Waiting for IVF treatment is bad enough under ordinary circumstances, but the COVID-19 pandemic has caused extra chaos for those waiting for assessment and treatment. If your IVF cycle is delayed by COVID-19 restrictions or lockdown, here are some tips for getting through it.
Remember that it’s not forever
While it can be devastating to have the rug pulled from under you, remember that these restrictions are not going to last forever. There is a backlog of cases to work through, and your turn will come around again eventually. You haven’t been abandoned, although it might feel as though you have.
You might feel like hiding away and disconnecting, but staying in touch with your clinic and specialists can help you to remain connected with the whole process. Don’t be afraid to check in with them, and reach out to others in your situation too.
You’re not alone
The IVF process can be isolating, even when we’re not on lockdown. The good news is that there’s a whole community out there, and everyone is going through delays due to COVID-19 at the same time. You can find groups on Facebook, follow people on Instagram, and even TikTok, which has a surprisingly large infertility and IVF community. It’s not all doom and gloom, and there’s a lot of support, friendship, and laughter to be found within these communities & movements.
It’s OK to be pissed off
Yes, there are people suffering right now, from folk who have lost jobs, to those who lost family members to the pandemic. Not everyone is going to see your delayed treatment as a valid reason to be extremely upset or angry right now, but IVF is very personal, and it’s no one else’s business to judge how you should feel about it. There’s no need to feel guilty or to compare your situation with others, and if you want to let those feelings out in any way that helps you, don’t feel bad about that either. It’s absolutely fine and understandable to be down or grumpy for a while. Keep an eye on your mood, however, and if you’re feeling consistently low for more than two weeks, then it’s wise to see the doctor.
Not everyone is understanding about IVF. It’s a bit of a mysterious process for most people (lucky them, right?). If you think a friend or family member is likely to be unsympathetic or annoyed by your feelings, give them a miss until you’ve got it out of your system. One of the very few positives of the restrictions and the lockdown is that it’s a perfect excuse not to see people!
The truth is, IVF is a very stressful, personal thing, and it’s absolutely normal and understandable to feel upset, angry, blindsided or anxious when it’s delayed. The only time you need to worry is if your negative emotions start to seriously affect your life for more than a couple of weeks.
Don’t rebound. Well, maybe just a little bit!
You’ve been off the wine for months, lost ten pounds, got fit & eaten kale every day – and now your treatment is on hold. It’s extremely tempting to polish off a huge glass of wine and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s every night for a week, but try to resist! It’s fine to have a little blow-out to let off some steam. That’s not going to affect your fertility in the long term. Do try to resist the urge to slob out and give up on your health or fitness over the coming weeks or months. You may think “What’s the bloody point?” but your turn will come around again, and if you’ve worked hard to achieve a level of health and fitness, it’s a real shame to let that go.
The last thing your mental health needs, on top of delayed treatment in the midst of a global pandemic, is the stress of all of your hard work being undone. Try to keep up your healthy diet and exercise as much as possible during your delay or lockdown. It will benefit both your fertility and your mental health. By all means, smash your face into a cake at some point, but set a date to get back on track.
Have you already unraveled? Make a date to get yourself together, chuck out or gift your unhealthy foods or alcohol, and make a plan to get back on track.
Try a health or nutrition coach! We’ve heard great things about Zita West.
Don’t overlook the positive effects of counseling and therapy. IVF and the fertility journey itself is horrendously stressful. If your treatment is delayed, particularly if it’s a lockdown, try to take some time to mitigate some of the damage that you’ve absorbed during your fertility journey. Bubble baths and wine are not enough sometimes, and if the world itself has stopped – or if you feel like it’s just your world that’s on hold, it could be the perfect time for some serious self-reflection and real healing.
Try an online therapist specialising in fertility issues such as (recommend a therapist)
The last thing anyone wants to hear when they’re upset or down is “You should really go for a run! It will make you feel much better!”
The trouble is, it’s true. That doesn’t make it any easier, but exercising is one of the best ways that you can spend “dead” time, such as when you’re not allowed to socialise. If you really can’t bear the thought of heading outside, there are thousands of exercise programs to choose from, and twenty minutes of P.E. can make all the difference to your health, motivation, and mood.