The Psychological Impact of Infertility
By Susan Scott MSW, LCSW
Most couples will face some degree of emotional distress when they are diagnosed and being treated for infertility. It is hard to feel happy when your body is not cooperating with what appears to be such a simple, biological task accomplished by most couples. You are not alone because 10% of the population is facing infertility at this moment. Its impact is felt on many levels. These levels or areas may include: an individual’s happiness and feelings of self-worth, the couple’s ability to communicate and help each other cope successfully, one’s spiritual or religious beliefs, the ability to juggle employment along with multiple medical appointments, your ability to afford treatment and the financial consequences, and your ability to deal with the fertile world.
To complicate matters, men and women react to, and cope differently with their diagnosis. This may impact your ability to communicate and can challenge your capacity to help one another. Many couples may begin to recognize that their past coping skills are no longer effective and that they may need to develop new coping strategies.
Most individuals report feelings of profound grief during this time. Some of the losses that you may be grieving at this time may include: the loss of the pregnancy state and parenting experience, the loss of control over one’s reproductive destiny, the loss of faith and hope, the loss of comfort about being around those who may be currently pregnant or have achieved their family building goals, and the loss of financial status as many insurance companies have decreased reimbursement or do not offer this benefit altogether.
Anxiety is often heightened during this time. The fear of an uncertain future can produce a great deal of stress in one’s life. Couples are also faced with an array of family building choices. Although these options offer hope, they may leave the couple feeling overwhelmed and unsure about when to discontinue one treatment and try another. Couples may also worry about the financial risks of pursuing alternative family building options, as well as the grief that may result from further unsuccessful attempts.
All couples should evaluate their emotional health during this time. It is important to reduce high levels of anxiety and to decrease any depression you may be experiencing. Many couples can benefit from meeting with a therapist who specializes in reproductive health issues. Most couples will find relief in attending just a few supportive counseling sessions. It is also recommended that couples begin to look at resources like RESOLVE, an organization solely committed to helping couples going through infertility. Information on RESOLVE can be obtained from our office.
If you would like more information on coping or a list of mental health providers who specialize in infertility, please see one of our staff members at the Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey.