As told by Lindsay Liben – Infertility Therapist
As an infertility therapist, I work with many patients who identify this issue as the most overwhelming obstacle in their lives. It’s a common story that they focused on their career, or finding the right relationship before attempting to create the most stable situation to introduce a baby. Then when they try to conceive, it doesn’t happen. These aspiring moms-in-the-making are not used to failing, and find themselves far outside their comfort zones without sufficient coping mechanisms. As a result, they experience a loss of control, helplessness and anxiety. Unfortunately, research supports that heightened levels of stress and anxiety around trying to get pregnant can negatively impact your chances of reproductive success.
In addition to feeling stressed and overwhelmed, my patients regularly find themselves experiencing distress and isolation around the stigma of infertility. For many reasons, it can be hard to talk about this sensitive issue with friends and family. One patient likened her infertility to a veil of shame and secrecy that separated her from everyone else. My patients share that they feel guilty about getting sad at their friends’ baby showers, or enraged when their parents ask when they’ll become grandparents. It even affects their most intimate relationships. None of the partners I’ve treated respond to infertility in the exact same way. Whether they are supportive, attuned or aloof, there is a new kind of pressure placed upon a couple that is trying to conceive, which requires a new way of interacting and communicating.
What can I expect in therapy?
Therapy can be a valuable place to unpack the wide range of emotions one experiences while trying to conceive. While no two treatments are alike, it is common to reflect on your experiences, process grief, build resilience, learn more effective coping mechanisms, and deepen your insight into your authentic needs and how to best get them met.
When is it time to consider meeting with a therapist?
Sometimes emotional distress creeps up on you, other times it can feel more sudden (like that feeling in the pit of your stomach when the fertility nurse calls to report another negative pregnancy test). If you are experiencing acute distress for more than two weeks you may want to consider seeing an infertility specialist. Other signs to look for are changes in your appetite, sleep disruptions, increased anxiety or panic, withdrawal or lack of interest in pleasurable activities, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, loss of sexual interest, repeatedly feeling overwrought after failed treatment cycles.
Where to go from here?
Millions of people in the world struggle with infertility, but that does not mean you have to endure undue suffering. While it is appropriate to feel sad and anxious, if these emotions are intruding on your functioning, then pick up the phone and schedule a consultation.