Emotional Concerns

The Stress of Infertility

Infertility is a medical condition that touches all aspects of a person’s life. Depression, anger, anxiety, frustration, irritability, and grief are normal responses. The treatment brings cycles of hope and despair and turns life into an emotional roller coaster. Hormones can have profound effects on emotion, so treatments that send hormone levels shooting up and down may magnify the turmoil. As months go by without success, the stress of infertility builds.

Infertility affects how you feel about yourself, your relationships with others, and your perspective on life. It can have damaging effects on a couple’s relationship if concerns are not addressed. A partner may feel guilty or angry about the cause of infertility, if it is known. Both may feel frustrated if the cause is unknown. Couples often have different attitudes towards treatment that can cause friction in the relationship. One may want to pursue all options, while the other may not want to be as aggressive. As most infertility treatments are performed on the woman, the unequal emotional and physical burden she bears can strain the relationship.

Coping with the stress

How you deal with these feeling will depend on your personality and life experiences. Most people can benefit from the support of family, friends, medical caregivers, and professional counselors. Professional counseling can ease the emotional problems of infertility and may even improve the odds of conceiving a child. Recent research found that couples who participate in group counseling sessions were more likely to get pregnant than couples who did not. Most people end infertility treatment because they run out of emotional energy – not money or coverage.

Don’t view counseling as a last ditch effort, but as a way to get a better understanding of infertility and its effects. Counseling can help patients sort out their feelings, identify coping mechanisms and help find solutions to problems. Consider counseling if you are feeling depressed, anxious, or so preoccupied with your infertility that you feel it is hard to enjoy life. You may also want to consider counseling if you are feeling “stuck” and need to sort out your options and alternatives.

In any case, seek counseling when you notice:

  • Infertility is affecting your normal functioning and relationships with others
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Isolating yourself from others, strained relationships, marital discord
  • (Loss of interest in usual activities and relationships
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering, or difficulty making decisions
  • Change in appetite, weight or sleep patterns
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Support can come from many different areas. Books and the Web can offer information and understanding about the emotional aspects of infertility. Support groups can reduce the feeling of isolation and provide the opportunity to learn from others experiencing infertility. Discussions with family members and friends are also options. In this section you will find information on several trained counselors with experience in dealing with infertility.

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