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Facing the Emotional Toll of Infertility with Counseling

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Facing the Emotional Toll of Infertility with Counseling


Considered as an important milestone among adults, having a child is eagerly looked forward to by many men and women. As your peers settle to a more sedate or “structured” lifestyle, one by one and with their own “little ones” emerging, a host of negative feelings may swamp you as the notion of childlessness pervades your thoughts.  No wonder that “the overall prevalence of emotional problems of infertile couples is estimated to be 25-60%…” (according to Hasanpoor-Azghdy et al., 2014).

It is true that a child can offer a sense of completeness to your life, but know that life can still be great, even when you are unable to give birth. It is rather difficult to accept this when you feel defeated and distressed because you or your spouse/partner is infertile. You can still have a wonderful life because you have several options. You can receive productivity treatments or adopt. There are, however, many challenges and a roller coaster of emotions that can come with these options too.

Regardless your decision – stay childless, adopt, or go through fertility treatments – know that you might be emotionally vulnerable. When infertility, adoption or the fertility workouts start to wear on you, and it becomes tough for you to stay functional daily or to move forward, seek counseling. During this trying time, it is a good choice to journey with someone who can suffuse you with positivity and hope.


What’s at Stake: The Emotional Cost

Infertility and the ache that it brings can potentially change you and your outlook. It may affect how you regard yourself and/or your spouse/partner, and how you interact with her/him and others. You may shelve the issue, channeling your energy, attention and time to other things. In time and after failed attempts, the reality may sink in and take you down a path of hostile feelings – frustration, embarrassment, anger, guilt, self-blame, and grief.

The emotional cost of infertility is enormous. This is the essence of the study conducted at Harvard involving 488 American women. According to the research, the reasons for infertility are principally biological, but the emotional impact of infertility and the workouts/treatment can “exact a huge emotional toll” on anyone, including men. The research cited a study that said 15 percent of men admit “that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives.” The emotional toll is so dumbfounding that the feeling is likened to having a serious medical condition.

One too many may succumb to great distress. A significant number may even develop depression. Not every adult experiencing infertility will develop the condition, but the high incidence of depression in childless people, especially among women, is well-documented. The condition can contribute to the complication of your issues. It can lead to you avoiding intimacy. It can impact how you relate with other people at home and in the workplace. It can also affect many other aspects of your life and health.


Confounding Issues

Depression and infertility stress are not the only issues that childless people must face. For some, there are medical issues and declining emotional health that may confound childlessness too. For instance, the reproductive health or the fertility workouts for women can be complicated with “conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, chronic pelvic pain and eating disorders…”  as well as uterine and breast cancer says Dr. Helen L. Coons of Drexel University College of Medicine and Women’s Mental Health Associates in Philadelphia. Infertility does not only affect women. Men are equally vulnerable, though it isn’t usually noticed. The condition can cut into their sense of masculinity and virility. It can lead to issues of embarrassment. Their inability to sire a child may distress them, regretting that they cannot continue the family line. Studies also revealed that infertility is a common cause for performance anxiety among men.  

There is also the danger that childless couples may treat intimacy as a purposeful performance intended to procreate, rather than as a romantic expression. This can foster sexual dysfunction, which may aggravate their existing issues.  Fertility workouts or treatments entail spending money too, which could otherwise go to other expenses – car, house or renovations, vacations, etc. – destabilizing or straining their budget, thus contributing to more issues. 


Signs That Say “You Need Counseling”

There is “no hard and fast rule” about how people should react to infertility. Once diagnosed and immediately after, however, there is usually a “roller coaster” of unpleasant emotions – anger, unhappiness, frustration, hopelessness, shame, etc. Addressing your sadness, staying hopeful and looking forward with positivity may seem remote at this time, but believe it can happen with counseling.


When should you seek professional counseling? It is important to recognize the signs of emotional despair that may take a downward spin to become full-blown depression or anxiety. The signs and symptoms to note, according to are:


  • persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • social isolation
  • loss of interest in usual activities and relationships
  • depression
  • agitation and/or anxiety
  • mood swings
  • constant preoccupation with infertility
  • marital problems
  • difficulty with “scheduled” intimacy
  • difficulty concentrating and/or remembering
  • increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • a change in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns
  • thoughts about suicide or death


Staying Positive with Help and Options

Infertility isn’t the “end-all and be-all” of any person. There are many reasons to keep your zest for life. One, science has made unprecedented growth or extraordinary progress in improving fertility workouts and treating infertility complications. Because of the innovative technologies, you or your spouse/partner has about 40 treatment options. These include understanding and addressing the cause, such as an imbalance in hormone levels, ovulation problems, low sperm count, and late-in-life pregnancies. The methods range from traditional methods (regulating the menstrual cycle, timing the fertilization, and use of surgical procedure to correct reproductive defects), to break through assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF (in-vitro fertilization).

Two, the change in the social acceptance and understanding of infertility is amazing. These days, you need not fear social isolation. The issue is looked upon with kindness and compassion, especially because it is a very sensitive and emotional concern. Living in an educated and understanding generation, you can surround yourself with people who are less judgmental, so it is easier to stay logical and less emotional when difficult decisions or options arise.

Then three, seeing a counselor or therapist and finding professional help is also fast gaining ground in this century. You will not be automatically regarded with disdain when you see one, so you have a greater chance of staying positive, despite the diagnosis. A counselor can help ease your emotional burden, so you can make the right decision and go on productively in your life. He/She can help you improve your lifestyle to better your medical condition that could be causing infertility. A counselor can also help you overcome fear that comes with infertility to accept childlessness and let you see that there are other purposes in life, aside from having and parenting a child.


Achieving Emotional Wellness

Infertility can easily quash hopes, especially when you believe that having a child is the piece of the puzzle that can complete your life. Under the situation of emotional weakness and vulnerability, hopelessness can easily set in. This doesn’t need to happen because you have choices. You also have the option to be assisted by a caring and capable counselor.  A smart way to go through these difficulties is to talk to a good counselor independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville OfficeFayetteville, NC.

Staying emotionally healthy is critical because the diagnosis or the continued state of childlessness can flood you (and your spouse/partner) with negative feelings. This is why even your doctor will appreciate that you see a counselor/therapist. A right-fit counselor can ably assist you in addressing the emotional facets of your life and the symptoms of depression, anxiety or overwhelm.  A CCS contracted counselor can help prepare you for many adverse eventualities and help you stay functional to meet your day-to day tasks.

Having a child may be a precious thing, but you can still have a fulfilling life, even when you are unable to have one. Look beyond the disappointment that it carries. The issue at hand – the emotional toll of infertility – could be the opportunity that will open new doors for you. With the help of a caring counselor/therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC, you can sustain your emotional health and have a good life whatever option you may choose to pursue. Call today!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Fayetteville, NC (North)

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC

Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Sliver City NC, Linden NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Rex NC,and Wade, NC

Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

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Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
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    Location: Fayetteville, NC