Infertility: Everything You Need to Know to Cope

couples with baby shoes infertility

You think you have all the time in the world. When you’re ready to get pregnant it will just happen.

People don’t talk about the difficulty that can accompany pregnancy. They assume it will be easy because people rarely mention infertility. No one thinks of the possibility that it could take years to get pregnant. They don’t consider the thousands upon thousands of dollars they could spend trying to get pregnant. You might not consider the toll infertility could have on most if not all the relationships in your life.

If you’re struggling to cope with infertility, you are not alone.

Infertility is considered not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying (or six months if a woman is 35 or older). About 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.

The Emotional Impact of Infertility: Dealing with Medical Issues and Stigma

The lack of discussion around infertility can create feelings of shame and guilt. Men and women can feel their bodies have failed them.

wilted grain infertility

Even before the medical door to infertility is opened, emotions can be all over the place. When people seek medical help for infertility, the emotional journey intensifies. There are feelings of hope that you will finally get what you have been wanting for so long. Fear accompanies that hope, fear you will go through all of this emotional turmoil and still be infertile.

Maybe you are angry at yourself or angry at your partner or angry at your medical team for not doing more. Maybe you’re angry at the world.

One of the most common emotions with infertility is anxiety. Doctors tell you to remain calm as they simultaneously tell you to religiously chart your cycle, have sex at a certain time, don’t have sex at other times, give yourself shots, have your blood drawn every other day and so on.

“Relax but do a million things at once.” The contradiction of these messages is enough to make you scream.

The Age Factor

Our society tells women we can have it all. We can have a period of exploration in our 20s. We can have a successful career. Don’t settle down too early and lose your freedom. Don’t have kids before you have your career in place.

While those messages have validity, they neglect to acknowledge the biological clock that is very real in a woman’s body. These powerful societal messages and the silence of infertility catch many women by surprise when they reach 35. They have lived their whole life thinking they had all the time in the world to do everything only to be told — when they are ready to have children — their body cannot do it all.

How Infertility Strains Relationships

A common conflict couples face is blame. Whose fault is the infertility? This can cause a couple to split and approach infertility divided instead of united. One partner might feel anger and resentment towards the other for keeping them from their dream. The other partner might feel guilt and shame for failing. These dynamics quickly create a toxic environment for a relationship.

couple holding hands turned away

The first thing to do in a relationship when facing infertility is to take the fault and blame language out. It is no one’s fault and no one is to blame. Face infertility as a united front. Your relationship will thank you.

4 Challenges and Ways to Cope with Infertility

It’s Not Everyone’s Business

When people find out you are struggling with infertility, they want to know all the details. You don’t have to give them. Random strangers, nosy family and curious acquaintances will ask when you are planning to have a baby. You don’t have to tell them. Give yourself permission to share as much or little as you want. This is your journey and you get to choose who you include in it.

Everyone Is Pregnant

pregnant woman in a field

You find out getting pregnant won’t be as easy as you think and bam! Everyone around you is pregnant. All of sudden you are invited to baby showers galore. It seems like every person you know is shoving pregnancy or a new baby in your face.

When you are struggling with infertility, it can be an incredibly painful reminder of what you don’t have and so desperately want. Set limits for yourself. You might need to pull back from friendships. You might need to say no to some baby shower invitations. Let yourself have an open conversation with friends who seem to only talk about babies and pregnancies. Let them know you need a break.

Know Your Limits and Discuss Them Beforehand

Some couples decide from the beginning they won’t go to extreme measures to have a baby. Others spend years and thousands of dollars exhausting all of their treatment options. No one can tell you what limits are right for you. It is a personal decision.

This conversation is helpful to have before you are in the midst of fertility treatment. Couples feel more in control of their lives when they have a plan beforehand.

Be Vulnerable

While you don’t need to tell everyone your story, telling someone you trust can be invaluable on your infertility journey. You and your partner will talk enough about infertility. It’s important to have someone else you can confide in.

infertility couple sunset

If you don’t have that support or need more, consider seeing a therapist. It can be helpful to talk to an outside perspective and process your struggles as an individual and as a couple.

You do not have to be alone with infertility. Break the silence. Take someone else on your roller coaster ride. The ride will be a lot less scary.

Click here to learn more about Alaina and our other Talkspace therapists!

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