Infertility is more than a physical condition, however, as it can represent a deeply distressing experience for individuals and couples affected. For many, working through the many aspects of infertility can be filled with complicated medical decisions and feelings of sorrow, shock, anger or frustration. If you find yourself overwhelmed, isolated or depressed, here are nine steps you can take to help manage the rollercoaster of emotions:
- Know you’re not alone. Infertility can feel isolating, but it’s more common than you might think. Infertility affects about 10 to 15 percent of U.S. couples – affecting both men and women equally.
- Face your feelings. Feelings of grief and anger are completely normal. Those feelings can alter your sleeping patterns, drain your energy levels, make you irritable, interfere with your ability to concentrate and even cause headaches. Don’t blame yourself for feeling moody and try not to bury your feelings. The best way to begin to move past these difficult emotions is by openly addressing them with family, friends, and medical and mental care professionals.
- Find a buddy. It can help to talk to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through. Whether you speak to a friend face-to-face, or virtually connect with someone you meet in an infertility forum, it can feel good to discuss your experience with someone who can relate to your frustrations. If you don’t know anyone that fits the bill, try reaching out to an online support community.
- Seek support. Consider joining a support group or mind-body group, which teaches physical and psychological relaxation techniques like meditation and deep-breathing exercises. These groups can help you manage stress and feel more like yourself – and for some individuals, might even help boost their odds of getting pregnant, according to NIH research on the association between stress and conception.
- Set the timer. Sometimes it feels like infertility has taken over your brain, and you think about it 24/7. But talking about it nonstop can take a toll on your relationship with your spouse or partner. When you need to vent or discuss your family-building plans, set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer rings, change the subject.
- Ask for help. Your friends, family and partner don’t always say the right thing —and that can be infuriating. But they can’t help you if they don’t know how. Maybe you wish they would ask more questions about what you are going through or that they’d drop the subject altogether. Let them know what you’re feeling and how they can best support you when you’re stressed.
- Set the mood. When you’re trying to get pregnant, intercourse may start to feel less enjoyable and feel like more of an obligation. Try to make time with your partner during non-fertile times of the month to keep your connection strong. A night in a hotel room or a special dinner date can help you focus on each other rather than making a baby.
- Don’t ignore depression. Sadness is normal when you’re experiencing infertility. But if you suffer from feelings of worthlessness, helplessness and guilt for days at a time, frequently feel fatigue and an inability to concentrate, or have trouble sleeping and eating, you may have depression. Learn more about the signs of depression. For more information and to get help for depression, you can also call UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric and Behavioral Services at (800) 825-9989.
- Get the facts. Whether or not you think you want to pursue infertility treatment, it helps to arm yourself with knowledge. Understanding your situation and knowing your options can help you decide how you want to move forward. If you’re considering in-vitro fertilization, check out The Couple’s Guide to In-Vitro Fertilization, a free course from UCLA’s IVF team.
To learn more about infertility testing and possible treatment options, contact the specialists at the UCLA Fertility and Reproductive Health Center.
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