Coping with the Emotional Fallout of Infertility

By Dr. Gretchen KubackyChronic Illness, Infertility, PCOS, , , , , ,

 

If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant, you may have discovered that your body isn’t a perfectly functioning, well-oiled piece of machinery.  It’s fallible – and it’s failed you.  You may feel angry, sad, frustrated, enraged, or confused by your infertility.  There are actions you can take to shift your mindset from feeling like a victim of infertility, to a whole, healthy woman who is coping with a challenge successfully.

 

You may have already gotten out of denial – you’re seeking treatment, and identify yourself as an infertility patient, after all – but there may be aspects of the condition that you’re still denying.  You may think that you’re numbers mean something better than they actually do, or that IVF or other reproductive technologies are more successful than they really are.  You may believe that you’ve got the strength and energy to go through as many procedures as it takes to have a successful pregnancy.  Ask yourself if there’s something you’re not facing realistically, and if it’s holding you back in some way.  Although reality can be scary, the facts may ultimately be comforting, and even provide a release, or a much-needed opportunity to stop trying for pregnancy, and move on to other options.

 

Grieve what needs to be grieved.  This may be self-image (that “perfect” body), possibilities, the idea of having biological children, or of having children at all.  Along the way, you may need to grieve your sex life, your privacy, and the loss of a lot of other pleasures as your budget and time gets eaten up in the process of creating a family.  Anger is part of your grieving; you are entitled to it, and embracing it will give you energy to move forward.

 

Give yourself possibilities now, rather than later.  Now that you’ve moved out of the hope or fantasy of “accidental” or sort-of-planned pregnancy, cried, had your rage, and gathered some support, decide what’s next – assisted reproductive technology, adoption, surrogacy, or a child-free life.

 

Don’t wait until you’re worn out and see adoption as a last resort that needs to be rushed through.  Explore options like adoption, surrogacy, or child-free living, even if you’re hoping for a different outcome.  Allowing for alternatives takes the pressure off of the daily experience of infertility – and that stress reduction may be a contributor to your body relaxing enough to achieve pregnancy, if that’s still your goal.

 

Take action to achieve that dream.  Make sure you’re on the same page with your spouse or partner, if you have one.  Do the research to find a great reproductive endocrinologist, a supportive counselor, a knowledgeable dietician, and any other resources you need.  Join online support communities that are specific to infertility, just as you joined this PCOS-specific community.  Make a plan – give yourself some general timeframes and budgets for what you are willing to do.

 

Finally, if you find you’re not coping well at all, seek the help of a professional psychotherapist with expertise in infertility who can support and guide you to a healthier, more balanced state of emotional well-being.  With luck, planning, focus, and support, you may well be able to achieve the family you’ve been dreaming of, in spite of infertility.