Infertility is perhaps one of the most stressful challenges a couple can face. How you cope with this roller coaster of emotions depends very much on your personality and your situation, since every person is different and infertility issues vary. For example, someone who is dealing with pregnancy loss may have different needs and coping strategies compared with someone undergoing their first IVF treatment cycle.
Coping with the challenges of infertility involves finding the strength within yourself and within your relationship. It also involves asking for help when you need it and learning as much as you can about your condition and the treatment options and resources.
While the medical focus may be on treating the physical causes of infertility, it’s equally important to take care of your emotional wellbeing.
Here are some important points to remember about the emotional side of infertility treatment:
City Fertility has counsellors and other trained staff to help you deal with the stress and emotions involved in resolving fertility problems.
Although it may be hard to do, reaching out to those close to you can help in difficult moments. It is better not to experience this process alone by internalising painful emotions. You have a partner who is committed to the same goals as you, and friends and family who are more than willing to help in whatever way they can.
Although friends and family may mean well, you might find that there are people in your life who “get it” better than others do. Advice such as “Just relax and it will happen”, or “Try not to think about it so much”, or stories of others’ experiences may or may not be what you want to hear. Old recipes such as “Fertility is all in your head” or “Go on a holiday and you will get pregnant” do not work if you have a medical condition that requires diagnosis and treatment.
It is common for couples to withdraw from each other, their family and friends when they are dealing with infertility. This may be the first crisis you and your partner face together and you may not know how to offer and ask for support. Remember, there is no shame in going through infertility. You can overcome this by learning strategies that help keep the lines of communication open and your relationship alive. For instance, communicate positive as well as negative feelings, keep your sense of humour and set aside time to enjoy each other’s company.
Your partner should not be your only means of support. Try to build a network of trusted family members and friends who you can turn to when you’re feeling down, to take some pressure off your partner. And don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Infertility can put a terrible strain on your emotional wellbeing, and a mental-health professional can help you through testing periods.
Do not underestimate the power you have over your own emotional wellbeing. The better care you take of yourself, the better able you are to cope during this challenging time. Taking care of yourself means doing things that add to your sense of wellbeing and help relieve the stress associated with infertility.
Each person handles stress and pain differently. Some people find comfort writing their thoughts in a journal, while others choose yoga or other exercise as a stress reliever. Coping strategies that are healthful make you feel better and can make a difficult process manageable. Another vital part of this process is to grieve the many losses that make up the infertility experience. You may be mourning a miscarriage, a failed IVF cycle or something as elusive as the dream of parenting, but it’s important to acknowledge the loss.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun! Often people experiencing infertility deny themselves pleasures such as travel or a night out on the town. They spend so much time consumed with treatments and planning for the future that they ignore the importance of finding joy in the present.
Watch clinical psychologist Dr Jodie Housman as she shares useful tips to help couples cope with IVF diagnosis and treatment.
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