Infertility affects both men and women, from all walks of life, and it can affect every area of your life:
Marital relationshipSexual functioningRelationships with family membersFriendshipsWork and careerFinancial stabilitySpiritual beliefs
Anyone who has experienced infertility knows that it is a difficult, challenging, and stressful time. It’s not uncommon to experience these symptoms of infertility stress:
Depressed moodAgitation and/or anxietyIncreased mood swingsConstant preoccupation with infertilityConfusion about treatment options/ IndecisivenessPersistent feelings of sadness, guilt, or worthlessnessLoss of interest in usual activities or interestsSocial isolationMarital discordDifficulty concentratingChange in appetite, increase or decreaseInsomnia or sleeping too muchIncreased alcohol or drug useThoughts of harming self or others
If you’re experiencing any of these common infertility stress symptoms, it may help you to learn stress reduction techniques, speak with a counselor, or join a free support group through RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association.
Here are some of the ways therapy can help you during your infertility journey:
Most infertility patients need an objective person to listen and help them process their thoughts and emotions. Family and friends are not always able to provide this kind of support, and patients often avoid confiding in others because they don’t want to be a burden.
We recognize the importance of psychological support at every phase of treatment, so we recommend patients see a psychologist or licensed professional counselor with clinical experience in infertility-related issues. Counseling can provide a supportive environment for you to clarify your emotions, engage in problem-solving, and make thoughtful decisions about the family you’re creating. Research demonstrates that women who learn stress management skills cope more effectively with the stressful demands of treatment and maximize their chances that treatment will result in pregnancy.
It’s common to feel helpless about your infertility. Patients who want to gain a greater sense of control during treatment may elect to participate in stress management training. Learning the relaxation response and other mind/body techniques for self-nurturance can be empowering. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help you address any negative self-talk — and it’s an important evidence-based treatment for depression and anxiety disorders associated with infertility.
The decision to move on to more invasive treatment techniques like IVF or the use of donor eggs, sperm or embryos can pose special psychological challenges. Couples often find it extremely helpful to have an objective party to help them sort through their feelings about issues such as multiple births and cryopreservation of embryos. Likewise, embracing third-party reproductive technologies involves working through and coming to terms with a complex set of psychosocial issues. A consultation with a psychologist or licensed professional counselor can give you the opportunity to reflect upon your treatment decision, receive important educational information, and facilitate communication about important issues like privacy and disclosure.
Research has shown that the best way to manage stress is to learn a variety of stress reduction techniques:
Diaphragmatic breathingProgressive muscle relaxationMeditationMindfulnessYogaCognitive restructuring
These techniques activate the "relaxation response" that serves to bring the nervous system back into balance by slowing down the heart rate and essentially restoring the body and mind back to a calm, relaxed state.
Practicing relaxation techniques during treatment will help you rid your body of the harmful effects of stress. And, of course, managing stress properly will give you the strength to handle the physical and emotional demands of infertility treatment.
And if you don’t already have a relationship with a therapist you trust, we can refer you to one with experience helping patients work through infertility-related issues.