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Fertility Wellness Program Helps Couples Cope With Infertility

Couple holding hands

Penn Fertility Care, in collaboration with the Healing Arts Center of Philadelphia, offers a quarterly Fertility Wellness Program to help patients feel less anxious, less isolated and better able to cope along their fertility journey.

We spoke with Pam Kelberg, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Fertility Wellness Program facilitator who specializes in helping women and couples cope with infertility, about how the program can help women and their partners find balance while facing uncertainty.  

This is part three in a series on caring for yourself or a partner during fertility treatments. In part one, Dr. Suleena Kansal Kalra, MSCE, and Kelberg share how women can bolster their physical and mental health. In part two, Clinical Psychologist Lindsay Sortor, PsyD, of the Penn Center for Women's Behavioral Wellness, explains how partners can support each other.

What is the Penn Fertility Wellness Program?

Penn Fertility Wellness Program offers personalized interaction with the Penn Fertility Wellness Team in a relaxed, comfortable setting and promotes health and relaxation through four key components:

  • Emotional support
  • Behavioral wellness, including
    tools for stress management
  • Yoga and mindfulness
  • Acupuncture

“One of the goals of the program is to help people reduce their symptoms of anxiety and depression, and in doing that they feel a restored sense of their energy, or their ability to cope and deal with the stress,” Kelberg said. “That in itself is really needed when going through fertility treatments.” 

Finding Balance

The program can also help couples find balance in their lives and learn ways to take care of themselves and nurture their relationship with relaxation and mindfulness techniques. 

“Sometimes just slowing down and doing some breathing, nothing too strenuous, just some gentle breaths — in and out — can be helpful,” Kelberg said. “Another thing that’s really helpful is to remind couples that it’s time-limited and they won’t always feel as bad and as stressed as they do when they are doing an IVF cycle. 

“It can help couples persevere through it all — the ups and downs, the phone calls, the waiting, the test results. Whether they’ve been doing [fertility treatments] for a long time or a short time couples tend to put their lives on hold.” 

Kelberg said she advises couples to take things one step at a time.

“It’s helpful if couples can remind themselves that they are going to do this cycle, and that that’s what they are doing right now,” she said. “As opposed to focusing too much on ‘what if this cycle doesn’t work?’ and going too far into the future.” 

Providing Support

Finding support from others along a similar path also is helpful.

“There’s lots of research that show that people who do support groups feel less isolated,” Kelberg said. “You’re hearing and talking to people who understand what you are going through, have the same worries and are often going through the same thing. That in itself can be hugely helpful.”

And that kind of support is a component of the Fertility Wellness Program.

“Often women and couples won’t talk to friends or family members because they think they won’t get it, or a friend or family member has already shown them in some way that they don’t understand,” Kelberg said. “In a support group you don’t have to say much or explain what it feels like because these are things people in the wellness program group already understand.” 

How to Enroll

Cost is $495, and the eight-week, quarterly program is open only to Penn Fertility Care patients. For more information or to enroll, call 215-627-3782 or 267-259-8077 or email PennWellness@healingphilly.com.

Pam Kelberg is a psychotherapist specializing in helping women and couples cope with infertility. Kelberg facilitates support groups, as well as teaches mindfulness techniques to help with anxiety, life/work balance and stress reduction. She has been a member of the Fertility Wellness Program team since 2015.

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