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  • Writer's pictureFood & Mood

How to Survive Infertility

The dark blanket of grief associated with infertility is a conversation that needs to come to light. Many suffer in isolation and silence. Infertility presents its own set of challenges. Losses compound on each other and grief associated becomes immeasurable.

There are a few reasons why infertility, a physical issue, is damaging to your mental health. The brain is a huge part of whole body health.

  • Hormones. They are central to emotional wellbeing. Hormones play a role in the emotional ups and downs associated with fertility treatments, pregnancy losses, and medical procedures.

  • Grief and loss. Can include miscarriages and other pregnancy losses. Women who miscarry are at increased risk for PTSD, OCD and anxiety symptoms. When infertility struggles increase, so does grief. Grief will always be a part of the fertility journey.

  • Myths of motherhood. Most have an expectation of what pregnancy is. Thoughts are already set in stone about how easy or hard it will be to get pregnant, what the pregnancy journey is like, and what it’s like to become a mother. Idealized expectations get shattered.

  • Powerlessness, shame and betrayal. These feelings can sound like, “My body betrayed my trust” or “I feel like I’m not normal”. There is an overwhelming sense of vulnerability when things do not go as expected.

  • Time. Trying to get pregnant can feel like a race against a biological clock. Fertility or infertility usually follows a long period of time “trying”.

Partners are often the #1 support system for each other during the arduous infertility journey and can bring partners closer. Partners are there for the high-highs and the low-lows, the hope and the grieving. Partners can feel overwhelmed, confused, angry and afraid. Infertility can also increase the stress a couple puts on sexuality. A once tender encounter can seem like a business transaction when trying to time sex for baby-making.

Supportive communication and conflict resolution skills are key to surviving infertility. Couples therapy can help in this area.

  • Listen and hold space for each other. Remember, you’re going through this together. Giving your partner the space to grieve in his or her own way will help prevent infertility from having a negative affect son your relationship.

  • Be spontaneous. Don’t forget to have fun with each other.

There are practical strategies to help with mental health while undergoing fertility treatment.

  • Get and maintain adequate sleep. Take naps when you can and listen to your body when it needs to rest.

  • Exercise. A walk 3-4 times per week is beneficial for your mental health.

  • Get proper nutrition. A balanced diet supports mental health.

  • Seek therapy. Counseling can help work through grief, fear and other negative emotions associated with infertility. Learn to cope with physical and emotional changes of infertility, and with painful medical treatments. Cognitive behavioral therapy can focus on stress management and maintaining realistic expectations.

  • Ask for help. Educate loved ones on infertility and tell them how you would like to speak about your experience (or not!). In the infertility process there is a profound sense of isolation, loneliness and discomfort being around others. You may feel alienated or that no one else understands what you’re going through.

  • Get support.

    • Support groups play a prominent role in prevention and treatment of infertility depression.

    • Virtual and telephone support is available to all families.

    • Specialized professionals are key to surviving infertility. You are already connected with a team of healthcare providers—they can provide mental health resources.

In the therapy world, infertility is treated as bereavement. There is no right way to grieve. Here are some suggestions to find comfort in dealing with infertility.

  • Journal your experience.

  • Write a letter to your baby.

  • Give yourself permission to cry and be angry.

  • Get a plant and tend to its growth.

  • Access creative outlets to work through grief.

  • Finding meaning in your suffering by helping others.

written by Lauren Luppino, LCSW -

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