Infertility Counseling for Emotional Issues Couples Face
Infertility counseling at a glance
- Infertility is inherently stressful, affecting the well-being of almost every patient receiving the diagnosis or involved in treatments.
- Counseling can greatly help people trying to deal with how infertility affects themselves, their partner, their marriage and their lives.
- It is completely normal for couples and individuals to need psychological support after a diagnosis of infertility, and professional counseling is often the best way to get it.
- We refer our patients to professional infertility counselors, because they have the training, skills and experience to deal with mental health concerns in the most effective way.
The stress of infertility
It can be emotionally devastating to receive a diagnosis of infertility. Many feel a sense of loss and inadequacy after learning their road to parenthood will not be the one they expected. Dealing with infertility treatment can also bring new stresses, as couples swing between emotions of hope and despair.
Add the destabilizing effect of hormone treatments into the mix and the emotional whirlwind can be debilitating. If success doesn’t come soon, stress builds. It’s not uncommon for the second year of pursuing treatments to be even harder on a couple or person than the initial diagnosis of infertility.
Anger, depression, anxiety, fear, grief and other emotions are the natural byproducts of infertility and its treatments. If the cause is known to be due to one partner, it can cause shame in one and resentment in the other. Finding no cause for the infertility isn’t any better.
Deciding on the type of treatment can cause friction and psychological problems. One partner may want to go slowly, the other full speed ahead with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Even finally being pregnant can be loaded with stress and thoughts like, What if there’s a miscarriage? Could I could through all this again? I can’t fail.
Because of all these factors, infertility patients must get the emotional support they need any way they can. Partners must help each other, as can family members and friends. Online support groups and local ones are great resources. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association lists free infertility support groups by state and region on their website.
How to tell if you need counseling
If a person or couple can’t break through their emotional distress with their own efforts and support system, they need professional counseling. In fact, it’s often wise to seek such support before psychological issues get out of control. Counseling can prevent these issues from the start, as well as address them at certain problematic points. For example, right before beginning IVF, many couples are at a low emotional point and need help.
Depression is a very common effect of infertility and its treatments, particularly for women. Deeper levels of depression can prevent one from even acknowledging a problem. This is why a partner needs to be very attuned to his or her mate, and take measures quickly. But that may not be enough, well intended as it is.
Following are indications that professional counseling is in order.
- Not functioning normally in daily routine or work
- Relationship with spouse and/or others under serious strain
- Continual sadness, pessimism or guilt
- Plummeting self-esteem
- Isolating oneself from others
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Problems making decisions or meeting commitments
- Increasing feelings of anger or anxiety
- Considering suicide
- Frequent crying about infertility
- Change in weight, appetite or sleep
If a person or couple has any of the symptoms above and they do not go away, he, she or they should seek professional counseling. Same goes for if a person notices such signs in his or her partner. Patients should always tell their infertility specialist – or a staff member or nurse – about such concerns.
Counseling resources & issues addressed
We frequently recommend our patients visit a professional infertility counselor if they’re struggling with depression or stress related to their infertility diagnosis or treatment.
Local patients may consider making an appointment with Dr. Allison Pate, who practices in Redlands, CA. Her office number is 909-557-0212.
The emotions and difficulties infertility patients often feel are uniquely their own. Infertility counselors can help manage overall emotions as well as those specific to a treatment, such as psychological impacts involved with using donor eggs or sperm, surrogacy, or embryos remaining after IVF.
Some major psychological issues professional counselors often address with infertility patients follow.
Loss of the dream
It’s the stuff of fairy tales and life abounding all around: People get married, have children and live happily. When infertility turns that very common dream into a nightmare, considerable psychological consequences come into play.
Even if the cause was out of their control, seeing that dream of becoming parents together fade out of sight is difficult to accept. It can create a secret grief that tears people up.
Grief as a natural response
When someone dies, there’s grief and a funeral service. When a couple finds out they have infertility, there’s just the grief, and healing from it becomes more difficult. This is a natural grief and a normal response to infertility. It must be openly embraced, which can be difficult for some to do without professional help.
And as with a death, acceptance of the reality of infertility is an important element in moving beyond the grief. Couples need to accept that things aren’t as they had hoped and move forward. This can bring the peace of mind that, come what may, the couple or person can accept what happens.
Obsession can seem like the only logical response for people who want to fight through their infertility. But in the long-run, becoming obsessed with finding a cure or just an answer, even if it’s not having a child, is damaging.
Walk through the treatment process, don’t rush through it. It can be a long haul sometimes, and being obsessed with a breakthrough can lead to an emotional crash if success is delayed.
Sex & money
These two highly important issues come together with infertility, and that combination is often emotionally volatile. Treatment can cost a lot of money if insurance doesn’t cover it, and many times it does not. Where to get the money, how to determine if it is worth it for treatments that may not work, and evaluating why that money shouldn’t go toward some other need are all thoughts that can trip up an infertile couple.
And they’re facing these concerns because something is wrong with their sex: it isn’t working according to simplistic notions of the birds and the bees. The failure is highly personal. Self-image as a man, woman, wife, husband, partner, mother, father can be thrown into disarray and deep doubt.
Most everyone dealing with infertility faces a tremendous level of self-blame. It’s natural, and it’s natural to clam up about it. The temptation to bury one’s feelings when dealing with infertility is very strong, and can occur without one even knowing it’s happening.
Talking about self-blame is the only way many people can overcome it. A fear that can arise from such self-blame is, Will my partner leave me? Such powerful emotions can even hamper the effectiveness of treatments, as well as destroy a marriage.
Men and women particularly need to resist not communicating with their partner. That’s not easy for many people to do without help.