Dealing With the Grief of Infertility

Andrew Drakeley

Posted by Andrew Drakeley

09 March 2018

 

Dealing with the grief

 

Here at the Hewitt Fertility Centre, our passion is to help those who are suffering with fertility issues overcome them and achieve their dreams of building a family.

While there are a wide range of medical procedures and drug treatments available to help overcome the physical barriers stopping you from conceiving, we believe that there is much more to treating a patient than that. What is also of the utmost importance to us, is addressing what mental, emotional and psychological issues you will likely be dealing with when undergoing fertility treatment or, in some cases, the acceptance that you may be simply unable to become pregnant.

In every eventuality, it is important that you do whatever you can to remain calm, patient and relaxed. We understand dealing with fertility problems is, in itself, a stressful experience, but stress can harm your fertility and can lead to psychological concerns such as depression and anxiety.

The stress caused by an inability to conceive

Once diagnosed with low fertility, the likelihood is you’ll start to feel a little stressed or anxious. This is completely natural and very common in both men and women. After all, if it’s your dream to have a family of your own, being told that it is not going to be straightforward is likely to generate feelings of worry. Not to mention the irritation of being surrounded by people who seemingly have absolutely no trouble with conceiving and giving birth.

The first step to overcoming this stress is to accept it. Acknowledging that you do feel different and that everything is not absolutely fine is the first step to dealing with any problem, mentally or physically. Moreover, psychological concerns such as stress and anxiety are not likely to fix themselves. Once you have been able to admit to yourself that you are dealing with difficult thoughts, you can begin to look at ways of dealing with them.

One of the most common causes of stress upon receiving a diagnosis of low fertility is the feeling of a loss of control. A person’s ability to reproduce is something that most of us take for granted and being told that ability is no longer within your control is likely to unsettle you. This can often lead to a feeling of inadequacy and that you are incomplete as a man or woman if you no longer have the power to conceive naturally. Acceptance of that worry and an understanding that your ability to procreate is not mutually inclusive of your worth as a person is healthy, and will allow you to move forward in a mature and more importantly, effective, manner.

There are things you can do to help you obtain a sense of control. Keeping a diary of your menstrual cycle, basal body temperature and monitoring vaginal mucus can all help to ensure that you’re well aware of when you should be trying to conceive to give yourself the best chance of becoming pregnant, as well as giving you a sense of involvement and control over your situation. For men, trying to be as involved in the process as possible is a positive step. Men often feel sidelined in fertility conversations. A conscious effort to be an equal part of the process can help you regain a sense of self-worth as well as strengthening the bond between you and your partner in a time when many relationships are tested.

Another way of feeling in control is to exercise and manage your diet. These are both things that will not only help to increase your chances of becoming pregnant, but will markedly improve your own physical and mental wellbeing.

The anxiety of treatment

After diagnosis, you’ll likely start to investigate your options, book an appointment with a consultant and begin your journey through fertility treatment. This can come with its own set of stresses, anxieties and feelings of worry. Again, this is completely normal and something almost everyone goes through to a greater or lesser extent when undergoing fertility treatment.

There are numerous reasons why you may feel stressed when undergoing treatment, one of the main reasons being a feeling of confusion and lack of understanding. While many people will be aware of fertility treatments such as IVF, beyond that most will not understand the mechanisms of their own fertility in detail. For example, a very common method of treatment for those with a fear of flying is to encourage them to understand how a plane works. That understanding of the mechanical aspects of air travel gives them confidence in the process and helps to lessen the anxiety they feel then flying. The same can very easily be applied to dealing with the stresses of fertility treatment. If you understand the processes and diagnosis more deeply, it will help you to feel more involved in your treatment and in control of it, hopefully reducing the stresses and anxieties you may be feeling.

An additional source of fertility treatment related anxiety can be financial worries. NHS funding for fertility treatment is sadly not available to everybody who may need it and an increasing amount of couples need to pursue private finance options to fund their treatment. Planning your fertility treatment from start to finish, including a breakdown of all of the costs and fees involved in treatment will allow you to free yourself from the burden of financial stresses. Funding and insurance packages are also available to give you an even greater sense of assurance.

The grief of infertility

If you are one of the thousands of people who have tried numerous fertility treatments and are still unable to conceive, then you’re likely to be feeling a sense of desperation and loss. Being told that the chances of carrying your own child are unlikely is a difficult experience to have to undergo however, as stated earlier, here at The Hewitt Fertility Centre, we are devoted to ensuring that everyone has the chance of building their own family, but sometimes doing so means exploring other possibilities and avenues.

Adoption and surrogacy are both well-trodden paths for couples who may have tried IVF/ICSI treatments and been unsuccessful. While some people may feel that the lack of a biological connection to their child could be distressing, there are a number of accounts online from parents and children alike who feel just as connected emotionally and personally to their parent/child as they would if they had been together since conception. For most people, those concerns either lessen with time or vanish completely when they realise that what truly connects families on an emotional level is our experiences and personalities, not the content of our DNA.

If you are met with the realisation that you will be unable to conceive naturally and that fertility treatments are not able to allow you to overcome those issues, it is important to embrace the psychological aspect of that and deal with the emotions that you will undoubtedly be feeling.

While psychological issues may feel like a burden that you have to carry alone, communicating those feelings with others and allowing people to help you is the healthiest thing that you can do when dealing with the grief of infertility. Counselling, relaxation techniques and psychotherapy are all options available to you that have been proven to help people deal with all manner of grief and loss as well as anxiety and depression.

What is of paramount importance when dealing with such a situation is to be constantly conscious of it not being the end of a journey, but more of an obstacle along the way. While feelings of loss and grief are to be expected, they are almost never permanent; your options are plentiful and your life will go on.

Links to similar articles.

What is proven to be of comfort when dealing with low fertility or infertility is that you are not alone. Thousands of men and women have gone through the same issues, stresses, concerns and anxieties as you and have been able to come through on the other side as happy, strong and determined individuals that live a full and satisfying life. In that spirit, below is a handful of links to articles written by people who have weathered the storm of fertility issues and lived to fight another day.

Title and link to the below:

The crushing pain and heartbreak of being infertile

https://www.independent.ie/life/family/mothers-babies/the-crushing-pain-and-heartbreak-of-being-infertile-30262274.html

The psychological impact of infertility and its treatment

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/The-psychological-impact-of-infertility-and-its-treatment

Coping with the stress of infertility

https://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/infertility/causes/coping-with-the-stress-of-infertility/

I know the pain of infertility and talking about it helps

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/06/i-know-the-pain-of-infertility-and-talking-about-it-helps

Infertility is real and it hurts us

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/infertility-its-real-and-it-hurts_us_577c2feee4b00a3ae4ce7692

The emotional pain of infertility

https://www.healthcentral.com/article/the-emotional-pain-of-infertility

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Andrew Drakeley

Author: Andrew Drakeley

Mr Andrew Drakeley is the Clinical Director at the Hewitt Fertility Centre, working principally at the Liverpool Women’s site but with managerial responsibility for Knutsford. He holds subspecialty accreditation in Reproductive Medicine and surgery and is a fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, being appointed Consultant in 2005.
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