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Surviving the Emotional Rollercoaster of Infertility
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes … well, you know the rest. Unfortunately, for 12 percent of couples, that “baby in the baby carriage” is not easily achieved. While many of us have struggled with some kind of loss, infertility results in a profound sort of grief that usually compounds every month with a negative pregnancy test.
As a reproductive endocrinologist, I see couples every day who are struggling with infertility, and I’m often asked how best to cope with the ups and downs of trying to build a family.
No easy topic
Listen. I would be lying if I said this was the easiest blog I’ve ever written. In fact, it has been the most requested topic. But I have put off writing it for some time.
Infertility is profoundly personal, and everyone experiences it differently. One thing, however, is typically universal for everyone who’s been there: The heartache that follows the physical and emotional investment of trying to conceive.
The fact is, life must go on. And surviving infertility looks different for every person and every couple.
Here is my advice for those living this stressful time:
- You are not alone. Infertility does not discriminate. It affects all ages, races, ethnicities and genders. But infertility is, by its nature, isolating. For many going through it, it may seem like every pregnancy announcement is more pronounced and seeing every baby picture on Facebook stings a little bit more than it should. Feelings of “Why me?” and “Why is it easy for everyone else?” are very normal to experience. Here’s the thing, though: Because infertility is so personal, many never share their experience. Those baby announcements on social media may be the result of a hard-fought battle you know nothing about.
- Reach out. One step in overcoming isolation is letting your trusted family and friends in on your journey. You may not be comfortable writing a blog about it for the whole world to read, but you may want a shoulder (or two or three) to lean on through the rollercoaster ride of treatment. In Nebraska, we have a great support group – Conceive Nebraska – that can connect you with others who’ve experienced infertility.
- Get more information. Infertility represents a loss of control and an inability to see what the future holds. Unfortunately, you can’t purchase a crystal ball that will tell you how your infertility journey will end. But you can empower yourself with information. My best go-to resources include the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. Both organizations and their websites have patient-friendly articles and success statistics to help you through treatment.
- Be ready for the unexpected. Unfortunately, infertility doesn’t always follow a straight line from treatment to pregnancy. Oftentimes, there are unexpected challenges. If you can accept that the unexpected can and will occur, the process is much more tolerable.
- Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling – sadness, bitterness, grief, anger – it’s OK. You are OK. This is hard. Once you’ve given yourself time to feel those emotions, gradually shift your focus to taking care of yourself.
Some self-care examples might include:
- Watching a movie
Whatever you love, do it. Continue living your life despite infertility because as down as it might make you feel, you are worth it.