Infertility treatment can be physically uncomfortable, time-consuming, exhausting, and costly — all without a guarantee of success. The infertility experience for many can range from multiple diagnostic procedures through progressively more aggressive treatment options, all of which impose demands upon the emotional and physical self. It's no wonder that many women experience severe stress, depression, or anxiety during treatment for infertility.
It is difficult, although possible to relieve some of the stress and pressure of infertility treatment. Some tried-and-true stress control suggestions from former infertility patients and counselors include the following:
- Accept that you are experiencing a time of heightened stress and don't try to downplay or deny its effects. You may find that you need to cut back on some or all of your nonessential obligations or activities for a while. Give yourself permission to say 'no' to nonessential commitments and demands on your time.
- Don't suffer alone. Confide in a trusted friend, loved one, or support group. Social support networks can tremendously reduce feelings of stress and emotional pain. Many infertility clinics also offer support groups and/or counseling services. If you're trying to conceive as a couple, accept that your partner may also feel stress, depression, or anxiety and may not be able to provide all the emotional support you require.
- Join RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association. You should be able to find a local chapter in your area. Individual chapters sponsor support groups, newsletters, seminars, and lectures on treatment options. Both health care providers and patients make up the membership of this valuable organizational resource.
- Empower yourself with knowledge about the procedures and treatments you may need. After researching on the Web, write down a list of questions to take with you to your next appointment if you feel there are issues you'd like to discuss.
- Decide in advance with whom you want to share your experience. Plan some strategies for avoiding inappropriate questions and unwanted advice from colleagues and acquaintances.
- Discuss the possibility of treatment breaks with your doctor, if you feel that you need "time off" from the experience. Some people prefer to be treated every other month or every few menstrual cycles, while others are stressed by the waiting periods. Work with your doctor to find a treatment schedule that is comfortable for you.
- Know that it's common for women in the midst of treatment to experience feelings of depression or sadness. Sometimes these feelings are strongest when participating in baby or child centered functions. Don't feel guilty if you want to pass up the baby shower or child's birthday party to which you're invited. Taking care of yourself and your emotional needs is your top priority now.
Medically reviewed by Wayne Blocker, MD; Board Certified Obstetrics and Gynecology
"Treatment of acute stress disorder"
"Overview of treatment of female infertility"