The Fertility Chair: When to Seek Therapy
Are you stressed out, trying to control your fertility? Do you experience significant anxiety, depression, anger, grief, sadness, hopelessness or pessimism related to fertility? Does your desire to build a family overwhelm your thoughts? Do you have difficulty engaging in meaningful relationships and enjoyable activities? Or are you living in quiet shame and feeling isolated?
It's time to seek therapy.
Situations that call for extra support:
A new infertility diagnosis: Perhaps you’ve been trying to conceive for some time and you’ve recently sought consultation with your gynecologist or a reproductive endocrinologist. It’s one thing to believe you may be having a little trouble conceiving, it’s something else entirely when you’re given an actual medical diagnosis. Processing an infertility diagnosis can feel overwhelming, whether it’s male factor (1/3 of cases), female factor (1/3 of cases), combination of male and female factor or unexplained (1/3 of cases).
Fertility treatment decision-making: It can feel overwhelming when trying to decide which family building option feels best for you- emotionally, physically and spiritually (and financially, too!).
First IVF cycle: It’s common to experience a myriad of emotions when beginning IVF treatment- feelings of anxiety, depression and grief as well as hope. Finding a therapist with whom you can safely explore these emotions can both improve your mood and assist you in moving forward with your fertility journey.
My partner and I have different opinions regarding family-building options: Whether it’s individual or couples counseling, having a non-biased party present to help you discuss and explore family building options, fears and hopes can help with decision fatigue and improve communication.
Pregnancy loss or multiple failed IVF cycles: Although IVF is increasingly more present in mainstream society, the idea that IVF is always successful is also a common misconception (no pun intended) and can be a tough pill to swallow when it’s not your reality. A therapist can hold the safe and sacred space you need to process grief related to an unsuccessful IVF cycle and/or pregnancy loss.
Considering 3rd party assistance such as egg/sperm/embryo donation or surrogacy: There is much to consider when navigating 3rd party reproductive assistance, including grief and loss related to the inability to build your family as you may have hoped. A therapist can assist you with navigating deep and meaningful questions such as: what is important to me/my partner when choosing a donor? How do we go about choosing a donor? Does my partner blame me/do I blame my partner? What are the laws in my state regarding egg donation and/or surrogacy? What would disclosure of my child’s birth story look like?
Exploring adoption or deciding to live childfree: Navigating when enough is enough regarding assisted reproduction and exploring alternate family planning can feel overwhelming. Adoption and living child-free are both options, but may not have been the fertility story you had envisioned for yourself when you started your family building journey. A therapist can help you explore grief, fear and hope.
Pregnancy after infertility: When one is living with fertility challenges, pregnancy is the ultimate goal. However, the rapid shift of identity from “fertility challenged” to “pregnant” is rarely discussed and often surprisingly hard for the newly pregnant person. Feelings of anxiety, cautious optimism and inability to feel as excited as one believes they should are all common in pregnancy after infertility.
Infertility is hard. You don’t have to do it alone. Family Tree Wellness is here to support you through individual, couples and group counseling and support.
Written by Jamie Van Zanen, LCSW