Infertility and the festive season – your guide to coping - Newlife IVF Melbourne

Infertility and the festive season – your guide to coping

19 December 2023

Dr Sarah Nowoweiski

The Christmas and New Year period can be a difficult time for couples and individuals undergoing fertility treatment. Although this time of year typically involves cheerful celebrations with your nearest and dearest, the emphasis on family and children can also trigger conflicting emotions of sadness, grief and frustration.

For some, the end of the year can also symbolise another year passed without achieving their family goals. It’s common for people undergoing fertility treatment to feel overwhelmed at the thought of socialising with others while navigating these thoughts and feelings – particularly as this time of year intertwines festive traditions with social commitments involving friends, family and colleagues.

Rest assured that it’s OK if you’re not feeling the festive vibe this year. While you may feel bound to your social calendar, take some pressure off by reminding yourself that these plans are not set in stone (even those considered a tradition!). In fact, if recent years have taught us anything, we’ve learned that plans can change.

Prioritise your own needs and feelings this holiday season. Rather than stretching yourself thin to meet the needs and expectations of others, commit to events and catch-ups on your own terms – or not at all if you’d prefer. Below are some small steps that may help you navigate this.

Negotiate this time of year with family and friends

Finding the courage to turn down events can be difficult. In these instances, you may benefit from taking a softer approach. Instead of overtly saying you can’t attend an event, take a practical stance when responding. ‘Sorry, that plan doesn’t suit me’ is a perfectly acceptable answer when declining an invitation.

Preparing for social gatherings

Be consciously selective about what you agree to – whether attending a social occasion, preparing food or buying gifts. If you choose to be present at a social gathering, consider how long you’d like to stay there. Perhaps popping in for a brief catch-up before excusing yourself is an ideal option.

It’s also worth thinking of tactics to help minimise feelings of stress or discomfort while there. For example, keeping yourself busy and distracted by helping the host with the cooking or cleaning may relieve you from topics of conversation you’d prefer not to partake in.

Communicate that you’re having a tough time. Doing so doesn’t necessarily mean disclosing information about your fertility journey. Rather, consider using more general references to having a stressful or difficult year. Prefacing this may also help your host understand your situation without feeling offended that you’ve declined their invitation or have chosen to leave their gathering early.

It can also be a good idea to prepare a code word or a signal to give your partner or support person when you need them to rescue you from a difficult conversation or when you want to go home. For an efficient exit strategy, have a mode of transport conveniently waiting in the wings, such as your own car or a pre-booked ride service.

You do you

Celebrate how you want! Allow yourself to commemorate the festive season in a way that is comfortable and meaningful to you. Perhaps a trip away with your partner or a friend aligns with your needs more than attending a big family gathering. Staying home is also an option. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that it brings you joy, even if only a little.

R&R is just what the doctor ordered

Use this holiday period to rest, relax and recharge while you take a break from treatment. Take advantage of your time off work to prioritise self-care. For instance, schedule a relaxing massage appointment, escape the city for a few days, plan some day trips to the beach or countryside, or simply curl up with a good book.

Pause and reflect

Take some time to reflect on your fertility journey so far, along with your plans for next year. Some prompts you can use include:

  • Is there anything you could do differently next year?
  • What are your expectations, and do you need to adjust these at all?
  • Do you have questions to discuss with your fertility specialist?

Conscious consideration of your journey so far allows you to sort through your observations and determine if there’s a better way of improving your experience. It also helps to break down big decisions into more manageable chunks, which can help you feel more in control and aid future decision-making.

Reach out for help

Reach out for support when you need help working through uncomfortable feelings as they arise. This could be from your partner (if you have one), a family member or a friend. Be open and honest with your networks about how you feel and how they can best support you.

Acknowledge that this time of year can trigger unwanted emotions and that it’s OK to feel the way you do, whatever that may be. We all cope in different ways. So do whatever is needed to keep your heart, mind and body strong for the coming year – and above all else, be kind to yourself!

Lastly, remember that the Newlife IVF counselling team is here to help you navigate and unpack your experiences and emotions, so please reach out to us if you would like to talk. Call the Newlife IVF team on (03) 8080 8933 or email us at [email protected].


The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your healthcare professional for medical advice specific to you.