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How Setting Boundaries Can Help During Fertility Treatment

Ellen Eule, MSW, LCSW-C

It may not be intentional and we may not even realize that we set boundaries to protect ourselves in various aspects of our lives. As I write this blog about setting boundaries, I think a lot about my own boundaries, my physical and emotional boundaries, my boundaries in my work life, and my boundaries in my personal life. Oftentimes they are all connected, sometimes they are not, but without fail, I am aware that when I keep my boundaries in mind, I am more likely to face life’s challenges feeling more in control and able to make decisions that are in my best interest.

What are boundaries and why is it important to set healthy ones?

Boundaries are physical, emotional, and mental limits that exist within our environment to keep us, ideally, safe.  In some cases, boundaries may be set for us; in other cases, we set them. We learn about boundaries from the time we are very young, from those set by parents and caregivers, with the primary goal of keeping us physically safe.  As we get older, many physical boundaries stay in place, but now intangible boundaries come into play in our lives as our emotional and psychological boundaries take on even more significance. We become aware, so to speak, of where we end and the other person begins. We realize that we can say “no” to others and they can say “no” to us. We are individuals and, even in very close or intimate relationships, we are separate beings with independent needs.

People have different emotional and physical boundaries based on many things. Our cultural and religious beliefs (which may be, but not always, connected to how our families taught and observed boundaries) our age, gender, as well as our generation’s values and expectations, all contribute to how we manage our boundaries. These may be fluid and changeable, depending upon what’s going on in our internal and external lives.

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How can setting boundaries help you during fertility treatment?

Thinking about and keeping boundaries we are comfortable with is central to self-care and, as we know, effective self-care helps to reduce physical and emotional stress. So, as you go through fertility treatment, looking to your boundaries may help you discover your internal safety net. Try setting boundaries in one or more of the following situations and see how it feels and observe yourself, does anything change in your outlook?

Questions asked of you
You are entitled to your privacy, and your privacy may be viewed as quite different from secrecy. Become empowered to set limits on the types of questions you will answer—and from whom.  If questions seem intrusive or inappropriate you don’t have to answer them. It may help to think about your responses to questions in advance of situations where you know others may inquire about your family planning.

Social media
Your newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram may be flooded with painful reminders that others in your circles are achieving what you wish you could. This is a tough one to avoid, but when even the anticipation of this activity fills you with dread, it’s time to disconnect. Not forever, just for now.

Attending events
It’s okay to decline an invitation to a baby shower, party, or any event that you worry will be too hard. You are not being antisocial or inconsiderate, you are taking care of yourself by setting a boundary.

Your medical treatment

You may feel that your physical boundaries are being permeated, maybe even invaded. There is no question, as you go through fertility treatment there will be certain procedures you must do, but there are some you may decline. Communicating with your medical team in straightforward ways that meet your needs and respect their roles, will help keep your physical and mental integrity.

These tips hopefully will help with setting boundaries, which in turn will lead to increased nurturing and protection of yourself from both internal and external negativity. But remember, it is just as important to find outlets for support during treatment.

If you would like to talk about how setting boundaries can help you, consider making a counseling appointment.

Shady Grove Fertility’s team of dedicated new patient liaisons is available to answer your questions and schedule a consultation for you to meet with one of our 35 physicians. Call 877-971-7755 to schedule an appointment or click here.

About the Author: 
Ellen Eule, MSW, LCSW-C is a licensed clinical social worker with decades of experience counseling individuals, couples and families. She has a special interest in helping people build their families, whether that journey takes a traditional route or a circuitous one “I stay present and aware of the unique needs of every client.”

Editors Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of May 2018.

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