Talking It Out
Far too often, infertility is seen as strictly a physical problem. Couples and many professionals who treat infertile couples tend to overlook the emotional issues that are always present in these types of situations. Infertility diagnosis and complete infertility treatment should always include emotional counseling and/or group therapy.
When people experience fertility problems, they often experience feelings of guilt and powerlessness. Their lack of control over their fertility can make them feel helpless. Often, individuals tend to blame themselves or their partner for the fertility problems. Unfortunately, this need to lay blame can be destructive to a relationship and cause resentment to build up between partners. You may also find yourself questioning your abilities, identity and even your self-worth.
Couples can experience problems when one partner is committed to pursuing all treatment options and doing "whatever it takes" to have a child while the other would prefer to set limits. There can also be feelings of anxiety about which treatment option is best and whether or not it will work. Additionally, many couples find themselves to be in a grieving process because of the child that they are unable to have. Women who have experienced multiple miscarriages may especially be affected by feelings of grief.
With all of these emotions running high, it is not surprising that there can be a negative impact on your sex life when you and your partner experience fertility problems. Because of all the emotional issues connected to infertility, seeking help, either through a counselor who will work one-on-one with you and your partner or through a group support setting, can assist you in overcoming these problems.
Couples or individuals considering emotional counseling can see a psychologist or a sex therapist. While both are equally good choices for dealing with emotions, a sex therapist may have more experience counseling people with fertility problems. You can ask your family doctor or your fertility specialist for a recommendation. However, as more and more health care professionals begin to realize the impact emotions play in fertility problems, don’t be surprised if this information is offered to you before you have a chance to ask.
Some infertility programs have started to make it mandatory that their clients have at least one session with a psychologist before undergoing fertility treatment. This way, couples have a chance to express their concerns and anxieties and decide whether or not they are doing the right thing for them. It also helps to identify couples who may benefit from additional counseling because they are exhibiting signs that they are having troubles coping with their situation.
Unfortunately, psychological counseling can be expensive and is one reason why people stay away from it. However, some insurance policies will cover the associated costs, so it is a good idea to investigate the issue with your insurance provider. It is also worthwhile to note that counseling for infertility generally tends to be short term.
Many couples have taken advantage of infertility support groups in their area. Unlike counseling sessions, which involve just you and your partner with a therapist, support groups are general meetings attended by a number of individuals or couples. These meetings are often run by infertility organizations, may or may not be free and may or may not require registration beforehand. In some cases, you need to be a member of the organization to attend the support group.
Group sessions can be a liberating and empowering experience. While it is often discouraged to talk openly about infertility, at these meetings you are encouraged to speak up about your situation. Feelings of isolation may begin to disappear when you have regular contact with other people going through the same problem as you. Mind/body retreats are also becoming very popular with ttc couples.
Counseling for infertility problems shouldn’t be limited to discussing what your treatment options are and what to do next. Emotional issues play an important part in infertility and impact your ability to cope with the situation. Through professional counseling, you and your partner can start to feel more positive about your fertility problems and help strengthen your relationship with each other.
Most importantly, couples experiencing infertility need to keep the lines of communication open. Seeking psychotherapy services may be the answer.