From a Fertility Nurse: 5 Truths About Infertility You Need to Know
September 27th, 2019 | 5 min. read
As a nurse who has worked in the Reproductive Endocrinology (RE) field for over 20 years, there are five points that I feel are important for anyone undergoing infertility treatments to realize.
1. Most RE nurses do not have formal RE training prior to working at an infertility center
While this is true, it actually turns out to be good news as we get current, relevant, and continuous training. We don’t rely on outdated methods of learning; instead our information comes from up-to-date journal articles, recent research, and conferences. Our different nursing backgrounds translate to a variety of strengths and perspectives. Emergency room and Critical Care nurses teach us multi-tasking and attention to detail.
Labor and Delivery/Postpartum nurses give us the most updated information on how to achieve a healthy pregnancy and delivery of a healthy baby. Oncology nurses educate us on the importance of empathy and emotional support. What is also exciting about the RE field is that it is relatively new compared to other areas of medicine.
Many of the RE leaders are still actually practicing and/or teaching. We are lucky to be able to learn about processes and new techniques, not from reading about them in a dusty book, but from the people who actually created them. Talk about on-the-job training – you can’t get better than this.
2. RE nurses never become immune to the heartbreak amidst a “happy” field
This is so true. I’ve worked in the Neonatal ICU and Labor and Delivery and have seen some terribly sad situations, ones that I still have difficulty forgetting. Although it’s incredibly fulfilling helping a woman or couples achieve a pregnancy, there are moments of heartache, such as telling a woman that I care about and have gotten to know well, that she is not pregnant or that her much-desired pregnancy is not progressing.
We realize the devastating impact of these phone calls or office visits. Although, to our dismay, we can’t change the content of the message, we spend a lot of time researching and learning how best to deliver it. We go to conferences on empathy and how to have difficult conversations.
We think of you long after we hang up the phone or you leave the office. I call it the ‘echo effect,’ meaning that the thoughts that I have after giving you bad news linger with me for a long time. For instance, hearing how anxious and hopeful you answered the phone and how it suddenly changed when I had to share the bad news; I think about how that news probably ruined your day and the image of you wiping away tears, then squaring your shoulders to go back to work, even though you’d rather be anywhere else but there; I know that you feel alone at this time, even in a roomful of people. I get it, and being the bearer of this news never gets easier.
3. RE nurses love baby pictures, holiday cards or any kind of follow-up
True! Once pregnant, we send you off to your OB/GYN in the first trimester for continued care. This ‘graduation’ generates mixed feelings in us. Of course, we are happy that you are pregnant, but I think I’ve actually gone through withdrawal when some of my patients (with whom I’ve become close) have moved on.
Their journey felt like my journey. I struggled, and failed, not to absorb their pain. I felt an emotional investment in your desire to have a baby and now that your pregnant, I wish I could be with you until you deliver. So, keeping us up to date with how you are doing and letting us know once you have the baby is critical to our joy and well-being.
RE nurses pass around baby pictures with glee, we post family holiday cards above our desk, and we treasure birth announcements as if they were diplomas from an Ivy League school. So, don’t forget about us, especially around the holidays as your babies are our greatest gifts.
4. Practicing Yoga is not only good exercise but has mental benefits as well – RE Nurse tested and approved!
I’ve practiced yoga for many years and try to assimilate some of the principles that I’ve learned in class into my personal and professional career. One of these tenants is that as soon as you start to feel uncomfortable in a pose, the pose has just started. There is much to be learned about yourself, and tremendous opportunities for growth, when you experience discomfort.
Going outside of your comfort zone can foster empathy, resilience, patience, and give you a different perspective, one of the many reasons that I always encourage fertility patients to practice yoga. Plus, it is a great way to relieve stress (see #5 below). During your fertility treatment, you might feel vulnerable, a lack of control, less than. By battling these feelings and persevering, you can learn that you are strong and capable in ways that you may never have realized before.
Interested in attending one of our fertile yoga classes?
Visit our events page to see what time works best for you.
5. Any RE nurse will tell you: your old ways of managing your stress (specifically during the hyper-stressful journey of infertility) may no longer work
It’s ironic, don’t you think? For some of us, nothing beats a glass of wine in the evening to help us relax and process our day. Others crave a long, strenuous run or workout session. Well, guess what? Neither of these are options once you enter into a treatment cycle. Seems like a cruel cocktail, right? We help generate an exciting, albeit stressful situation, then we take away the method(s) used to combat it. (Unfortunately, we discourage both alcohol consumption and high-impact exercise when trying to conceive. Sorry about that.)
So take some time to think about what activity or strategy works for you. Yoga and swimming are always great options, if they interest you. I always recommend journaling. It is a great way to release feelings that you might feel guilty for saying out loud, even to a trusted friend or partner. In fact, there is research that the act of handwriting can help us process thoughts. Also, journaling doesn’t require much of your time or money. Studies show that journaling in the morning might help you start the day with a fresh mind and less anxiety, but any time of day is fine, as long as it becomes a habit, a reliable way to relieve stress.
Also, doing something creative has been shown to relieve stress. Maybe consider playing the piano again or participating in that art class you’ve been hearing about… Whatever it is, take some time to think about it, preferably in advance of your treatment, and know that it is never too late to nourish yourself.
Mostly, I would like to emphasize that your RE nurse is a valuable resource for you; we want to be your ‘person.’
There is no question that is silly or unimportant. You can never embarrass us. We want you to ask us for what you need, even if we are unable to fill your request at that moment. Know that we will try our best to find the right person to help you if we are not that person.
Most importantly, know that we are grateful that you allow us to participate in something as personal and precious as your fertility journey. We are constantly humbled and impressed by the grace and grit that you demonstrate during a difficult time.
Want to learn more truths about infertility?
Monica Moore is a board-certified Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner, nurse educator and health coach who has been caring for patients at Illume Fertility for over 20 years. She is also the founder and lead educator at Fertile Health, LLC. Monica is passionate about taking care of the whole patient, believing in the importance of integrating comprehensive care. She has a special interest in PCOS and combating weight bias with education and advocacy.