Common medical thought used to accept that about half of all infertility cases were because of a physical diagnosis, and the other half were unexplainable, the result of mental stress or other psychosomatic complications. However, today physicians know that only about 15% of cases are actually unexplainable, and the rest are due to a physical issue in the male partner, female partner, or both.
This doesn’t mean the condition doesn’t come without extremely high levels of mental and emotional stress. In a Harvard study, more than half the patients reported that facing infertility was the most upsetting experience through which they’d lived. Another study found that women facing infertility had a similar level of anxiety or depression as those living with a cancer diagnosis or recovering froma heart attack. And we know those feelings aren’t caused only by the physical limitations you have to overcome when dealing with infertility – it’s also about the financial stress, any side effects of medication, and the state of limbo it puts your life in for what can be an extended period of time. The good news is that nearly 90% of infertility cases are treated, and there are more than 40 different types of treatment options. Only a small percent of patients need to continue into advanced treatment options such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
So what can you do to curb any anxiety you feel? While there isn’t a magic answer or relief as you journey down a path to having a family, there are definitely some options.
Ways to Help
Counseling: short-term counseling can be hugely beneficial – helping with coping strategies, making decisions, or identifying other issues that could be a parallel challenge with your fertility, such as depression.
Share your feelings: We talk a lot about authenticity and transparency in our culture today. While you certainly don’t have to bare your soul to every stranger you meet, putting up a brave front every day can make you feel alone and not able to connect with others.
Don’t blame yourself: Your situation has nothing to do with choices you did or did not make at another point in your life. It’s simply a reality that exists, and thinking about the “woulda/coulda/shouldas” will just bog you down.
Relaxation techniques: There are many ways to relieve the stress you may be experiencingthrough your fertility journey. You can try practicing deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or even just things you know help you destress – going for a vigorous walk, coloring, singing loud to your favorite tunes, etc.
Psychotherapy: It’s not as scary as it sounds. Some of the subsets of psychotherapy include interpersonal therapy - helping you improve relationships that might be strained, or cognitive behavioral therapy - helping you change unhealthy thought patterns.
Medications: In some cases, taking medications such as antidepressants might be helpful. Speak to a specialist about the effects though, as it might affect any infertility treatments you’re undergoing or a developing fetus if you conceive.
Infertility can be a heavy burden to carry, especially when you think about trying to keep the other parts of your life “normal.” Hopefully some of these tips can help you, as infertility is a journey you don’t have to walk alone! If you have questions at any time or want to find out ways you can have support through infertility, please contact us anytime at 717-747-3099 or click on the button below.
Dr. Melanie Ochalski
P.S. If you’d like to learn more but don’t want to commit to a phone call or a visit just yet, you can check out our free webinar here.