As many as 1 in 10 couples struggle with infertility but it’s something we rarely talk about. There seems to be a belief that when we want to start a family is when we will, but the truth is, that’s not always the case, and infertility struggles can feel devastating. As a maternal mental health specialist working with clients in the Washington DC area, I support women and couples who are struggling with the emotional impact of infertility.
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after unprotected sex for one year. About ⅓ of the time the diagnosis surrounds a problem with the male reproductive system, ⅓ of the time the diagnosis surrounds a problem with the female reproductive system, and ⅓ of the time the diagnosis is unknown. Treatments are varied and will depend on the diagnosis. Options can include medication to induce ovulation, IUI where sperm is placed into the woman’s uterus directly, or IVF where a woman’s eggs are surgically removed, fertilized in a laboratory, and transferred back into the woman’s uterus. These procedures also include weeks or months of preparation with hormone injections, regular ultrasounds, and bloodwork.
These treatments are not only time intensive and financially draining, they are also emotionally draining. Women and couples often feel like they are alone in their struggle and the process of going through. Infertility can also be draining on a relationship. Many women and/or couples find therapy to be helpful during their fertility struggles. To have a safe space to talk about what is going on in the relationship as the result of fertility struggles can feel empowering and hopeful. And to have a safe space where one or both members of the couple can process the complex thoughts and feelings that can come up during fertility treatment can also be incredibly important.
Infertility can feel lonely and isolating. It can feel like everyone around you is having an easy time starting and raising a family, and it can be difficult to talk to friends and loved ones about the challenges you’re having. Know that you are not alone, and there is help. Please reach out for more information.