10 to 15% of couples experience infertility each year. Research shows that the diagnosis of infertility is comparable to that of a life-threatening medical illness, such as cancer, in terms of the emotional impact it has. It's not surprising that many women, even those who have coped well through past adversities, find themselves feeling overwhelmed.
Now is the time to be gentle with yourself. You’ve been thrown into a life crisis, challenging your views of yourself and plans for the future. You are likely finding it difficult to do the usual things you would to take care of yourself while you're trying to make sense of an entirely new reality.
Here are some ideas to help you cope with infertility:
Honor your feelings. With infertility and all the medical treatments and decisions that are involved, come a variety of emotions. At different times you may be feeling stressed, anxious, irritable, sad or depressed, cautiously optimistic. . . No matter what the feeling may be, honor it. You may find that you are judging yourself for having a certain feeling or having a reaction that feels out of character for you. Remember that feelings are just feelings, not right or wrong, good or bad. Honor them by simply acknowledging they are present and that's ok.
Have a support network. You will need to talk about what you're going through and may want help making decisions. Have a few trusted people that you can count on to be there for you. In addition to your spouse/partner, you may feel comfortable turning to friends, family, or a support group. To find a support group near you, visit Resolve:
Set limits. Invariably, there will be occasions that stir up strong emotions for you - baby showers, pregnancy announcements. It’s ok to decline invitations or to limit the amount of time you are spending on social media right now. This is a way of taking care of yourself and acknowledging that now is not the best time for you to be taking part in these activities.
Find balance. Managing fertility treatments can become all-consuming. It’s important to focus on other parts of your life, particularly those that give you joy. Consider what hobbies or interests you used to enjoy. Maybe there are new interests you’d like to take up. Think about how you can start allowing time for these interests again.
Practicing these tips will help to ease some of the burden you are experiencing right now. If you are still having a hard time, reach out for professional help. There are professionals who have expertise in helping people work through fertility issues. You can find a directory by state at Resolve and ASRM also has a directory:
Laura Winters, LCSW is a therapist specializing in infertility and prenatal/postpartum stress. Laura's practice is located in Chatham and Mountain Lakes, NJ.