Does Infertility Treatment Turn Us All Into Type A Personalities?
Type A personalities have a well-deserved reputation for a penchant to control. Whether in their personal or professional lives, they can be picked out pretty easily. They’re the ones asking specific and detailed questions, tapping their smart watches, picking up any slack, and providing information that wasn’t even apparent to others that it was needed.
We depend on our type A personalities, and we love them. We appreciate them. Some of us are them!
Infertility and Type A Personality
Infertility has often been described as a roller coaster and for good reason. Lots of starts, stops, dips, curves and many uphill climbs. The difference? No one ever excitedly bought a ticket and wanted to stand in line for this. This is a ride no one wants to be on.
Another difference is not knowing what the end will look like. On an actual roller coaster, you get off, a little dizzy maybe, exhilarated, and relieved. You go on with your life.
The roller coaster of infertility doesn’t have a set end point. The ride can drag on much longer than anticipated, and the result isn’t guaranteed.
This sort of unknown is really hard on Type A’s. Yes, really hard on all of us. But, especially hard on people with Type A personalities who feel wildly out of control during a fertility journey.
The Upside to Being Type A in Fertility Treatment
What's their typical reaction? To double down on infertility knowledge and management. The upside to this is that Type A’s are very educated about what the fertility treatment process is all about. They’ve learned the language; they understand every term. They know the right questions to ask and all the follow up ones, too.
The Downside to Being Type A in Fertility Treatment
The downside for our Type A’s? While they are super knowledgeable and incredibly prepared, it doesn’t actually change the unknowns of the ride. The abrupt dips can set us all spinning: from changes in medication to dosage alterations, to your treatment timeline shifting, to sudden tests that need to be completed, or not knowing when your period will show up. Those uncertainties and shifts are going to be challenging, no matter how much you've educated yourself.
What can also happen with Type A’s is their thirst for information becomes unquenchable. Every detail needs to be known, as immediately as possible. This can be hard on both the fertility patient, the fertility practice, and the relationship between the two.
A Major Type A Annoyance: The Unanswerable Question
Speaking for RMA of Connecticut, we do not want patients to simply be compliant. We never want patients to feel the need to stop asking questions, stop asking for reassurance, or just be “good" patients. Hopefully, all fertility programs encourage open and transparent communication, so that there aren’t misunderstandings or unnecessary stress due to quieting questions and comments that should actually be asked.
However, when it comes to infertility, not all questions have a clear answer.
There are many sensitive tests ruling out different diagnoses, and this is crucial to understand what is and is not happening in treatment. Still, not all questions can be answered because some things are unknowable at this point in time. Fertility treatment is a combination of science and medicine, but the human body is unique, responses are individual, and not everything can be explained.
Maybe you’ve heard of “unexplained infertility?” It causes about 10% of all infertility cases, and while assisted reproductive technologies still have great success with this diagnosis...the why goes unanswered. Unexplained or idiopathic infertility is a real challenge for ANY patient.
What can be reassuring is that despite the unknowable nature of some factors, fertility treatment can continue and often overcomes the unexplained hurdles.
Realistic Expectations for You and Your Fertility Team
Setting up clear expectations between you and your fertility team is central to having a relationship that works smoothly.
Being proactive is up to you and your fertility treatment team!
- Hopefully your team is letting you know what to expect BEFORE you even have questions by providing you with information delivered in an understandable, easily digestible way.
- Read all the material, emails, and texts from your fertility treatment team ahead of time, so that you can write down any lingering questions.
- Keep an ongoing list of questions. If you can, deliver those questions in one communication rather than a series of phone calls or emails.
- Let your practice know how you prefer to be reached. If you know you can’t pick up the phone, but are comfortable with them leaving a message, let them know. If you prefer to read information, have them email or text you instead of call.
- Getting answers quickly, efficiently, and appropriately is a reasonable expectation. If you can, send your questions earlier in the day to give your team a chance to answer. Understand that on evenings, weekends, and holidays, there may be a delay, so if it’s important, find out from your team what to do when there’s an urgent issue. However, if your cycle brings you into the office on the weekend or over a holiday, your on-call team should be ready and willing to accommodate any concerns you may have.
- Not every test result can be conveyed to you. This is a hard one. But consider how complex a fertility treatment cycle can be, how often bloodwork is drawn (and how many aspects are looked at within a single draw), what goes on in the lab, how frequently ultrasounds are done, testing is done and redone. Fertility treatment is certainly full of tests!
That last one is often the most challenging for Type A’s. It’s even responsible for nudging Type B personalities towards a Type A personality.
“But why?” is the question. It’s THE question. We all want to know why. Because we think if we know why, we can make it different. That’s not always the case, as frustrating as that is.
How to Stay Sane During Fertility Treatment
For the Type A personality, or anyone for that matter, use the 6 suggestions above to help with managing it all. They will help your interactions with your fertility team, and they will model what is realistic for you to expect.
More than anything, what's most important in helping you have a more sane fertility treatment experience is to give yourself a break. Being in control is a way of coping, but if you’re finding yourself feeling even more stressed from your own constant questioning and concerns, maybe it’s time to take a step back and practice some self care.
Here are some helpful ways you can practice “giving yourself a break.” I know that's a loaded phrase. But hopefully, because there are so many options below, it will give anyone with a Type A personality a bit of that sense of control back - this time in a healthier way! Our suggestion? Pick 3 things that appeal to you, and try them. (If you're feeling more adventurous, pick 1 that does not appeal to you just to try something out of your comfort zone.)
- Breathe. You’re going to have to do it anyway! A few times a day, before a meal perhaps, take a minute to notice and appreciate your breath. If you find your breathing is a bit shallow, drop your shoulders down and try taking a truly deep breath.
- Look at something beautiful. Outside or inside. The clouds moving across the sky. The warmth of the sun on your skin. An exquisite vase in your home. This practice is so good for the heart.
- Get up and move your body when you can. We’re all sitting a lot. When you plan out your day, include some 5-minute walks, even if it’s in and around your home. It’s okay if you can’t get outside.
- Drink water. Staying hydrated helps everything - both physiologically and emotionally. Say thank you to yourself when you drink a glass of water!
- Sleep a little more if you need to. Healthy and refreshing.
- Write a letter to a friend or colleague you’ve been out of touch with - keep it light or tell them everything that’s been going on. You can even just send them some love.
- Watch something funny. Really! It helps. Or something downright dumb. Let yourself laugh out loud.
- Do some baking, if you’re into it.
- Come to Fertile Yoga! Shameless pitch, I know. We meet most Wednesdays at noon. Check our Events page for the current calendar.
- Try acupuncture - our wonderful team of Amy, Elaine, and Melissa are all available!
- Treat yourself to a nutrition consult. Jill Hickey is amazing. I guarantee you will learn something you didn’t know.
- Go to the mirror and choose one: either stick your tongue out at yourself, or thank yourself for something that no one else will.
- Find a support group. Virtual Ladies Night In, Men's group, LGBTQIA+ Parents-To-Be Gathering - we offer all these and more!
- Read a book. Or listen to one.
- Turn off electronics for an hour, an entire day, or (gasp!) the whole weekend.
- Stretch your beautiful self. Put on a stretching video on YouTube, find something you like (we suggest Fertile Yoga or Yoga with Adrienne!) and just lose yourself in some simple movement.
Last, but not least:
- Keep forgiving yourself.
Ride the Fertility Roller Coaster
Infertility and fertility treatments are hard. Painful. Discouraging. While you’re feeling all those feels, remember that fertility treatment is often successful - maybe not as quickly or as easily as any of us wish it would be, but eventually.
Stick around for the eventually. Stay in it for the baby and the family you’re dreaming of - I promise it’s worth it.
Our support groups are not just for patients.
If you feel like you need to talk before, during, or outside of fertility treatment, connect with us at one of our support groups
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.