Challenge Myths and StigmaChallenging stigma and stereotypes associated with infertility can be incredibly helpful and therapeutic In my practice, I’ve worked with hopeful mothers who discovered physiological challenges they hadn’t known about or needed to address until they actively started planning to expand their family. The stress of addressing those issues and their impact on fertility is daunting, but working through it in therapy has helped clients maintain perspective and find the strength to keep working towards their goal of having children. This also meant facing questions related to their worthiness as women. On the other hand, we often assume that men suffer less when it comes to fertility issues, but we now know this isn’t necessarily the case. The idea of “virility” is very strongly connected to the ideas of masculinity and a man’s worthiness. When faced with challenges of infertility, men’s egos take a large hit. If sperm motility or concentration is an issue it can bring up those challenges to inherent worthiness and masculinity discussed previously.
When you’re struggling to conceive, every cute post you see on social media can feel like an emotional dagger to the heart.Even when they’re not the one with the “problem,” we know that men can struggle psychologically. If someone is struggling with feeling let down by their body, it can leave their male partner worried and seeking to offer the best emotional support they can. This can be incredibly daunting, especially if these challenges are unanticipated. And, of course, these are often very deep emotional waters which you probably don’t have a lot of experience treading. For both men and women, infertility issues may lead to increased stress, disorganization, moodiness, and loss of focus—all the more reason why seeking out support should be a necessary part of any fertility challenge.
Seek Social and Medical SupportStruggling with infertility is incredibly isolating, especially if you’re in the typical range in which many adults have children (25-35). Depending on your social group, you may constantly face baby and toddler pictures or videos on your social media feeds. This may have even helped spark your desire to expand your family. When you’re struggling to conceive, every cute post can feel like an emotional dagger to the heart. It can lead to greater feelings of isolation and internalized shame. Being able to find support, both social and professional, is essential for helping couples navigate infertility. This all begins with a medical team that listens to you and helps you come up with an effective treatment plan to expand your family, regardless of the origins of the challenges. These health professionals should be attentive, active listeners as they will undoubtedly be seeing you both through a trying physical and psychological journey. In addition, working with a mental health counselor can be helpful to find an outlet to talk through all the related experiences and challenges to self-esteem. The space of therapy can also provide support for overall stress management, which, in my experience, is often necessary. For pairs, couples therapy with a therapist who has experience dealing with these dynamics can be incredibly helpful as well. Stressors like infertility often magnify long-held relationship problems. And when we are under extreme pressure, we tend to not function as well cognitively and emotionally. This can lead to a breakdown in communication and further isolation from one another. Couples therapy can help you repair and maintain the relationship as you address infertility issues.
One of the most difficult parts of infertility is dealing with loss.Social support is also incredibly important during this time. Being able to talk with friends or other loved ones can offer a beacon of hope when things seem at their darkest. Support contributes to lower emotional distress such as anxiety and depression, and has even been linked to greater relationship satisfaction. Another option: Attend an in-person or online support group for people struggling with fertility issues. This can offer another safe space and opportunity to express the emotions that run the gamut throughout this period.