“So, when will you have a child?”This is probably the question couples hear more often these days. If in cases where there’s no infertility problem, it can be annoying, in infertile couples it is “a bullet to the heart”.
If we add to this insistent curiosity, the pity or punishment looks from others, then we have the perfect cocktail for couples to avoid social situations and family and friends isolation.
This is just one of many factors that contribute to the anxiety and couple stress. In fact, couples that go through infertility problems are subject to a violent physical, psychological and conjugal challenge.
Holding back the tears - and winning them over
It all starts with the attempt to get pregnant spontaneously at home – something that around 20% of couples doesn’t manage without help.
After some time of unsuccessful attempts (infertility is diagnosed after 12 months of regular and unprotected regular sexual relations without conceiving), the couple realises that there might be a problem and get anxious even before seen a doctor.
In so it begins a long and hard search for medical help: appointments, genetic exams, blood tests, ultrasounds, spermograms, time off from work, scheduled sexual relations, changes in life style and dietary habits, invasive punctions, among many others dilemmas and constrains like egg or sperm donation. Infertility takes over their lives even without noticing.
However, at this stage, couples try to show capable and prepared before the doctor, tending to mask and devalue the pre-existent anxiety and depression symptoms
What comes first: infertility or anxiety?
Even though anxiety’s influence in infertility isn’t clear, it has a significant impact in the well-being and it leads to intense emotional reactions. Studies indicate that stress can affect spontaneous pregnancy, sperm quality and embryo implantation, but doesn’t affect directly the spermatozoa and oocytes.
In other words, it is rare that anxiety causes infertility the inverse is more likely: infertility causes anxiety in the most couples.
Infertility: na emotional rollercoast
Although stress is important and necessary in everyday life, reaching higher levels can change a couple’s life and their well-being and may even lead to dropping out of fertility treatments. Mental distress is huge and can be experienced in many ways:
- Feelings of shame, loneliness and guilt (many patients feel difficulty assuming they cannot conceive naturally, they can feel guilty for some past behaviour that may have harmed their reproductive health, or feel helpless);
- Feeling different (the fact that their physical performance doesn’t match what they wish for, friends and family that conceive naturally, in a planned or accidental way, all this contributes to feeling different and outnumbered.
- Having a hard time understanding and accepting the treatment complexity (there’s a all-new language to learn and a word of scientific advances unknown until then);
- Having a hard time tolerating the waiting moments (the infertility treatment is made of cyclic waitings: for the results of the exams, pregnancy tests, ovulation, egg retrieval, etc.);
- Feeling of loss of control of their lives (infertility now commands routines, diet, intimacy and professional life of patients);
- Suicidal ideation (even if you’re trying to create life, it is common to have suicidal thoughts and attempts);
- Negative impact on intimacy and sexuality (couples now have intimacy with the sole aim to procreate);
- Lack of unconditional support from family and friends (sometime even the closest persons can transmit negativity, doubt and insecurity, even being well intended);
- Disagreement/marital discussions about the treatments (the decision of going through the treatments and opting for a third party gamete donation, can generate conflict within the couple);
Benefits of specialized physiological support
For all of these reasons, it is important to take care of your mental and physical health and, if necessary, search for physiological support.
In the psychology appointment the couple’s difficulties can be worked, together or individually, whether on reducing the anxiety, treating the depression symptoms, improving communication and relation aspects and even in critical situations such as grief and decision-making.
Ferticentro provides Psychology consultations (individual/couples) either for punctual psychological support, or a continuous follow-up though the all treatment (to schedule just dial +351 239497280).
Clinical users also have access to a Psychological Support Line in cases it is not possible to wait for an appointment (such as receiving a negative pregnancy test, when a suicidal attempt happens, health complication or miscarriages).
7 Strategies to deal with infertility:
1 – Listen and support your partner
2 – Participate in group supports
3 – Read books on the topic
4 – Exercise
5- Practicing yoga and meditation
6 - Trust the team that accompanies you
7 – Seek to live the best possible life besides infertility
These are strategies the couples may adopt in order to minimize and prevent anxiety and depression.
And remember: infertility is not only made of suffering, it can also lead to more resilient and united couples.