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Coping with Infertility

Jessica Evert, MD, edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD Updated: Jun 28th 2016

As mentioned throughout this article, the inability to conceive a child is emotionally difficult at best and can easily become devastating. Infertility treatment itself is physically and emotionally demanding, expensive (and not typically covered by insurance) and offers no guarantees of success. Your first treatment may result in a pregnancy, or you may endure multiple procedures without success.

couple running togetherThere are several things that can help you cope with these painful realities. First of all, it is important to understand that a great sense of loss, disappointment, or the like, is completely normal in the face of infertility. Such reactions can be very intense, and it is important to not feel guilty about having these emotions.

Throughout the process of discovering and trying to remedy infertility it is also important to capitalize on existing supportive relationships. Support may come from your partner, or it may be drawn from extended family, peer groups, your community or the like. In addition, there are often support groups in surrounding communities and online sites. Infertility doctors are frequently aware of local area support groups.

If you are going through infertility treatment with a partner, it is especially crucial to cultivate open communication and mutual support. If the source of the infertility is localized to you or your partner, it is very easy for you to start blaming your partner for the failure, or to blame yourself. However, it is important to remember that although the underlying problem may reside with one partner or the other, it is not likely that partner did anything wrong.

Frustration is the normal experience of infertile couples that want to become parents. The process of infertility treatment often leads to dramatic ups and downs of emotion as one treatment is started or one treatment fails. Both partners may experience a range of intense emotions, from hope to excitement and regret, as well as disappointment, guilt, sadness, and happiness. Further complicating things is the fact that each partner may be feeling different emotions on the spectrum at different times. It can be a challenge for both partners to respect where the other is on their emotional spectrum, and to not allow infertility stress to destroy the relationship.

One way to create solidarity between you and your partner is to take time away from the pressures of infertility and take part in a mutually-enjoyable activity; a mental and/or physical get-a-way or holiday. This could be as simple as an afternoon picnic in the park, a movie, or a trip to a favorite scenic spot or restaurant.

In addition, it is important for you and your partner to communicate openly and honestly with one another. You should endeavor to make decisions jointly and to make sure that both partners understand the pros and cons of individual treatment decisions prior to embarking on fertility treatment. Discussions should be supplemented with educational information on fertility, its causes and its treatments. Also included in these discussions should be the financial considerations of fertility treatment; where the money to pay for infertility treatment will come from, what sacrifices will be required to pay that money off, and what limits will be put on how much will be spent. It may also be useful to set time limits for how long you are willing to attempt fertility treatments.

While contemplating or undergoing fertility treatments, it is important to also maintain other past-times and hobbies. As is the general case with regard to living life effectively, it is best to try to have balance in your life. This may mean making it a priority to continue to take part in physical activity, painting, or whatever you enjoyed doing prior to your recognition of infertility. Moreover, there may be activities you don't want to participate in anymore. For instance, children's birthday parties, baby showers, or the like may be painful experiences. It is totally normal to have this response and is okay to opt not to attend such events.

Serious conditions such as major depression can result, in part from the disappointments, which may be associated with infertility treatment. Signs and symptoms of depression can include: inability to sleep or sleeping very often, changes in appetite (either eating more or less), weight loss or gain, inability to enjoy activities that were previously enjoyable, overwhelming feelings of guilt, or increasing temper or irritability. Depression is a treatable condition, which may respond to both psychotherapy and medication. It is appropriate to seek out professional mental health counseling in the event that your relationship deteriorates significantly, or if your own mental health or the mental health of your partner suffers.


Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

unsuccessful fertility procedures - angela - Jul 24th 2012

i am 40.ive tried 3 IUIs,1 IVF,1 embryo transfer and everytime before the doctors tell me everything looks tired of poking needles,swallowing tablets and having my vitals poked around in full view of strangers with strange object yet i simply cannot give up,i will continue to try despite the money we have spent and the tears ive cried.most people with children make insensitive remarks without realising how hurtful it is.other day at the salon a group of women were discussing how any woman over 35yrs shouldnt bother because they would be conceiving mongols.God knows how I held back my tears,another lady, who happens to be the wife of my husband's friend told her husband not to tell me she was pregnant.i love children despite not having any but some women with children are so insensitive and treat the ones who dont have as if we have a disease and you cant join their elite group

...disappointments - Baby Blues - Mar 23rd 2011

Its extremely hard not being able to have a child, learning this at 16 and carrying a burden into your future relationships. I am now 24, and I love children I had worked in a daycare since 15 ...a year later i found out i was infertile. My heart shattered, I always dreamed of 5 children. The hardest part of being infertile is watching other people have children and when you see them take a privillage  like this for granted. Yes, i can adopt, but you still miss the 10 wonderful months, and the feeling of you and your soulmate have created this wonderful being right inside your belly.

its hard when hearing co-workers, BFF are pregnant, .. sometimes you get to attached to their child. Most the times i feel envy, and i do not like to feel that way at all. But its helpless, I hope infertility some day disappears, I hope we are all able to have many, many, many children.

trying to conceive for 4 years and still not sucessful - - Jun 4th 2008
dear reader -i  have been trying to conceive for 4 years now.i found out i had polycystic ovaries at he age of 34.i have been on clomid 100mg for 1 year.i did a laparoscopy and still with the addtion of metformin i still have not conceive .i am presently 38 years now.i have switch my gynogloogist.she presently has me on 200mg of clomid.i am ovulating with the the clomid but i have to go through 6 cyles of it.i did ovulate at the 100 mg but my egg was very small at 10 i am keeping my finger cross that this time it will this point all i can do is hope and pray-hopeful

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