Infertility Issues

Defining Infertility

A woman or couple is considered to have infertility problems when, after one year of not using any method of birth control she has not achieved a pregnancy. Today, if a woman is over 35 years of age, it is generally recommended that the couple seek medical assistance if she has not become pregnant after six months of unprotected intercourse.

There are many different theories of what causes infertility and many different issues that can factor into this. While doing research, you will find a plethora of information regarding female factors or male factors connected to infertility.

Regardless of the cause behind your infertility, you should seek help from a reproductive endocrinologist as soon as you suspect there may be a problem with achieving a pregnancy. Your Ob/Gyn may say that s/he is qualified to assist you in your quest, but we advise that you seek help from a specialist early in the game. With the help of an expert, you will be guided towards the best testing and treatment options.

Women who have recurring miscarriage are not, by definition, infertile; but the fact that they do not achieve a successful pregnancy, may put them in the category of infertility. These women should seek medical expertise from a high-risk obstetrician or perinatalogist.

Reactions to Infertility

When you suspect that you may be having an infertility problem, or when your doctor confirms this, you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed, scared and sad. The overwhelmed feeling may arise from myriad tests and treatment options that will likely be presented to you by your physician; or what you may be starting to read or hear about from friends, family members or other professionals.

Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown and as you face this huge unknown, you may also feel very anxious. You don’t understand what is happening to your body (or your partner’s body) and you may feel like you are losing control.

As competent individuals we all seek to have control over our lives. When we are stripped of this ability – especially in the face of something like family building that means so much to us, besides feeling scared, you may also feel angry. It feels so unfair to be facing this life crisis when there is no rhyme or reason for it. NO ONE deserves to experience infertility. And probably you feel that “all” your friends and everyone around you are getting pregnant without any trouble.

Finally, the feeling that is most commonly felt by women/couples experiencing infertility is sadness. The experiences of being overwhelmed, fearful and out of control are all very real, but the bottom line feeling is sadness as you confront this unexpected life crisis. The sadness is a result of this experience as a loss. It feels as if you have lost an important life function and ability – and you feel like you have lost the dreams and hopes of easily being pregnant and fantasizing about how your family will grow.

Yes, Infertility IS a Life Crisis

A crisis can be defined in different ways. Webster dictionary defines it as “an emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life.”

Infertility is a very real crisis – albeit an invisible one. Not only is it invisible, it is also one that you may not feel comfortable discussing openly with people around you. You may feel compelled to hold in check the reactions and feelings you are carrying around with you and hide your true feelings.

What Can Help You Manage Your Infertility

There are outlets for you and your feelings that are suggested here. We hope that you will take advantage of these options in order to help you navigate through this crisis.

  1. Keep a journal- this doesn’t have to be a “tell all, pour your heart out” journal. But keep a notebook where you can write down the dates of all your doctor appointments, questions that you have for your doctors, names and addresses of professionals who are suggested to you along the way; plus don’t forget to include a place for feelings, should you decide to write them down. These can be one word summaries of your feelings that day … “angry!”, “jealous”, “sad”, etc., etc. You will find that transferring to paper what is in your head can be a big relief. Unburdening yourself in this way may help you find some balance to your feelings and life.
  2. Seek some physical outlet – for those who are physically active, don’t stop now! For those who are not, this is not meant to put more pressure on you – simply, find time to take a short walk, smell the flowers, go to the beach, take a swim, etc.
  3. Do some relaxation exercises – there are some great ipod apps, DVDs, etc. that can help you to relax a bit. There are some specifically geared to infertility – but if you can’t find them (or don’t want to be reminded all the time of this on-going battle) then look for something that is soothing and can help you feel good about yourself.
  4. Join a support group – there are individual therapists or national organizations that organize support groups for women or couples dealing with infertility issues. If there is not a support group in your area you can try to start a peer-led one on your own or you can ask a local therapist if she would be willing to start one. There are also on-line support groups or chat rooms where you can find daily support and connect to others with similar issues. Although these can be great for some people, especially when you’re very busy with work and other obligations, face-to-face support groups are wonderful ways to connect with others and commiserate together.
  5. Individual counseling – seeking support from an individual counselor is another comfortable way for some people to get help. It is highly recommended that you seek a therapist who herself has either gone through infertility or has extensive knowledge about all issues related to infertility. Don’t be afraid to ask when you “interview” your therapist on the phone prior to committing to your first appointment.

Your Relationship

Infertility is an extreme relationship stressor! As overwhelmed as you might feel, try to not let this take over your life – and certainly try hard to keep perspective in your relationship with your partner. The best way to do that is through open communication. It is important that you allow each other to talk about how not getting pregnant is affecting you personally, your day-to-day life, your relationship and feelings. This can be a big challenge. And you may be confronting infertility early on in your marriage when you were expecting to settle into “marital bliss” and navigate the early years of marriage without any unexpected detours. It may help to set aside time with your partner to give each other permission to talk about your feelings – and if each of you does not want to talk, then at the very least allow the other to have some time to talk about what s/he is feeling.

Infertility is a most challenging life event. Get support so that you don’t feel isolated, confused and alone!