When treatment takes longer than expected

Everyone who starts fertility treatment is hoping that it will be a quick process before they can announce their good news to friends and family. And for some lucky people, it is. For many patients, however, fertility treatment is a medium to long-term project and adjusting to a longer-term commitment to treatment can feel like a significant challenge.

The unpredictable nature of fertility treatment is hard enough for people who are just starting but for those in longer-term treatment, not having any clear prediction of when and if treatment will work can be deeply challenging. For people in treatment for a shorter period, adjustments to people’s personal and work lives may not feel overly significant. As patients enter a longer-term treatment process, it may be necessary to make further adjustments.

Patients can report a sense of burnout, the repetitiveness of medications, waiting for news and dealing with disappointments repeatedly can take a toll. It becomes even more important to prioritise personal well-being through this time. It is not unusual for patients to feel a sense of grief, feeling there have been lost months and opportunities, embryos that have not resulted in a pregnancy. Watching more friends and family conceive while you are still waiting.

All of these feelings are completely valid.
Here are some tips to help you through.

  1. Do you need further information/direction from the clinic/medical staff? It can be really useful to check in with your fertility specialist to make sure you feel fully informed, and you ask any additional questions about you treatment. For example, other there other medications/protocols/tests that might be helpful to consider?
  2. If you are in a relationship, how is your connection through treatment? It is not uncommon to feel a strain and essential to address this. Have you checked in with each other? How are you both feeling about continuing treatment? As for your partner, how you can assist them through this and express what your needs are at the same time?
  3. Book a couples counselling session. This carves out a safe space to have this conversation and allows you the time to consider the impact on your relationship and what additional things you might need along the way.
  4. Have you been holding off telling people? Is this still working for you? Privacy may be a priority for you, however, some patients find telling one or two people they trust a useful thing to do particularly for longer-term treatment.
  5. Are there further work adjustments required? Is this possible? Is it possible to talk this through with your workplace? Not every patient feels confident that their workplace will support them, but some workplaces are proactively supportive when their staff are in treatment. Ask about policies about time off.
  6. A break can be useful. Some patients find time out from the process very helpful to enable a refocus on their well-being, and getting on with other parts of their lives. If you are considering this, check in with your fertility specialist about whether this is medically advised.
  7. Is the expense concerning you? Ongoing fertility treatment is a significant financial commitment for many people. Are you aware of the Medicare safety net and what is claimable once you reach the specified out-of-pocket expenses? It can make a real difference to the expense.
  8. Keep a check-in with yourself and your partner (if you have one) about their mental health through this. How are you both sleeping, are you connecting with others? Are you still feeling a sense of goodness about other aspects of your life? If you are concerned, please reach out to help from the counselling team and or your GP. The counselling team at Number 1 are here to support you.
  1. Remember how far you have come and what your body has done (or your partner’s body) to progress as far as you have. What do you know now that you didn’t at the beginning about treatment and your body? Remember how much you have done already to work towards this. Write this down, reward yourself, and don’t forget how amazing your body is to have done what it has so far. Be kind to yourself.

Felicity Matson

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