“A fertility problem may be one of the most difficult challenges you’ll ever face. It’s normal to feel a monumental sense of loss, to feel stressed, sad or overwhelmed. Don’t chastise yourself for feeling this way. Facing and accepting your emotions can help you move through them.” –Kate Marosek, LCSW specializing infertility concerns
The BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board, compromised of over 2,000 physicians and researchers, has a website that discusses healthy and effective strategies to help deal with one of life’s most painful challenges. First, it is recommended to gain the perspective that a fertility problem is a crisis. Next, it is imperative that feelings and thoughts are sorted out and shared with whoever the couple or individual feels comfortable with, whether that be friends and family, a therapist or a journal.
Psychologist Yakov Epstein advises against the temptation to blame yourself and get caught in the trap of negative thinking patterns and recommends rather looking forward to how to best manage the situation at hand.
The advisory board emphasizes the importance of working as a team with your partner, discussing the common pitfall of expecting your partner to have the same emotional experience or ways of coping with the situation and advises paying attention to how your partner is dealing with the infertility concerns.
Boundaries in terms of setting limits on how long you are willing to try as well as how much you are willing to pay are also steps that the advisory board discusses on their website as a result of the amount of anxiety the treatments and costs of treatments can cause for the couple.
The BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board concludes their recommendations with the discussion of the benefits of professional help from a therapist to work through feelings of guilt, shame and the tendency of these feelings to result in isolation.
The Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics discusses the roles of medical doctors and mental health professionals when helping clients with fertility concerns in their article on fertility counseling. The article states that the medical doctors and staff should deliver patient-centered care including treatment implications and pros and cons to available treatments. The article states that the role of an accompanying therapist in this situation is to focus on the resulting psychological problems including anxiety, depression and marital/sexual problems. Therapists can also help the individual or couple with coping skills and self-care strategies that can offer relief from the stress of fertility treatments.
Fertility problems affect the couple on a relationship level in addition to individually. The couple’s relationship is impacted with lower levels of self-esteem, increased feelings of anxiety and altered perspective of the sexual relationship.
It is important to remember that men and women experience infertility concerns differently and therefore would benefit from different coping skills and therapeutic interventions. The article included in The Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics reports women to experience greater amounts of stress, are more likely to report depression and anxiety symptoms, more likely to utilize avoidance strategies and are more likely to consider seeking professional help. On the contrary, studies show that men experience less emotional effects related to infertility, are more likely to distance themselves from the pain and tend to take a problem-solving approach.
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There is no question that the diagnosis of infertility and resulting experience changes one’s life forever. Caring therapists can be beneficial in this emotional rollercoaster by helping uncover insights you didn’t know you had, address the unresolved grief you are experiencing, aid in your ability to understand the unspoken resentment and feelings of inadequacy towards your partner as well as begin to reconnect with your partner emotionally and physically. Therapists can help teach coping skills and stress-management techniques.
“Sometimes when life doesn’t work out as you planned, there is a greater force at work.” –Deanna Kahler
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.