trying to conceive

Navigating the Mental Health Pressures of Infertility

Paula James-Martinez

Navigating the Mental Health Pressures of Infertility

Table of contents

  • Intro
  • Acknowledge Your Feelings
  • Cultivate Self-Compassion
  • Communicate Openly
  • Seek Professional Support
  • Practice Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques
  • Connect with Supportive Communities
  • It’s Ok to Feel Angry or Sad and Need Help

0 min read

When we talk about mental health and women's reproductive journeys we often tend to hear about the struggles of the postpartum period. Which itself is woefully underrepresented and supported, with less than 15 percent of mothers suffering a postpartum mental health issue getting treatment.

Yet there seems to be even less support and discourse around the fact that infertility can cause issues that extend far beyond physical challenges. It is a complex and often emotionally turbulent experience that can deeply impact mental well-being. For many individuals and couples, the emotional toll of fertility struggles can be really hard to process and they aren’t just affecting their present but also their hopes for the future. While there is no magic formula to stop the pain that comes with a family's infertility struggles, Needed has put together a list of support groups and some suggestions to help you feel less alone.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

The first step in coping with infertility-related mental health challenges is to acknowledge and validate your feelings. It's normal to experience a range of emotions, from sadness and grief to frustration and anxiety. Allow yourself to feel these emotions without judgment. Journaling, talking to a trusted friend or therapist, or joining support groups can provide outlets for expressing and processing your feelings.

Recommended support resources include:

  1. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association: RESOLVE is one of the largest non-profit organizations in the United States dedicated to providing support, education, and advocacy for individuals and couples dealing with infertility. They offer support groups, online resources, educational events, and advocate for increased access to fertility treatments and insurance coverage.

  2. The American Fertility Association (AFA): The AFA is a non-profit organization that provides education, support, and advocacy for individuals and families facing fertility challenges. They offer resources such as webinars, support groups, and information on fertility treatments and options.

  3. Fertility Within Reach: This non-profit organization focuses on advocating for improved access to fertility treatments, insurance coverage, and financial assistance for infertility patients. They provide educational resources, toolkits, and support for navigating the financial aspects of infertility treatment.

  4. FertilityIQ's Mental Health Provider Directory: FertilityIQ has a directory of mental health providers who specialize in infertility-related issues. You can search for therapists, counselors, and psychologists in your area who have experience supporting individuals and couples during fertility treatment.

Cultivate Self-Compassion

Infertility can lead to feelings of inadequacy or self-blame. It's important to practice self-compassion during this time. Be kind to yourself and recognize that infertility is not a reflection of your worth as a person. Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it's practicing yoga, spending time in nature, or pursuing creative hobbies. Think about taking time to treat yourself with the same love and care as you would a friend going through a similar situation.

Communicate Openly

Now this is absolutely easier said than done given how raw much of the emotion can be, but communication with your partner is crucial in feeling less alone infertility-related challenges. Be open and honest about your feelings, fears, and expectations; they won’t always be the same but try and hold space to at least hear each other. Share your thoughts on more practical things to treatment options, concerns about finances, and even physical support needs. Creating a safe space for open dialogue can strengthen your relationship and provide mutual support during this challenging time.

Seek Professional Support

Don't hesitate to seek professional help from therapists specializing in infertility or reproductive mental health. Therapy can offer valuable coping strategies, emotional support, and guidance in navigating complex emotions. Additionally, consider consulting fertility specialists who can provide medical expertise and personalized treatment plans. Building a supportive care team can empower you to make informed decisions and navigate the fertility journey with resilience.

Practice Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques

Managing stress is essential for maintaining emotional well-being during infertility. Explore mindfulness practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and guided imagery to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Engage in activities that promote mindfulness and self-awareness, such as gentle exercise, spending time in nature, or practicing gratitude journaling. These practices can help you stay grounded and resilient amidst the ups and downs of the fertility journey.

Connect with Supportive Communities

Finding support from others who understand your experiences can be immensely comforting. Joining infertility support groups, both online and offline, can connect you with individuals who share similar challenges and offer empathy, insights, and encouragement. Building a supportive community can reduce feelings of isolation and provide a sense of belonging and understanding.

It’s Ok to Feel Angry or Sad and Need Help

Infertility can be a challenging and uncertain journey, and focusing on what you can control, such as prioritizing self-care, seeking support, and exploring your options can all help some people feel more empowered. But also there is no right or wrong way to feel about it all, but remember 1 in 6 families will have to deal with infertility. You are not alone.

*If you are struggling with your mental health seek support from your provider immediately or The Mental Health Hotline at 866-903-3787 can answer your questions confidentially and free of charge.

 

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Paula James-Martinez, Filmmaker and Editorial Director

Paula James Martinez is a creative producer, filmmaker, and former fashion editor. She is the director and producer of film company Semi-Retired Productions, and in 2018, started working on her directorial debut on the documentary Born Free, which investigates the truth about birth and maternity in America. She has since founded a non-profit organization The Mother Lovers to raise awareness of the US maternal health crisis.