Managing anxieties and fears related to how you conceived your child

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The end of a medically assisted procreation (MAP) journey can become a critical phase for the couple and create a moment of crisis. Waiting generates anxieties and fears precisely because of the unpredictability of the outcome and the future.

In fact, the end of a treatment is a difficult time, even when the couple experiences success: on the one hand, emotions such as happiness and satisfaction prevail over a dream come true; on the other hand, however, it is inevitable to experience anxieties and fears during the pregnancy and after the birth of the child. It is therefore important, even in the case of success, for the couple to follow a psychological path to share the different emotions and be able to reframe them in order to experience parenthood peacefully.

We are parents! Treatment success

Pregnancy and parenthood are events in the life cycle of a couple and are part of an important evolutionary process of the human being.

The successful outcome of the PMA pathway generates a lot of happiness, and pregnancy, after hard and strenuous treatment, is often experienced as a “prize pregnancy.” The couple is happy, but alongside the positive emotions come anxieties and worries that make both the pregnancy and the period afterwards, the birth of a child, difficult to cope with.

The couple is faced, after a period of infertility, with a new phase and a new role: that of parenthood, and this involves major self-work both for internal restructuring and identity redefinition.

The transition to parenthood is a very delicate event involving complex changes and adaptations, and it is essential that the couple gain more awareness with respect to the new parental identity.

The transition “from couple to parenting” is a very complex event involving psychological, physical, and social changes and adaptations. Both man and woman must give up the idea of infertility and begin a new phase in which they will have to acquire new skills necessary for the healthy and balanced growth of their child.

The transition phase to parenthood and adjustment to the new parental role can be more complex and exhausting than for a couple who conceived their child naturally: all the years spent in the experience of infertility and any failures affect this role transition. Mothers who have conceived through IVFare more likely to develop a strong attachment to the child, which makes the process of separation and individuation between parent and child more difficult. These couples have more difficulty adjusting to parenthood (at least until the first year of age).

Women perceive themselves to be less skilled in the maternal role and seek more reassurance about their children’s health. They are often determined to be perfect parents, value their child as too valuable an asset on which the happiness of the family unit depends, and feel enormously responsible to him or her. The psychologist represents a bridge between infertility and parenting, between two different worlds that now have to integrate to accommodate the child.

Managing anxieties and fears related to the way one has conceived one’s child

An additional element of anxiety is whether or not to reveal to one’s child the truth about how he or she was conceived. This is a dilemma that often generates so much perplexity and worry, and stress levels are highest especially when the couple has gone through a heterologous fertilization process.

Often the couple agrees on whether or not to reveal the truth to their children, the problem arises when one partner is eager to communicate the truth to their child and the other disagrees. Often the difficulty in telling the truth is hidden in the past failure to process the infertility condition.

A psychological course would be important to make the parents understand that it is not the way a child was conceived that is important, but the love and care that the parents themselves show toward the child.

Psychological support turns out to be necessary to:

  • facilitate adjustment to the pregnancy
  • facilitate the transition from one phase of the couple’s life cycle to the next phase
  • facilitate the transition from being a couple to being parents
  • better manage the parent-child separation-individuation phase
  • manage anxieties related to how one conceived the child.

Conclusions

Parenthood is a psychological dimension that develops over the course of each individual’s life, and being a father and being a mother involves a major restructuring of self-image and relationships within the family: the couple that has a child faces an important and delicate evolutionary transition, transforming from a marital couple to a parental couple, then becoming a family and having to open up to welcoming a third party into the relationship, the child.

The transition phase to parenthood and adaptation to the new parental role therefore is a very complex process that, especially in couples who have gone through a lot of difficulties and pains to reach this moment, can be more complex and tiring: it is affected by all the years spent in the experience of infertility and possible previous losses.

Therefore, the presence of the psychologist, a figure outside the family network experienced in perinatal issues who can accompany the couple in this important life cycle transition and manage the anxieties and stress behind revealing or not revealing the truth to their child, is of fundamental importance.

Sharing and reframing emotional states will help the “new parents” experience the birth and growth of their much-desired child with serenity.

Reference bibliography

  • Andolfi M (a cura di). La crisi della coppia. Una prospettiva sistemico-relazionale. Raffaello Cortina Editore, 1999.
  • Sharon N, Covington MSW, Hammer Burns L. Pregnancy after infertility. In: Burns LH, Covington SN (eds). Infertility counseling. A comprehensive handbook for clinicians. Parthenon Publishing, New York, 2006
  • Visigalli R. Sterilità e infertilità di coppia. Counseling e terapia psicologica. Franco Angeli, 2016.

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