Infertility, Treatments, and Stress… OH MY!

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By Nattalie Roepke

Have you or your partner had difficulties conceiving? If so, you are not alone. According to womanshealth.gov, 10% of US women struggle with becoming pregnant or carrying to term. Infertility is defined by the World Health Organization as being unable to conceive after 12 months of regular unprotected sex. Some reproductive specialists believe that this is overgenerous. They believe that after 6 months, couples 35 and older should begin the testing process for infertility.

If you or someone you love has ever gone through this, you may understand how difficult it is. 20% of couples who have been diagnosed with infertility, don’t know why. Many others are left with frustrating diagnosis such as premature menopause, low ovarian reserve, PCOS, low sperm count, or endometriosis. All of these disorders are outside of individual control and difficult, if not impossible, to treat medically leaving many couples with no other options except for expensive, and perhaps financially prohibitive, treatments.

There are many aspects about infertility that go unaddressed by medical practitioners. Women and men who discover that they are incapable of having children without medical support experience:

  • Shame
  • Isolation
  • Greif over the loss of this ability
  • Anger at their body or their partner’s body for not working
  • Confusion
  • Regret
  • Fertility hyper-awareness
  • Disappointment
  • Jealousy for other’s who do not have difficulty conceiving
  • Feelings of loss of control over one’s body
  • Guilt
  • Low self-esteem
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While you may see a reproductive endocrinologist, gynecologist, and/or urologist for your physical concerns, many forget that mental health is equally important. Because many individual’s experiencing fertility challenges may not feel comfortable sharing them with friends or family, isolation and depression commonly occur.

What Can You Do?

If you have been involved in reproductive treatments for a while, you already know that reproductive health has a vernacular all its own. Step into any online chat community for infertility for the first time and the acronyms and drug names will overwhelm you. Individual’s new to the process may feel completely lost when speaking to doctors and may struggle to even know what to ask.

Reproductive mental health counselors specialize in providing support to individuals who are dealing with the stressors related to this process. As a patient of an infertility clinic, you may dig into supplements and diets all geared to help you produce the best quality eggs or sperm you can. While you are doing all that you can to take care of your body, don’t forget to take care of your mind.

Chronic stress can alter your hormonal balance. In an article written in 2008 in “Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience” researchers were able to tie stress related hormones to worsened pregnancy outcomes when patients are undergoing assisted reproductive techniques (ART). This seems to correlate with anecdotal stories that seem to show that couples are more successful when they are less stressed. Everyone has heard of a couple who tried for years. At some point they stop trying and go on a vacation and come home pregnant. Although this definitely does not work for most couples, lowering stress hormones can increase the effectiveness of treatment.

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Help Is Available

Contact a mental health counselor who specializes in treatment of clients experiencing fertility challenges. There are many interventional therapies which can help you reduce stress and become more resilient when faced with the obstacles of infertility.

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