How to deal with the fears we have about becoming parents
Covid-19 and fertility treatments
*Update Monday 16th. Please note since recording this episode yesterday ESHRE have provide new guidelines on their website.
We appreciate given the current crisis you may well be worrying about what covid-19 means for your fertility treatments, and therefore at the beginning of this episode we give you an update on the current advice.
At the moment, there is limited guidance out there, however this will likely change in the coming days/weeks. Currently, the HFEA recommend that you contact your clinic for advice as each clinic will likely have contingency plans in place. We plan to chat with experts this coming week and will, of course, keep you informed of any developments that relate to fertility treatments.
If you are required to self-isolate over the coming weeks, then you can be reassured that The Fertility Podcast will be keeping you entertained. So, make sure you subscribe so not to miss an episode!
Parenthood in Mind
Our guest today is Julianne Boutaleb who is a peri-natal psychologist and Clinical Director and Founder of the Parenthood in Mind practice.
Julianne works with women and couples who have experienced trauma in relation to birth and miscarriage but also with women who suffer with fertility trauma.
- Typical patients that Julianne works with are couples who have concerns with regards to known genetic issues, couples who are facing assisted conception, couples who have had failed cycles or reproductive injuries and those contemplating donor conception, surrogacy or adoption to create or complete their family.
- Many couples who have previously experienced miscarriage come to Julianne as they have a fear – either physically or emotionally of a miscarriage reoccurring.
- Tokophobia is the fear of being pregnant or giving birth. Tokophobia may occur in women who have never given birth to a child, but it may also affect women who have had prior traumatic pregnancy or birth experiences.
Protecting your relationship
- Couples who don’t conceive are 3 times more likely to separate or divorce than couples who do conceive.
- Clinics are starting to support couples more with regards to the emotional impact
- Often reaching the menopause can be a trigger for women who haven’t been successful in conceiving through assisted conception.
- Julianne helps couples rewrite their ‘happy ever after’ story without children.
- The term Fertility Trauma helps to highlight that struggling to conceive is a true trauma and this also includes ‘perceived’ trauma.
- Fertility trauma is not just depression, anxiety or stress but is your brain going in to ‘fight and flight’ mode.
Unfortunately, since recording this episode, Jessica’s Pond to Peak Challenge and her ascent of Everest has been cancelled due to Covid-19 but she will hopefully be making this journey next year!
*Fertility Trauma explanation
The term ‘reproductive trauma’ was first coined by perinatal psychiatrists Dr Janet Jaffe and Dr Martha Diamond in 2005 to describe the psychological impact of a range of adverse reproductive events such as infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, the physical and psychological impacts of fertility treatment on individuals and couples experience when struggling to conceive.
Reproductive or fertility trauma is different from grief or other psychological issues linked to infertility and fertility issues such as depression and/or anxiety.
One definition of a traumatic event is ‘exposure to an extremely distressing experience that involves witnessing or undergoing an actual or perceived threatened death or serious injury, or other threat to one’s physical integrity, or to a member of one’s family or close relation’. (Jaffe & Diamond, 2011) Fertility trauma usually involves cumulative and repeated traumatic events.
Ways in which fertility trauma may impact individuals and couples psychologically include:
- Re-experiencing or intrusion symptoms for example constantly thinking about pregnancy or fertility treatment, flashbacks to losses or even nightmares about aspects of fertility treatment
- Avoidance eg avoiding baby showers or friends who are pregnant, avoiding places or events connected with families
- Changes in mood and feelings about self and the world eg negative emotions about others who may be pregnant, feelings that the world is divided into those who are pregnant and those who are not, distorted blame, loss of joy, shame, anger, envy
- Hyperarousal and heightened emotional reactions eg insomnia, irritability or anger, concentration difficulties, hypervigilance, panic attacks
It is really important when seeking support for such symptoms that you can find a counsellor or therapist who has experience working with trauma. Common ways of helping with such traumatic symptoms is grounding, breathing exercises, physical exercise such as yoga, as well as massage and mindfulness techniques.
Julianne Boutaleb CPsychol AFBPsS
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