Coping With Infertility
Sadness and Stress
Hormone levels rise and fall every month you try to conceive, but there’s only one way for your stress level to go: up, up, up. Anger. Depression. Anxiety. The sadness that hits you every month when you discover you’re not pregnant can be profound and paralyzing. Research shows that depression among infertile women is on par with those with cancer or heart disease. Men get depressed, too, and infertility can be one of the most distressing life crises for a couple to face.
Doctor’s appointments for infertility treatment can interfere with work hours, jeopardizing your career. Maintaining relationships is a struggle: your loving marriage is tested by scheduled intercourse and anxiety over the expense of treatment. Being around friends and family who have children may be difficult. But don’t isolate yourself from your partner, family or friends – you may need more comfort than you realize. Make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Attending a baby shower or first birthday party may be difficult, but it may be more devastating to not share important milestones with those you need most.
The cycle of rising hopefulness and sinking despair that can accompany each month of trying to conceive can create enormous stress, and this stress can in turn make it more difficult to conceive. While most experts say there is little evidence that stress is to blame for infertility, nearly all agree that the two are related. Stress may affect a woman’s levels of estrogen and progesterone, hormones necessary for reproduction. Prolonged stress also may cause fallopian tube spasm in women and decreased sperm production in men.
Knowing that your increased stress levels could further impair your fertility brings on more feelings of anxiety, which compounds the situation. That is why it’s important to develop coping mechanisms to help manage stress.
Breaking the Cycle of Stress
Undergoing fertility treatment can be very stressful, but feelings of anxiety can be managed to help you regain a sense of control in life. As your anxiety and depression lift, you’ll be better able to make decisions about your treatment.
To help break the cycle of stress, try following some of these tips to help you relax and enjoy your life again:
- Find a support group. Call The AFA, we are a national patient education, advocacy and support organization. We can help. Check out our Web site, http://www.americaninfertility.org, to join an online discussion group. Or call a patient advocate at our toll-free number, 888-317-3777. Also, your IVF center or local doctor may run in-house support groups in which you can participate.
- Learn about infertility. Research all available treatment options—being informed will help you make better decisions about your care.
- Seek professional help to cope with your emotions, including couples therapy. Find a mental health professional who is familiar with the emotional experience of infertility. You can call AFA for a referral in your area.
- Investigate complimentary therapies, such as relaxation techniques, massage, acupuncture and yoga.
- Take time to do something special for yourself. Get away for the weekend.
- Keep a journal. It’s a way to express and manage your feelings in a constructive way.
- Take a brief “vacation” from treatment when it’s appropriate. It will take some pressure off and give you renewed energy should you decide to continue later.
- Try to maintain good eating habits. A balanced diet will help you maintain your weight and provide the necessary nutrients to keep you healthy.
- Get regular exercise. A long walk or bicycle ride can help clear your mind and renew your body!
One of the best ways to ease the depression and stress of infertility is to share your feelings with others that understand. The American Fertility Association is a resource for couples experiencing infertility and offers numerous opportunities for support. You’ll find online educational meetings, chat rooms and message boards, as well as the latest information on fertility treatment. Browse our website at http://www.theafa.org or visit http://www.fertilityjourney.com. Other useful resources include the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), http://www.asrm.org, or the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), http://www.sart.org.