Emotions and fertility in times of COVID-19
The health care crisis we’ve experienced as a result of COVID-19 has meant that many women and families are putting their plans to start a family on hold. The state of emergency which was extended for several months caused assisted reproduction clinics to close. As a result, treatment cycles which had already begun or were just about to begin had to be postponed. Fortunately, clinics have been able to resume their activities and the treatment cycles which were postponed, as well as new treatment cycles, have since been carried out.
This unexpected and unfamiliar situation created a series of emotional implications that have made us feel overwhelmed on many occasions. If we then go and add in the uncertainties which arise when trying to conceive, emotional distress increases exponentially.
Lockdown was unprecedented in our society, meaning we were not at all prepared to deal with all the circumstances associated with the COVID-19 situation. We are social beings and not being able to interact with others, especially our loved ones, triggered reactions such as sadness, anguish and irritability which led to psychosocial stress that’s difficult to manage.
We have felt scared of the virus, fearful that someone in our circle would get infected and even afraid of being sick ourselves and spreading it to others. Uncertainty in the face of this new situation and the fact that we didn’t have clear information about how to proceed caused us to either watch too much news and become over‑informed, or avoid the news altogether and minimise the consequences of the virus.
We experienced unusual amounts of boredom when our lives, previously full of stress due to non‑stop, jam‑packed schedules, suddenly came to a standstill and we couldn’t carry on with our daily habits and activities. As a result, feelings of indifference, irritability and changes in sleep patterns/quality began to appear. We have also seen extreme behaviours such as excessive pessimism where we imagined ourselves in the worst possible circumstances, or unrealistic optimism where we downplayed the importance of what was taking place.
On the other hand, fear, uncertainty, distress, sadness, etc., are emotions that are already present during the process of assisted reproduction, so keeping in mind the emotional implications triggered by the pandemic we have found ourselves in a painful, challenging scenario. Our strength and mindset will be essential to dealing with this scenario in such a way that the emotional impact is minimised.
We need to remember that we must accept the things we cannot change, though we are still allowed to feel sad, angry or disappointed. All emotions are legitimate and they help us at certain times, so we should validate our feelings, give them space, learn from them and continue pushing forward. It’s also necessary to get back to having a routine outside of lockdown in which we include leisure time to clear our minds and have fun. The new normal requires us to comply with a series of rules that may discourage us from going outside, but if we follow the guidelines we will find a way to keep enjoying those moments that we need so much.
Finally, talking about the things that are going on always helps. Being in an environment where you can find understanding and acceptance is very beneficial. Additionally, visiting a psychologist who is specialised in assisted reproduction can make this journey go more smoothly and give us the willpower to continue on the journey to parenthood.
Doctor Diana Pérez
Psychologist, expert in infertility
URE Centro Gutenberg Partner