‘Real Housewives’ Star Meghan King Edmonds Describes IVF as an ‘Emotional Roller Coaster’
She’s now pregnant with her second child.
November 29, 2017
By Korin Miller, Self Magazine
Real Housewives of Orange County star Meghan King Edmonds has been incredibly open about going through IVF to have her daughter, Aspen. Now, she’s shared on her blog that she’s expecting another child via IVF—and she says her family had some hesitation about going through the process again.
“This was a difficult decision for us,” Edmonds wrote in the post while announcing that she’s pregnant with a boy. Her husband, Jimmy, “didn’t want me to have to again endure the emotional roller coaster that comes with IVF,” Edmonds says, adding that she insisted. Edmonds also says she had “the worst depression of my life” the last time she went through IVF, but the process was a lot easier this time around.
If you or someone you love has been through IVF, you know that the “emotional roller coaster” description is pretty freaking accurate.
There are so many reasons for this, Tamar Gur, M.D., a women’s health expert and reproductive psychiatrist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. For starters, IVF is a medical process, and people generally have some level of anxiety about medical testing. “When the testing is related to reproduction, it gets even more invasive and intimate,” she says.
By the time people get to IVF, they’ve also likely been trying to conceive for a while, and that can make things incredibly emotional, Catherine Birndorf, M.D., founder of the Motherhood Center in New York City, tells SELF. “You don’t usually start with IVF,” she points out. “By the time you get there, you’ve already been through a lot.”
There are also a lot of hormones involved in the IVF process, which means you’re also going through a lot biologically. These hormones stimulate your ovulation, causing the body to mature more eggs at once than usual, Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center at Boston IVF, tells SELF. Those injections also increase the levels of estrogen in your blood, which can cause symptoms similar to those you experience right before your period. “Patients will say ‘I feel so PMS-y and irritable,’” Domar says. “But it’s because your brain has never known estrogen levels this high.”
In fact, these hormonal fluctuations can actually affect the actions of a few mood-regulating neurotransmitters in your brain (such as serotonin), Nidhee Sachdev, M.D., co–medical director of CCRM Orange County, tells SELF. “That could cause mood changes in some patients,” she says. Couple that with the general stress and anxiety of going through IVF, and the process can absolutely be full of ups and downs.
“Some patients focus on the injections as the hardest part,” Dr. Sachdev says. “However, for many, it’s the anxiety associated with the unknown that is most difficult,” Dr. Sachdev says. And if people have to go through more than one cycle, the added stress and pressure that comes with it can be intense. If it doesn’t work, it’s also incredibly hard to deal with. “Some patients view an unsuccessful IVF cycle as a personal failure, and attach guilt and shame to their experience,” Dr. Sachdev says.
An IVF cycle may not be fun, but there are a few ways you can mentally prepare yourself for the experience.
There’s some evidence that psychological stress is one of the major reasons why people drop out of IVF treatments, Dr. Gur says, so it’s important to be prepared.
The first step is to recognize that this might take a while. The average IVF cycle takes four to six weeks, according to USC Fertility, which is followed by the egg retrieval and embryo transfer processes. Of course, if you end up doing more than one cycle (research shows that about 30 percent of patients have a live birth after their first cycle), you’ll have to go through the whole thing again. So this is definitely a slow-and-steady kind of thing. “I always remind my patients that it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” says Dr. Gur. “It takes dedication and pacing yourself.”
So, in the meantime, it’s important to find a way to dedicate some of your energy to doing things you know will make you feel good, she says. That could mean regularly going to a yoga class, making time to take walks after work with your partner, or taking up a new creative hobby. Volunteering to help others can also give you a mental boost. “It can serve as positive reinforcement and increase your sense that there are good things that you can make happen,” Dr. Gur says.
It’s can also be helpful to learn about the IVF process so you know what you’re in for. “Don’t be shy—ask questions,” Dr. Birndorf says. If you have a friend who has been through this before, talk to them about what the experience was like—it’s pretty likely that they’ll be happy to share and offer support.
Above all, make sure you’re taking care of you and your health—physically and mentally. For some patients, that might mean seeing a mental health provider or visiting support groups organized by RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, Domar says. Your fertility clinic may be able to recommend a fertility counselor or therapist if you’re not sure where to start, Dr. Sachdev says.
This is often a difficult time in someone’s life, Dr. Birndorf says, but your needs are still as important as they’ve always been—and you don’t need to go it alone.