December 16, 2021
Coping with the Stress of Infertility on Your Mental Health
Written by Rachel Eddins
There’s no reason to believe psychological stress directly causes infertility. However, all evidence points to infertility being a major source of stress. Research finds that, for women, infertility-related stress is not unlike the stress they’d feel when dealing with a serious illness or chronic pain. For men, infertility puts them at risk of a mixed bag of mental health issues. These include:
- Sexual problems
- Loss of self-esteem
These outcomes are common regardless of which partner is infertile. Needless to say, two stressed-out partners can escalate into a range of other conflicts and concerns. Simply put, the stress of infertility must be addressed.
How Stress Impacts Your Mind and Body
- Chronic aches and pains (including headaches)
- Skin problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Increase or decrease of appetite
- Digestive issues
- Weakened immunity
- Low energy
- Loss of libido
- Irritability and anger
- Self-medication/substance abuse
5 Ways the Stress of Infertility Can Affect Your Mental Health
The pressure comes from internal and external sources. It may be society imposing its standards on you. The origin might be something very intrinsically human. But either way, couples dealing with infertility often display self-sabotaging signs like this:
1. Feeling Inadequate
Procreation is something every adult human can do, right? To be infertile is to be less than. All across social media, you see photos posted of growing families. Where does that leave you? What does that make you? Your sense of self-worth is in jeopardy.
2. Fear of Being Judged
People tell you they’re rooting for you. They wish you the best. “You’ll be such a great parent,” they say. Meanwhile, you don’t trust it. You believe they — and everyone else — are judging you for this failure.
3. Relationship Insecurity
The infertile partner feels guilt and may fear being rejected. Why would someone want to stay with a partner who is damaged goods? Even if they reassure you, that nagging insecurity grows.
4. Social Isolation
Some couples choose to withdraw rather than deal with even well-meaning questions. The last thing you need is a reminder. But then again, everything seems to remind you of infertility.
Any or all of the four tendencies listed above can put you on the path to depression. Infertility is all you can talk about. This fixation causes you to lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. Exhaustion seems to be your default setting.
Coping With the Stress of Infertility
Let Go of the Past
There is nothing you can do to change previous attempts at pregnancy. Right here, in the present, you have the power to shift your focus. Be mindful and give yourself the break you deserve.
Take Care of Yourself
A powerful counterbalance to any kind of stress or fixation is self-care. Stick to a daily routine that involves:
- Exercise and activity
- Healthy eating choices
- Regular sleep patterns
- Relaxation techniques
Schedule Regular Mental Vacations
You and your partner can have a regular date night. Or perhaps you’ll meet up with others and do something that’s purely fun and light-hearted. Get out of your routine to help break the cycle of rumination and obsession.
Find Infertility Support Groups
Whether in-person or online, it helps to connect with others who understand your situation. You’ll be validated and supported.
Infertility as Grief
Infertility is stressful. If we dig deeper, infertility is a form of grief. You can lose something you don’t yet have. For a couple trying to get pregnant, infertility is a loss. It’s been called “the loneliest club” because few people want to even mention it.
Couples dealing with infertility may mourn the future they expected. Like all grief, it is essential that you process it. Feel what you need to feel. Validate each other because outsiders rarely “get” it. But, at the same time, keep hope in your heart. Unlike the death of a loved one, infertility grief can be reversed.
It’ll cause undue stress but that stress can be balanced by keeping hope alive. A big step in finding this balance comes from soothing yourself with self-care.
6 Soothing Suggestions For Managing the Stress of Infertility
1. Feel All the Feelings
Your emotions must be named and honored. Talk to each other. But also, lean on your support system. From close friends to family members to support groups — ask for help when you need it. Most importantly, resist the urge to push down the pain and grief.
2. Educate Yourself but DO NOT Obsess
Learn what you can about what’s going on. Explore all your options. However, at some point, step away and focus elsewhere. Your stress will only heighten if you allow yourself to obsess.
3. Respect How Your Partner is Coping
Everybody feels differently. Everybody copes differently. Do not judge each other. Keep the lines of communication wide open and stay patient.
4. Release Blame
This is not about finding fault. Do yourselves a favor and move past assigning blame. You’ll need all the support you can muster for each other. Blame will only drag you down.
5. Keep Intimacy Flowing
Keep your intimate bond alive. This could mean sex. It could be any of the countless ways to express intimacy. Cuddling, holding hands, making eye contact — embrace all such forms of connection.
6. Try Something New Together
Take a class. Join a gym. Find a new hobby. Volunteer to help others. Whatever it is, enter into this venture as a team. It will fortify your connection. It will also offer you a respite from going over and over the details of infertility.
Counseling Can Soothe Many Ills
It’s quite possible that you feel too stuck to manage most of the above suggestions. This is not unusual and nothing to be ashamed of. Expressing yourself in a healthy way can be tough in the best of times. When trying to manage the stress of infertility, it makes a whole lot of sense to reach out for guidance.
With so much of your focus on infertility, you may downplay your stress symptoms. To help resist this temptation, reach out to a mental health professional. You can go alone or as a couple. Either way, infertility counseling will go a long way in providing balance, hope, and healing. It all starts with a phone call and a consultation.
We understand what it takes to help you balance your needs while still maintaining a feeling of hope. Let’s connect. It’s the first step on your healing journey.
If you are going through infertility, you can also contact us in Houston to get the support you need through the process. To get started now, give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-843-1555 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to helping you!
Recommended Reading List for Coping with Infertility
This book is the paperback equivalent of a sensitive, comforting, warm hug: there for you when you’re feeling alone and like nobody else gets it.
In this book, Eric Rosswood discusses the hurdles faced by LGBTQ couples during family-building and goes into depth on adoption, foster care, ART, surrogacy, and co-parenting.
Using a Donor
Having Your Baby Through Egg Donation is a comprehensive guide for those who are thinking of, or pursuing egg donation, as well as for those who are already parents through egg donation.
Explaining Third-Party Reproduction to Children:
Egg Donation: www.parentsviaeggdonation.com (or PVED.com)
General Infertility Support: www.resolve.org
Embryo Adoption: National Embryo Donation Center