Counsel From an Infertility Nurse On Managing Fertility Treatment
Our fertility nurses often become our lifeline during infertility treatment- we want to wish them a Happy National Nurse's Week!
In honor of National Nurse's Week, a fertility nurse speaks out about her unique perspective. As a nurse practitioner, Monica Moore hears certain familiar questions many times over. Here, Monica addresses the questions that specifically pertain to reproductive nurses—information about their training, how fertility patients can remain calm during treatment cycles, and more.
As a nurse who has worked with infertility patients in the Reproductive Endocrinology (RE) field for over 15 years, I often get asked questions that have a familiar ring to them. These questions often go hand and hand with noticing that many patients have some misconceptions about infertility and those of us who work in this field. I thought I would spend some time offering some advice to help dispel some of these myths.
Fertility Nurse Answers Infertility Questions & Myths
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 We don’t rely on outdated textbooks; instead our information comes from up-to-date journal articles, recent research and conferences. Our different backgrounds also bring 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 emphasize the need for empathy and support. What is exciting about the RE field is that it is relatively new in the context of other areas of medicine. Many of the RE leaders are still alive and actually practicing and/or teaching. We get to hear about processes and new techniques from the people who 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.
I’ve worked in the Neonatal ICU and Labor and Delivery and have seen some terribly sad situations, ones that I still have difficulty comprehending. Although it’s incredibly fulfilling helping a woman or couples achieve a pregnancy, there are moments of heartache, such as telling a patient that she is not pregnant or that her pregnancy is not progressing. These phone calls or office visits really have an emotional impact on us and we spend a lot of time discussing amongst ourselves: How best to relay bad news? What do patients want to hear? How and when should we follow up? Most of our couples are going to achieve a pregnancy while they are with us, but at what emotional and financial cost? Are there ways in which we can we help either or both of these types of costs?
3. We love baby pictures, holiday cards or any kind of follow-up.
Our pregnant patients are discharged to their OB/GYN in the first trimester for continued care and often say that they are sad to go. Guess what? We are sad to see you leave! I think I’ve actually gone through withdrawal when some of my close patients have moved on. Their journey felt like my journey. I often joke that their baby feels like my baby (don’t want to seem creepy). We nurses pass around baby pictures with glee, we post family holiday cards above our desk, and for one of our recent patients who had long and difficult journeys, her birth announcement generated more excitement in our office than that of Prince George, who was born around the same time. Don’t forget about us, especially around the holidays as your babies are our greatest “gifts”.
4. Practice Yoga.
I’ve practiced yoga for over 20 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 to not avoid discomfort. There is much to be learned about yourself when you experience discomfort (such as holding a yoga pose for longer than you normally would). 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 my fertility patients to practice yoga. Plus it is a great way to relieve stress (see #5 below). There is much in fertility treatment that is uncomfortable, even painful, physically and emotionally. We can learn that we are capable of persevering in ways that we never realized before.
5. Find and cultivate forms of stress release.
For some of us, nothing beats a glass of wine in the evening to help us relax and process the day that unfolded. For others, only a long, strenuous run or workout session will do. Well, guess what? Neither of these are options once you enter into a treatment cycle. Seems cruel, right, to put someone in a stressful situation then take away the method(s) used to combat it, but we discourage both alcohol consumption and high-impact exercise when trying to conceive. So take some time to think about what activity or strategy works for you. Yoga and swimming are always great options, do these resonate with you? Maybe you want to start journaling. Maybe participating in an art class that you’ve been meaning to investigate. It can be very simple, such as just talking to a friend or playing with a pet. 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 fertility nurse is a valuable resource for you. Please realize that no question is silly or unimportant. Feel free to ask us for what you need, even if we are ultimately unable to fill your request. Know that we will try our best and that we can also look for the right person to help you if we are not that person. Most importantly, please know that we are grateful that you allow us to participate in your fertility journey.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.