, the guarantees of who will be the donors. We accompany them, if they wish, in the decision making and throughout the process, until it ends.

Also, what usually happens is that people who have already had several attempts at fertility and have not succeeded, become stressed with the topic and sometimes have clinical symptoms such as anxiety or depression. In this case they need support and it is frequent that they come, in couple, or individually, in search of tools to confront the situation that is generating them the state of anguish.

Is there a psychological profile of its own in the patients who carry out reproduction treatments?

It is more a vital situation than a psychological profile. They tend to be people from “thirty-something” to “forty-something” who have a very complicated reproduction in a natural way, and who have a very latent desire to be parents and form a family. Sometimes they may have taken a long time to decide, or it may have taken them longer to find the right partner. What is certain is that the type of people who resort to psychological counseling after several failed attempts tend to have more obsessive or anxiolytic profiles that turn this process into the center of their lives.

What weight does the psychological factor have in infertility? Is it the same weight as the physical one or is it greater?

Research has not shown anything clear about it, but we can say that there is a very clear body-mind connection, and that it is not the same thing to receive the embryo in a calm body as in one that is tense. After all, when a person is very worried or nervous, physically stress can be somatized and there is a better chance of success if the person is in a calm state.

There are many cases in which the couple has undergone treatment and has not worked, and as soon as they are relaxed the pregnancy has occurred.

What is the main recommendation given to couples to deal with their situation?

If the situation is one of failure after several failed attempts, they are usually recommended to take a breath and learn relaxation techniques to practice daily. They should also look for activities that help them disconnect, or having a lasting therapy in time to face and overcome the situation in a much more supervised way. The important thing is that it does not become an obsession, as this can reduce the chances of success and increase the chances that the symptoms become more serious, sometimes even having to recommend medication.

What are the most complex aspects in the psychological support of patients?

The most complex situation is when it is discovered that there is some physiological aspect that makes pregnancy impossible. It is necessary to advise them so that they live the mourning for the loss of the attainment of their dream, and that they begin to approach their life in another way, modifying their objectives and life project. In this case, they are offered the possibility of visiting the clinic as many times as they want to help them with evacuation therapy, so that they can talk about it and not repress it, normalize it and receive support.

As a rule, is the woman most in need of help?

Yes, women tend to have the worst time, due to the physical, hormonal and emotional changes they undergo throughout this process. They bear the brunt of the process. Also, if there is a pregnancy that ends in abortion they often need psychological help, since in some cases they may feel guilty and feel “less women”.

Do you think that if they receive the support of the psychology area, would they abandon IVF treatments less in certain cases in the face of failure?

I don’t think it is clearly linked, but I do think that if the psychological evaluation of future parents were mandatory, their resistance capacity to face this process, which in some cases becomes almost a nightmare, could be assessed. What is certain is that any couple who needs it, for whatever reason, can always receive psychological support.

Has mental health or stress been a factor in your fertility journey? Email us, with your story

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