01 Mar Interview with Stephanie Toulemonde, our coach specializing in female fertility
This month we have the pleasure of being able to interview one of Reproclinic’s longest-serving collaborators, Stéphanie Toulemonde, a coach specializing in female fertility and emotional support in assisted reproduction treatments. She is also co-founder of She Oak, an association whose mission is to offer emotional and physical support to all those mothers and couples who are going to undergo ART.
Mother of two beautiful daughters through assisted reproduction, Stéphanie fulfilled her dream like many other women, after a difficult and insecure path. For this reason, we would like you to understand, thanks to their personal and professional experience, how important emotional support is during assisted reproduction treatment, and what role complementary methods play in these processes.
1. Was it your personal experience that led you to leave your profession in the world of marketing and communication, to become a fertility and assisted reproduction coach?
The path I took to be able to have my daughters is related to my decision to accompany people in their fertility treatment. A process that I lived very alone and in which I felt that I lacked an accompaniment, without judgment and practical. Therefore, as a result of this experience, my goal was to offer everything that I missed and that I would have liked to receive.
For 16 years, I worked in the world of marketing and communication, and I liked my job! Working in large multinational companies gave me the stability I needed, and allowed me to undergo this type of treatment. But, after having my daughters, I felt the need to make a career change, to do a job that made more sense to me. I liked my work, but it didn’t make me feel useful, I didn’t have the feeling that it really added something of value, and I looked for that value, helping others.
So, I think that having gone through in vitro fertilization processes has made me change my approach of helping other people, who feel understood and not judged. An aspect that brings quality to my sessions!
2. How can infertility affect a person’s mental health? What emotions are the most frequent?
The act of creating a family and looking for a baby is a very emotional process, because it touches the most intimate part of us: our ability to reproduce. In any ART process, the emotional charge is very significant, since positive emotions are mixed, such as joy, illusion and hope; with negative feelings, such as fear that it won’t work, anger at not being able to conceive naturally or self-judgment for having waited so long… There are many reproaches we make to ourselves.
Jealousy is also very present towards those people who are able to conceive. It reminds us that we can’t, and we get angry! But, at the same time, we also feel guilty for feeling this way towards that person you love so much.
Another aspect is the grief that a person goes through when undergoing fertility treatment, whether it is their vision of fertility, originating a perfect family or romanticism. There are many emotions and a duel, which are not easy to manage and which have a significant impact on a psychological and emotional level.
In many cases, isolation also appears, due to the difficulty of being able to listen to certain people who give their opinion, talk about the subject or give advice, and who, without meaning to, make a mistake. An isolation that is also related to taboo. Currently, there is still a lot of shame and ignorance towards infertility, something that makes it a very difficult topic to address and often urges us to live it alone.
3. Can it also affect your psychological health when conceiving?
It is very difficult to say for sure. Obviously, uncertainty has a negative impact on an emotional level. However, that this psychological issue may affect the results is not a proven theory.
We know that stress is against fertility, because at a physiological level it does affect it, but during IVF, for example, it has not been shown that it can affect the results. What does affect is, obviously, the way in which we live, since they are complex and sometimes long processes, in which we do not know what the result will be.
Thus, emotions can have a relevant impact on how we experience it. That is why it is so important to be able to work on emotional health during these processes, in order to live them better and be more receptive.
4. What is your role in these cases?
My role as a coach is to provide emotional support and accompaniment throughout the entire process, that is, before treatment and during the process, with its emotional highs and lows. But also the post: the days of waiting for the result and the first weeks of pregnancy, since it is not always a time when women or families are serene, so they need accompaniment.
What we do in coaching sessions is identify all the emotions that the person feels, try to understand them and, obviously, accept them. After this, it is essential to start up small tools that help to manage in a better way the day-to-day with this process. Therefore, my job is to make the process more positive, more bearable and more serene.
5. How can yoga, for example, or other complementary treatments help improve infertility problems?
There are no studies showing that yoga or other complementary treatments can help overcome fertility problems. Well, in fact, there are studies that show that yes and others quite the opposite.
What is certain is that, when a person takes care of himself, through any treatment, she improves her physical shape and increases the feeling of feeling good about himself. Yoga and other treatments, such as acupuncture, improve overall fitness, help mobilize the body and blood circulation, and better prepare the body for pregnancy.
I also think there is a psychological dimension to all of this, that is, if a person who is undergoing fertility treatment takes control of their process and starts connecting with their body. They will become an actress on their own path to fertility. A fact that will help you a lot in the treatment.
6. How do you feel when it comes to helping families to realize and achieve their dream?
I feel phenomenal! I started with this, as I said at the beginning, to feel useful. And, clearly, after a few sessions, when the person tells me that they have understood things, that they have started things, and that all this has made me feel more serene when undergoing treatment… it makes me feel that I have sense. It fills me a lot to help families fulfill their dream!
It is true that there are couples or women who give up along the way, but even so, I feel that the sessions with me have helped him to feel better and to make difficult decisions.
7. What would you say to a woman or a couple undergoing assisted reproduction treatment?
I would tell them several things. The first is that you must find out from professionals (coaches, nurses, alternative treatment therapists, doctors, etc.). At every doctor visit, you should ask a lot of questions to be very informed about the process. Information is power! If you have information and know what is going to happen more or less at each step, the emotional weight will be lower.
The second thing is, above all, not to be left alone. Really, I think they are processes that can make you feel very alone, because of the taboo, because of the shame, because of the lack of understanding of the environment, because of the fear of saying it and that it won’t work… So, many couples or women isolate themselves and experience all this alone, they do not verbalize it. And I think it is very necessary to be able to communicate it, either with family or friends.
If they cannot offer you the help you need, you can seek support from people further afield, such as professionals. Although they can also be people, such as the cousin of a colleague, who has been through this and, for this reason, perfectly understands the emotions they feel. It is very important to be able to talk to someone who does not judge you and who understands you.
Thirdly, it is also very important to continue doing projects. What I do a lot in the sessions is work on the fertility treatment itself, in addition to all the facets of the person’s life. Because, in the end, this process can affect your environment, such as relationships with family, friends, work, health, hobbies… For this reason, it is very remarkable to continue having a life beyond fertility treatment, and not focus everything on the process, because then it is very difficult to take it on an emotional level.
Finally, my last piece of advice is to not hesitate to ask for help. It is a little related to the second point, that of not being alone. Asking for help through a professional, to accompany you and surround you during this process, is essential! It helps a lot to maintain hope and illusion during treatment.
It has been an honor to speak with Stéphanie and learn a little more about her work and her role in fertility processes. At Reproclinic, we have the opportunity to work with her in our emotional support sessions for foreign patients.
If you want to know much more about the relationship between emotions and assisted reproduction treatments, on our YouTube channel you can find webinars starring our coach that we are sure will be of great help to you.