IVF treatment is tough, not just physically, but emotionally too. In many cases, IVF is tried only after other fertility treatment options have already failed - meaning that couples are already carrying the weight of failure but are also stressed about the possibility of the next treatment failing too. Thankfully, most IVF clinics now understand that it's not all just about physical and medical care. IVF counseling is routinely provided at clinics and by independent counselors as a form of support.
Typical feelings reported by IVF couples include:
Family relationship problems - these include finding it difficult to cope with seeing other family members pregnant and with children; being upset by insensitive comments from family members; and feeling the pressure of family expectations to have kids.
Anger - anger directed at the infertile partner, or even at staff at an IVF clinic, because they seem unable to "fix" the problem.
Guilt - there are numerous reasons why IVF couples feel guilty. They may feel guilt for a previous abortion, now that they are struggling to conceive. The infertile partner may feel guilty that their physical problem is causing so much pain to the fertile partner. Some couples who've already had one IVF baby feel guilty that he or she has no brothers or sisters, and therefore keep trying further rounds of IVF in order to conceive.
Anxiety - the failure of past treatments and the prospect of further failures can cause huge anxiety for IVF patients. The waiting period after embryo transfer, to see if a pregnancy has been conceived, is the often the most anxious stage of IVF.
Depression - feelings of extreme sadness and a lack of enthusiasm for life are sometimes associated with IVF treatment, particularly when repeated treatments are unsuccessful.
Sexual problems - many couples experience difficulties in their sex life due to IVF and fertility treatment in general. Sex becomes all about conception, or the failure to conceive, and much less about an act of love and physical pleasure.
The purpose of IVF counseling is to help a couple cope with all these emotions and to avoid being overwhelmed by them. The idea is to help the couple fully comprehend the implications of IVF treatment, to provide emotional support and information during the treatments, and to enable the couple to cope with the results of the treatment - whatever these may be.
Counseling may be provided at the fertility clinic itself by a trained counselor or a psychologist who works in cooperation with the clinic. Some couples also find it helpful to see an independent counselor. Some couples appreciate the feeling that an independent counselor is on their "side" and does not represent the clinic. Couples' therapy is generally available but individual sessions should also be on offer. The availability of counseling should be a major factor in your choice of IVF clinic. Make sure that you ask clinics about counseling when doing your preliminary research.