What impact does infertility have on emotional well-being?
Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises for couples.Struggles with conception can cause deep feelings of loss to surface. Dealingwith with the multitude of medical decisions and the uncertainties thatinfertility brings can create great emotional upheaval for many couples.So if you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, out of control, or isolated,you are not alone.
How do I know if I could benefit from psychological counseling?
It is normal to experience a wide variety of emotions in the process ofpursuing infertility treatment. However, if your experience includes anyof the following symptoms over a prolonged period of time, you could benefitgreatly from spending time with a mental health professional. The symptomsinclude:
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Depression that doesn’t seem to go away
- Strained interpersonal relationships (withpartner, family, friends and/or colleagues)
- Difficulty thinking about anything other than yourinfertility
- High levels of anxiety
- Diminished ability to focus upon completing tasks
- Difficulty concentrating
- Change in sleep patterns (difficulty falling asleepor staying asleep, early morning awakening, sleeping more than usual)
- Change in appetite or weight (increase or decrease)
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Thoughts about death or suicide
- Social isolation
- Persistent feelings of pessimism, guilt,or worthlessness
- Persistent feelings of bitterness or anger
In addition, there are certain points during infertility treatment whendiscussion with a mental health professional can help clarify thoughts andhelp with decision making. For example, consulting with a mental healthprofessional may be helpful to you and your partner if you are:
- At a treatment crossroad
- Trying to decide between alternative treatmentpossibilities
- Exploring other family-building options
- Considering third party assistance (gametedonation, surrogacy)
- Having difficulty communicating or if you are inconflict with others about what direction to take
How can psychological treatment help me/us cope with infertility?
Mental health professionals who have experience with infertility treatmentcan be very helpful. Their primary goal is to help individuals and coupleslearn how to cope with the physical and emotional changes associated withinfertility and with medical treatments that can be painful and intrusive.Some professionals might choose to focus primarily on how to deal with apartner’s response. Other professionals might spend lots of time discussinghow to choose the right medical treatment or how to explore and evaluateother family building options.
Some couples might need help controlling stress, anxiety, or depression(or all three). Mental health professionals can help individuals work throughgrief, fear, and other negative emotions related to infertility. A goodtherapist has the ability to help others sort out feelings, strengthen existingcoping skills and develop new ones, and communicate with others more effectively.Many have found that their life-crisis of infertility became an opportunityfor life-enhancing personal growth.
How can I find a mental health professional experienced in workingwith infertility?
Make every effort to find a mental health professional who is familiarwith the emotional experience of infertility. The professional should have:
- A graduate degree in a mental health profession
- A license to practice and/or state registration
- Clinical training in the psychological aspectsof infertility
- Experience in the medical and psychologicalaspects of reproductive medicine
It may prove beneficial to interview more than one professional. Ask theperson for his/her credentials especially regarding their experience withinfertility issues and treatments and if they are currently seeing otherpeople with infertility problems. Although the process of finding a professionalcan be stressful, it can also be a highly rewarding experience.
Reprinted by permission from the American Society ofReproductive Medicine