The inability to conceive a child, or infertility, can be extremely emotionally painful. For some, the loss can be similar to the grief experienced when losing a loved one. Fertility issues affect both men and women. For those who have experienced issues with fertility, it can be very helpful to speak to a therapist to process the grief, loss and myriad of emotional reactions that can occur. When fertility issues are suspected, both partners are evaluated by medical professionals and there are often several options for potential treatment (such as medications, lifestyle changes, and natural remedies) as well as procedures that are often considered (such as IVF, artificial insemination, and hormonal treatments). Some consider surrogacy as well. The high cost of all of these interventions are often a barrier for many individuals.
While entering medical treatments for infertility, it may be helpful for individuals to seek help from a therapist to process any emotional trauma that may occur. Many report feelings of depression, anxiety, and grief, especially if treatments fail. A diagnosis of infertility can cause excessive anxiety and worry, can cause conflict in a partnership and failed fertility treatments can cause feelings of loss, depression, and low self-esteem. Couples therapy can help couples communicate better about the decision-making process with infertility treatments and process the emotions and thoughts together. Sometimes, infertility can affect other family members. Some find it difficult to discuss infertility and the decision to seek treatment with family members. Family therapy can assist families in understanding what the individual and/or couple is experiencing. Sometimes, pressure to have children can come from extended family members and they may not understand why you cannot conceive naturally. A family therapist can assist in situations such as this.
Some research has found that stress may be an issue with infertility. Attending for counseling for lifestyle stress can actually have a dramatic impact on a woman becoming fertile. Therapy for infertility often focuses on three main areas. 1) Therapy for the implications and decision-making of the fertility treatment process, 2) Support counseling during the fertility treatment process, and 3) Crisis counseling during times of loss or unsuccessful fertility treatments. Having the right support during fertility treatments is essential. In addition to your medical team, a psychotherapist is also essential.
Therapy in general usually includes a variety of approaches. Whether it is general emotionally support and understanding through providing a safe space to express your fears and concerns, research-proven Cognitive-behavioral techniques to assist with processing emotions and thoughts, solution-focused treatments to assist with decision-making and planning, as well as mindfulness-based techniques for relaxation and stress. Infertility counseling and psychotherapy should be offered by independent providers rather than by the medical team so that issues with medical treatment and success can be properly addressed. Numerous studies confirm that women experience greater amounts of infertility-related stress. Men experience infertility stress, but may appear less emotionally affected. The diagnosis of infertility can have a powerful impact on a couple’s sexual relationship. Couples therapy can assist in these areas as well.
Alexis Testa, LMHC is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor at Dr. Angela Reiter & Associates. She specializes in mental health issues in regards to all areas of maternal health. Alexis is available for counseling men, women, and couples who are going through or seeking infertility treatments. She utilizes a strength-based and Cognitive Behavioral approach in her treatments while providing a warm and supportive environment for patients. She is a member of the ASRM, which is the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Alexis brings her expertise to the practice and is available to help those who are struggling with the emotional impact of infertility on their, and their loved ones’ lives.