I am seeing more and more couples in my practice struggle with infertility. Infertility is one of the first big life stressors that a couple has to contend with together.
Growing up, parents generally teach their children that perseverance is a key to attaining their goals. Unfortunately, for many couples struggling with infertility, perseverance is not the problem – especially for those with ‘unexplained’ infertility (infertility when there is no known physiological cause). Infertility is one of those life situations where the outcome can be completely out of a couple’s direct control.
Also, until a couple starts trying to have a baby, there is often little or no warning that they are about to be immersed into a cycle of stress and procedures and the fear of the unknown.
Couples facing this issue need coping mechanisms to help them through their journey. They need guidance on evaluating their options and assistance in making decisions that they could both comfortably live with.
So, how do couples survive the news of infertility?
Here are 3 essential tips for coping with infertility:
1. Couples must remain a united front. Couples come in to see me and very often they have very different perspectives on what the next steps should be. Should they proceed on with another IVF cycle? Should they proceed to egg donation? What is the right number of cycles to try before they can move on to the next logical step?The truth is, there is no one answer to this question. Every situation is different, and every couple and personality is different, as are financial circumstances.
One of the first things I try to do is help couples figure out a way to get on the same page. It’s important to wait for your partner to catch up to you so that you can proceed to the next step in your journey as a united front.
2. Couples must realize that infertility is a family issue. Infertility is an individual issue, a couples’ issue and also a family issue. Infertility affects those going through it in ways that most people, on the surface, cannot understand or cannot even recognize. However, it also affects the ways in which you communicate with loved ones. Your body language, gestures, and unspoken messages convey information to your loved ones whether your realize it or not.
This is especially true if your extended family members are not privy to the details of your struggle, or to the fact that there have been miscarriages or other failed medical treatments.
Unfortunately, infertility has the ability to stress out both the couple struggling as well as their families. Without proper communication, couples risk that there will be collateral damage done to their familial relationships which will last a lot longer beyond the fertility struggle.
I believe it is important to provide as much information as possible to extended family and friends, to make them aware that you are struggling without breaching your privacy or the privacy wishes of your partner. The truth is, you cannot fault others for behaving in a certain way or responding in a certain way if they do not have all the facts.
3. Seek Support. Couples need to be as candid as possible as to what type of support they need. Often your loved ones try to offer support but the support ends up hurting too much. Such as ‘if you just relax, it will happen’, or ‘sorry for your miscarriage, I guess the baby was not meant to be’. The truth is that couples already realize that the ‘baby is not meant to be’, but it feels dismissive when others say it.
So couples need to be specific. Ask for what they need. And kindly suggest to others what they really do not need.
Infertility needs to be recognized as a medical, emotional and potentially financial crisis. With the proper guidance and support, whether from friends, family members or counselors, there is hope that couples will be able to re-emerge on the other side. And whatever the outcome, they will be armed to deal with it.
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