10 Aug The importance of psychological support in ART
Interview with Ariadna Bonals, psychologist at Reproclinic
I am grateful to be able to accompany patients when they go through such emotionally complex processes.
I understand that it is a time when there are many doubts, many fears and a lot of sadness, due to the difficulty of having a baby and the lack of understanding they feel from their environment. For this reason, I try to be as warm as possible, to give them the resources they need to learn to manage their emotions and to accompany them through the process.
Assisted reproduction can involve not only physical, but also emotional and social aspects. Above all, emotional. When patients come to our clinic, in many cases, they bring with them a high number of failed attempts, a lot of social pressure and many feelings of sadness and frustration. Undoubtedly, a good psychological support will be the basis to manage and carry out this new process.
Today we are pleased to introduce you to our Reproclinic psychologist, Ariadna Bonals, clinical sexologist, couples therapist and psychologist specialised in Assisted Reproduction. Ariadna has extensive experience in the world of assisted reproduction, providing cognitive-behavioural therapy to patients undergoing infertility treatment at our clinic.
For this reason, we thought it would be a good idea to ask her a few questions so that you can understand the importance of having psychological support during this fertility journey and to find out more about some of the issues.
1.Ariadna, which are the emotional repercussions of having been looking for pregnancy for a long time and being aware that it is a complex process?
At this moment and throughout the whole process, many emotions may appear, such as sadness, anger, frustration, sometimes leading to anxiety or depression. Many people who find themselves in this situation feel isolated from their environment, misunderstood, with a lot of shame and guilt, also affecting their self-esteem.
In the case of going through this process with a partner, this can also lead to problems in sexuality or in the stability of the relationship, as each partner manages this process in his or her own way.
For this reason, psychological support can be very useful for them to feel accompanied, listened to and to be able to provide them with certain tools to learn to manage their emotions.
2. Do you think that the emotional health of a woman, or of a couple, can influence whether a pregnancy is achieved?
Of course. Studies have shown a negative correlation between stress and fertility. Prolonged stress can affect the functioning of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, which are responsible for the hormones that send signals to different parts of our body. In other words, stress may alter ovulation, the quantity and quality of sperm produced, and the ability to implant.
In the same way that the “stress hormone” cortisol can have a negative impact on our functioning, the “happiness hormone” oxytocin also has a very positive impact on our body. Therefore, the mood of patients may have a strong influence on their ability to become pregnant.
3. What is your role in the world of assisted reproduction, more specifically at Reproclinic, and how do you think you can help patients?
My role in assisted reproduction is to accompany patients who are going through these processes. This accompaniment can be aimed at supporting people emotionally, providing resources to help them learn to better manage their emotions and the process, to improve the couple’s relationship, as well as helping to resolve doubts or fears, or even to work through certain grievances.
4. You are also in charge of the evaluation of gamete donors, right? What exactly do you evaluate?
Yes, I am also responsible of the psychological evaluation of the donors. My function is to be able to detect if there is any mental disorder in the donors or relatives, to see what their degree of involvement in the process is, to carry out a small personality study, as well as to rule out possible traumas or complex situations that could affect their gametes.
5. Are there any favourable treatment results from your work?
I would not say it is exclusively to my work, but to the whole multidisciplinary team. But as I said before, stress is a great enemy of these processes, so it can be very favourable to work on those patients where it is necessary to reduce stress or work on other aspects that may have an impact on the results.
6.How do you feel when a couple or a woman manages, thanks to the clinic, to start a beautiful family?
The truth is that I am very happy that they have been able to achieve this, and that I have been able to do my bit. However, I feel more comforted in those moments when I know that I have been able to alleviate some of their pain and discomfort, as it is in these situations that I can really help and accompany them.
7. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, in fact I would like patients to know that we are going to start group support workshops, as studies have shown them to be highly effective in Assisted Reproductive Technologies. I think it is a good way for them to share a space of understanding with people who are going through something similar, to share feelings and emotions, as well as for me to give them some guidelines and tools so that they can cope better with the process.