What families need after IVF

Parents who have conceived through IVF rarely have to be helped to bond with their baby. The longing, the waiting and the uncertainty all serve to develop strong ties between mum, dad and child.

IVF parents do, however, often suffer severe stress after their experiences.

Stress experienced by IVF parents arises from the unusual nature of the IVF process and from the loss of the chance to conceive normally.

"Eight years of IVF can be very emotionally draining," reports a mum to twin boys. "We did five cycles and the boys were our last attempt." This mum certainly knows how the waiting, the failed attempts and then a premature birth served to create a number of emotional blows that have taken their toll on mind and body. However, it is easy to see how this mum feels about her IVF result, "From the moment we saw them, we fell in love with them," she happily reports.

Couples deciding to use IVF, however, do not need to approach treatment fearing the worst yet helpless to do anything to manage the difficulties. From my work with IVF families from pre-conception through to five years of age, I have discovered specific strategies that work well - and these are backed by new data emanating from IVF research teams worldwide.

Learn a stress management technique

There are stress management ideas that early research suggests boost fertility. Use these while undergoing IVF and also during pregnancy and early parenting. The first is acupuncture, which appears to lower stress levels, making it easier for couples to cope with the demands of treatment and after conception. The second is hypnotherapy which is also very useful in labour and in delivery.

Ask for help

Many couples feel the mere fact they have conceived means they should not ask for anything more. In reality, much help is needed during the pregnancy and after birth, and couples who seek out family support, the help of good friends and professional advice suffer less.

Don't try to be perfect

No matter how much a baby is wanted, there will be times when her parents wonder what they have done! It is best to accept these feelings as normal and allow for moments of joy as well as moments of exhaustion, frustration and even anger.

Be aware of negative thoughts

We all talk to ourselves silently. What we say has an enormous impact on our emotional health. When couples begin IVF treatment, they benefit from tapping into this 'self-talk' which is often quite negative. For example, many mothers using IVF say, "It's my fault we had to go through this. I feel a failure." This darkens mood considerably but can be answered with, "I am doing everything I can to help this process. I will take care of myself and love myself."

Extracted from "IVF and Ever After: The emotional needs of families" by Nichola Bedos, published by Rockpool Publishing