How Fertility Struggles Impact Your Mental Health
The journey to parenthood can be one of the most incredible adventures you take during your adult life. Yet for 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK, LGBTQIA+ couples or those choosing to go solo, the fertility journey can be a rocky road.
While there has been a lot of conversation around the physical and economic aspects of fertility treatment, many people remain silent about the influence that fertility struggles can have on our mental health.
It is important to acknowledge that trying to have a baby can be a long-term, emotionally draining process. You may have been trying to conceive for a while before seeing a fertility specialist, and coming to terms with the fact that your hopes of being a parent are further out of reach than expected, can come as a shock. Some people describe it as feeling that their life is on hold and it is hard to move forward or plan for the future, especially with the long wait times for referrals and during the treatment journey itself.
A diagnosis can further lead you on an emotional rollercoaster filled with anger, depression, anxiety, shock, grief, and frustration, amongst many other challenging emotions. These feelings are entirely normal and natural. However, everyone reacts to these challenges differently, and it may end up unknowingly impact not only your personal and professional relationships but also the ones we have with ourselves.
Research has found that some couples might experience increased closeness as they navigate the journey of infertility together, whilst others might find it negatively impacting their relationship and sex lives.
Many often feel isolated during this time and want support from close ones, yet it can be challenging to open up about how you feel and might inevitably impact your social life. But please remember, you are not alone.
Infertility is a journey that often forces you to be strong and resilient. It can push you to your limits, so being armed with the right tools is essential to be prepared to weather the emotional turmoil.
Support can come in the form of various sources:
- Books can be a good source of information and understanding about the different aspects of treatments.
- Journaling is another method that can help you keep track of how you are feeling.
- Reaching out to supportive family members and friends.
- Clinics often set up support groups for patients undergoing cycles together; these meetings can help reduce the feeling of isolation and provide opportunities to learn and share from others experiences.
- Online communities such as the #TTC community is one of the most beautiful and supportive networks around and support groups like Fertility Network UK
- If you are uncomfortable confiding in your friends or family, you can choose to consult our fertility counsellor, who can help you focus on the medical and emotional aspects of your journey, sort out your feelings, identify coping mechanisms, and work to find solutions to your difficulties both as individuals and as a couple.
Every fertility journey can undoubtedly have moments of uncertainty, and it may not be easy to identify and address how we feel because they are often tangled in not only our expectations but also those of our loved ones.
Fertility counselling is a confidential, non-judgemental, safe space to discuss how your diagnosis and treatment make you feel. It can help you to manage these stresses and make informed decisions and can be accessed at any point in your treatment journey, but it can be especially helpful when:
- You need support to adjust to a diagnosis.
- You need support to understand how your individual treatment pathway options might be impacting your emotional wellbeing.
- You must make a difficult decision about which treatment pathway is right for you.
- You feel your emotional health is being impacted, and your usual coping strategies are not working.
- Your personal and professional relationships are impacted.
- Your treatment outcomes did not go as expected, and you are struggling to come to terms with it.
- You are looking at choices for family building, like using donor sperm or eggs, a surrogate mother, or adoption and need support navigating this as a couple.
- You need to bring closure to your efforts to create a family.
If you think you might be struggling with handling your emotions and stress during your fertility journey, our Fertility Counselling Carepathway is here to allow you to express your emotions freely and support you throughout your journey.
Our trained Fertility Counsellors are here to give you support at every step of your journey. Our counsellors are trained psychotherapists accredited with the BACP (British Association of Counsellors & Psychotherapists) and BICA (British Infertility Counselling Association).
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- Patel A, Sharma PSVN, Kumar P. Role of Mental Health Practitioner in Infertility Clinics: A Review on Past, Present and Future Directions.