How to Cope With Female Infertility
Infertility and Your Emotions
The emotions attached to female infertility are complex and difficult but also normal and natural. The more you understand about your emotions, the easier they will be to manage. You will likely go through similar stages to these:
- Denial and Shock – you may question why this is happening to you, especially if you’re healthy with little or no medical issues in your past, how it could happen, how it will affect your life and other similar emotions.
- Anger – you may feel angry at the world, at pregnant women, at individuals with kids, at your body or towards your family and friends for not understanding what you’re going through.
- Guilt - you may feel guilty about being angry, regret past events that might have affected your fertility, guilt for waiting too long before trying to conceive and other similar emotions.
- Sadness, Grief and Loss – you may feel a loss of self-esteem, grief over changing relationships between you and others in your life, less of a woman and other related feelings.
- Resolution – somehow, at some point, you will begin to resolve feelings related to your infertility. Finding resolution means different things to different people. For some it may be finally conceiving; for others, it may involve coming to terms with your infertility. Still others might decide to adopt, consider using an egg donor or decide to live life childless. Regardless of your journey, it will involve redefining your role in life and being at peace with the choices you make. Remember: just because you're infertile doesn’t mean you can’t be a parent.
The decision to inform family and friends about your fertility issues is a very personal one, so it’s important to set guidelines about what you will and won’t discuss. If you have a partner, sit down with them and come to an agreement about what is sharable and what’s not.
If you’re choosing single parenthood, sit down with yourself, a counselor or someone you trust and work out what you’re comfortable sharing.
As you’re doing this, think about:
- Taking care of yourself first and foremost. Your emotional well-being is important, so do whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
- What social events you feel most comfortable attending. For example, if seeing children or close family members or friends with their children pains you, it’s ok to decline invitations to parties or holidays. If you don’t want to miss an event altogether but still feel uncomfortable going, think about attending an event for a shorter time period.
- How you will handle questions concerning your fertility, including ones like “do you have a family?” “do you have children?” and “when are you going to have kids?”
- How to deal with the pressure of telling family and friends, if you choose to do so. This depends on how close you are to your family and how well they handle issues. If you have a family that gossips a lot, you will probably get a lot of unsolicited advice and questions. If you have a family that doesn’t discuss personal issues much, you probably won’t get a lot of questions. Either of these situations can be quite uncomfortable – in the first instance you might feel overwhelmed and stressed. In the second, you may feel isolated, alone and stressed. These are both extreme examples, and your experience may fall anywhere between or outside of them. No matter what, remember: it’s always ok to leave, and it’s always ok to say you don’t feel comfortable talking about yourself.
- Appointing one family member or friend to spread news and updates to other family members or friends. This way you don’t have to deal with everyone yourself.
Creating a Support Network
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone – no matter who you are or what your situation is in life, support is always available.
- If you have a partner, they are your most crucial emotional support and vice versa. Be sure to be open and honest – tell them what kind of support you need and ask them what they need in return. Discuss the emotions you are, or will be, feeling and how you will deal with anger, resentment and sadness together.
- Your family and friends can also be a valuable support system, but they won’t know how to help you, so you will have to be honest with them. Tell them what issues aren’t open to discussion and how they can best support you emotionally.
- A counselor or therapist can help you understand your emotions and help you cope with your feelings about infertility.
- Professional organizations or groups can also help you connect with other people dealing with fertility issues. It is often helpful to see other people going through the same experiences as you and may help you form relationships with other women.
- If you don’t feel comfortable meeting in person, think about going online. There are numerous chat rooms, forums and groups dedicated to female infertility. They are full of women going through the same experiences as you. You may feel more comfortable being anonymous and may form greatly beneficial relationships with other women who have the same concerns you do.
- If religion and faith are an important part of your life or you’re having a spiritual crisis, consider talking to a minister, rabbi or priest about your feelings or emotions.
Support Resources for Women With Infertility Issues
If you are struggling with infertility, it is important that you find healthy and positive ways to cope with your emotions. Professional resources are also available to help you express both common and uniquely female feelings about infertility:
American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM)
1209 Montgomery Highway
Birmingham, Alabama 35216-2809
Phone: (205) 978-5000
Fax: (205) 978-5005
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine is interested in all aspects of the reproductive lifecycle and is committed to providing patient information on a wide range of topics. ASRM provides information on infertility, menopause, contraception, reproductive surgery, endometriosis, and other reproductive disorders.
Various patient organizations also exist to help individuals facing reproductive health issues and provide resources and support groups:
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association
7910 Woodmont Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
Phone: (888) 623-0744 (National Helpline)
Phone: (301) 652-8585 (National Office)
Fax: (301) 652-9375
The mission of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association is to provide timely, compassionate support and information to people who are experiencing infertility and to increase awareness of infertility
American Fertility Association (AFA)
666 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10103
Phone: (888) 917-3777
The American Fertility Association (AFA) is a national organization dedicated to supporting men, women and families facing infertility and decisions related to family building and reproductive health -- from prevention and treatment to social, psychological and financial concerns. Through educational symposia and forums, free publications, interactive media and advocacy for research funding and policy, The American Fertility Association serves as a lifetime resource for women, men and families needing reproductive information and support and to forward the causes of adoption and reproductive health.