Any couple who has experienced infertility knows that it can become just as much an emotional issue as it is a physical one.
Years of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant can take a toll on your psyche, weaken your resolve, and even lead to depression. All of these are common problems for the millions of women and men who suffer from infertility.
It’s not wrong to have these emotions and frustrations about infertility—it’s a part of the process. “Feel what you need to feel, and know the pain does get better over time,” Heather Huhman, creator of the podcast Beat Infertility, told EmpowHer.
The journey can be challenging, and there’s no manual on how to emotionally deal with infertility. But there are some tips to help you cope and stay positive while trying to conceive.
Don’t Be Ashamed
One of the biggest issues infertile couples struggle with is shame. It’s hard to talk to anyone about it because you feel embarrassed. But the truth is, it’s not your fault, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“Infertility is such an unspoken disease; people feel shame and hide it,” Michelle Sukhdeo told CNN. “I did too at first, until I met the women in my support group and they made me realize I wasn’t alone.”
Find Someone to Confide In
While you and your spouse will help each other stay strong through infertility, it’s important to have someone else you can share your struggles with as well. But make sure it’s the right person.
What you need most is someone who is willing to listen and be supportive, not someone who is always looking to give you advice or solve your problem (especially if they haven’t experienced infertility). If you don’t have a friend or relative you can confide in, there are support groups and online forums that are helpful.
Focus on Your Marriage
While the goal is to have a child, that’s not what your relationship is all about. Take time to focus on each other to help relieve the stress of infertility.
Yes, that means having sex for sheer pleasure, not for conception. Forget cycles and all that stuff for a period of time and just enjoy intimacy with each other without the burden of trying to get pregnant.
Enjoy Your Life
Sometimes infertility can consume your life. When you are unsuccessful at conceiving, the disappointment and frustration seeps into other areas of your life and takes the fun out of other activities.
It’s OK to grieve and be frustrated, but don’t stop living your life. Plan vacations and continue to do the activities that bring you joy. It will help you through the process and keep you in a positive mindset.
See a Counselor or Therapist
While it’s normal to feel down, sometimes those emotions can lead to depression. Research shows that women with infertility have the same levels of anxiety and depression as those with cancer, heart disease, and HIV.
While some emotions come and go, if you have some of the following symptoms for a prolonged period, it may be time to seek help:
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Strained interpersonal relationships
- High levels of anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Persistent sadness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
While women can feel the emotional impact of infertility the most, guys can help their partners by getting their fertility checked to see if they’re contributing to the problem. According to the CDC, only 7.5 percent of sexually experienced men have visited a fertility doctor.
If the idea of visiting a fertility specialist is uncomfortable, guys can check their fertility status at home with SpermCheck, an over-the-counter male fertility test.
Infertility can be emotionally draining, and couples need to face it together. At times it can be difficult to be optimistic, but with the right perspective and support, you can remain strong on the journey.