Monday, April 11, 2011

Coping with Fertility Test Anxiety

Fertility test anxiety is a normal, albeit uncomfortable, part of infertility. Before a fertility test, you may be worried about what the test will be like, and after the test, you may be obsessing about the results.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic way to totally get rid of fertility test anxiety. What I can share are some tips that may help lessen some of the anxiety and provide you with some practical ways to cope.

Coping with Anxiety Before a Fertility Test
Ask questions from your doctor about what you can expect. While you’re most likely familiar with blood work, other testing, such as ultrasound, HSG, or diagnostic laparoscopy, may be new experiences. The more you know about a test, the lower your anxiety will be.

Questions you may want to ask include:

Why are you recommending this fertility test?
What can I expect during the test?
What are the risks involved?
Will the test hurt?
Can my husband/friend/partner accompany me during the test?
How long after the test will I receive the results?
Will my insurance cover the test? If not, how much will the fertility test cost?
When asking questions, make sure to ask about preparation for the test and how you can expect to feel afterward. For example, some doctors will suggest taking some ibuprofen before an HSG to help with cramping. After a diagnostic laparoscopy, you will need someone to drive you home and you may need to take a couple days off work to recover from the surgery.

Besides asking your doctor questions, you can also ask friends, either online or from “real life,” about their experiences. Fertility forums are a place where you can find people who have gone through testing before, and who might have helpful advice and words of encouragement.

Something that helped me a great deal with fertility test anxiety was a guided imagery audio program from Belleruth Naparstek called Help with Fertility. I listened to the relaxation track many times before having a hysteroscopy, including in the car on the way to the exam!

Coping with Anxiety During the Fertility Test
A blood test may take only a few minutes, but if needles make you nervous, a few minutes may feel like hours. Other fertility tests can take up to half an hour or more, and when you’re nervous, half an hour is an eternity.

Here are some things you can do to cope with anxiety during a fertility test:

If permitted, bring along a friend or your partner. Be sure to check beforehand if you’re allowed to have someone with you, so you’re not surprised at the last minute that you’ll need to be by yourself for the exam. Even if your partner can’t come into the exam room with you, knowing they are on the other side of the door can help.

Don’t forget to breathe. People have a natural tendency to hold their breath or breathe very shallow breaths when they are nervous, and this can increase your anxiety. Make a conscious effort to take slow, deep breaths whenever you can. (Of course, if the doctor tells you to hold your breath while they take an x-ray, then hold your breath! But between those moments, you can take slow, deep breaths.)

Let the examiner know that you’re nervous. Trust me, you’re not the first to be nervous during an uncomfortable fertility test, and letting the examiner know you’re nervous allows them to offer their sympathies and possibly offer comforting words. Plus, I’ve found that trying to hide that I’m anxious just adds another layer of anxiety -- revealing your nervousness helps.

Nervous about a semen analysis? Then you need to read this article on dealing with performance anxiety during semen analysis.

Coping with Anxiety Regarding Fertility Test Results
Sometimes, you’ll get the results of a fertility test right away. Other times, you’ll need to wait, which is never easy. Staying busy, trying to live life despite wanting to live by the phone, and talking or blogging about your anxieties while waiting can all help.

Though very tempting, it’s probably best not to search the Internet for all the horrible things that might be found wrong from a test you’ve taken. Instead of trying to predict the worst, just hang in there and wait to hear what your test results actually showed.

Ideally, you asked your doctor when to expect to hear about test results. If that time period passes, don’t be shy about calling your doctor’s office and asking if the results are in.

When you get the test results, be sure to ask your doctor what they mean, what your options are, and what the next step is. If the test results show that everything is okay, ask whether you’ll need to have further testing.

Something to keep in mind is that while the majority of infertility cases can be linked to a cause, up to 10% of couples never find out what’s behind their infertility (known as unexplained infertility).

Hearing that your doctor doesn’t know why you can’t get pregnant can be frustrating. However, not having an official diagnosis or cause does not mean you won’t be treated. Unexplained infertility may be treated with lifestyle changes, fertility drugs, IUI, or IVF. Treatment can be a bit hit or miss, though, since the doctor does not know exactly why you can’t get pregnant.


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