Fertility Challenges: Coping Tips and Resources

A decorated baby's room has an empty crib in the center.Spring, for many, means new life. However, for 15% of the population, springtime is a trigger for sadness, a reminder that its symbolic fertility does not apply for this subset of folks. One out of six or seven couples have the label infertile.

Although volumes have been written on the subject of interventions (both holistic and conventional) and causes for fertility challenges, not enough is written to cater to the emotional needs couples face when dealing with the potential of being childless. This article highlights some resources and coping tips for such couples.

As a perinatal psychotherapist who has personally dealt with fertility challenges, I can certainly relate to the stigma and heartache associated with infertility. In fact, that word infertility bothers me. Over ten years ago, I attended an “infertility class” at my HMO, huddled in a room with about 50 other sheepish and overwhelmed couples. The sign on the door, adjacent to the waiting room filled with glowing pregnant women, was emblazoned with the words “Infertility Class.”

I might as well have had the word “barren” stamped on my forehead. If that wasn’t enough, a grim nurse unceremoniously plopped a lab cup in front of each couple in attendance. Well, we knew what that was for. Good grief. Did it really come down to this? Well, yes, this, and a whole lot more, I would learn, including intrusive, painful procedures designed to clear the fallopian tubes, multiple trips to the lab with that cup, and lots of blood draws, in addition to a lot of waiting, hope, anxiety, disappointment, and a myriad of other emotions. Many endure other procedures and even longer waiting.

I realize my own story is unique. Each couple’s path to pregnancy looks different. I am also incredibly fortunate in that my own story has a miraculous, happy ending/beginning—in just weeks before my husband and I were about to explore the range of medical options to help us conceive, we became pregnant without intervention. We took a backpacking trip in the High Sierra and got our minds off of the medical stress awaiting us. By some sort of Divine intervention, I believe, we were gifted with the conception of our first born baby, Brendan.

I realize I am incredibly fortunate to be blessed with children. And not everyone’s story results in a healthy conception or live birth, but, I share my story to say “I get it. I understand your pain. I have been there. Have hope.” And I want to share with you some resources that are available to comfort you in this sometimes harrowing journey to parenthood that, at times, can feel hopeless.

My message to parents-in-the-making who are struggling with fertility challenges includes the following:

  • Don’t give up hope. There is always a way to become a parent, even if not the route you originally had planned.
  • Get in touch with your spiritual community, if that applies to you, for emotional support.
  • Go to online support groups for people dealing with fertility challenges, miscarriage support, etc.
  • Educate yourself on all forms of medical intervention, including holistic approaches.
  • Give yourself permission to take a pass on baby showers and events with young children at this time.
  • Realize that dealing with fertility challenges can be taxing financially, emotionally, and physically. Give yourself permission to take breaks from treatments and just rest and restore. Self-care matters too.
  • You are not alone. As the age for childbearing is later in this era, more and more couples are challenged with the same issues.
  • Be open to the possibilities of surrogacy, adoption, or fostering, if you have exhausted medical and emotional resources. Be willing to know when to stop with interventions and let life unfold as it will.
  • Again, don’t give up hope.

Resources, websites, and helpful books for fertility challenges

Websites:

Books:

  • Conquering Infertility by Alice Domar and Alice Kelly
  • Resolving Infertility by Diane Aronson and Staff of Resolve
  • Six Steps to Increase Fertility: An Integrated Medical and Mind/Body Program to Promote Conception by Robert Barbieri, Alice Domar, and Kevin Loughlin
  • Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, MD

© Copyright 2011 by Andrea Schneider, LCSW, therapist in San Dimas, California. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 9 comments
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  • HUGH

    HUGH

    March 31st, 2011 at 4:13 AM

    Despair and hurt is understably going through the minds of couples who are not able to conceive. But folks, you need to know that there is a higher power up there who can really turn things around and help you. And He may even have a different plan for you. And this plan could be for you to be the parents of a kid who has no parents!

  • Yodida

    Yodida

    March 31st, 2011 at 4:33 AM

    Hi,
    We are also trying for a baby. Thank you for encouarging article. We get tired sometime.

  • Bethany

    Bethany

    March 31st, 2011 at 4:37 AM

    Don’t stress over it! That is what my husband and I have had to learn to do. When the time is right it will happen, and if it does not then we are willing to pursue other alternatives.

  • Maxwell

    Maxwell

    April 2nd, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    If you’re completely infertile, all I can say it “Accept it.” There is no cure for infertility. You can lie to yourself all you want and get all the support you want, but it doesn’t do any good. If you truly want to be a parent, you should consider adopting. There are thousands of perfectly good kids out there who want loving parents. Giving them the happiness they need is a good compromise and a good deed as well.

  • Jame

    Jame

    April 2nd, 2011 at 9:56 PM

    That could’ve been put much more tactfully, Maxwell. I do agree that you have to accept what God gives you and move on however. You should put a positive spin on your life and simply put it to one side. I have no kids and I’m perfectly happy with my life.

  • Gabriel

    Gabriel

    April 3rd, 2011 at 10:14 PM

    Why would you want to avoid couples with their own children? You’re making it sound like having fertility problems is akin to things like cancer or Alzheimer’s. It can be upsetting that you can’t have your own kids, but it’s not going to cause you extreme trauma to be near them.

  • Danielle

    Danielle

    April 4th, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    If anything, you should be going to them and giving yourself something to look forward to if you’re considering IVF. If you keep avoiding them, they might end up asking why, and if you’re honest, there’s a chance they’ll be seriously hurt you found their family so abhorrent.

  • Temperance

    Temperance

    April 7th, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    I can understand the avoidance. When I was trying to get pregnant I congratulated friends that I loved dearly through gritted teeth when they announced theirs. It becomes almost like an obsession. Getting pregnant was all I thought about. In truth, I was envious they had beaten me to it and I couldn’t look at their child without feeling a pang of jealousy. When I had my own I was very careful around friends that were trying to not talk about mine all the time because I understood that it’s hard to listen to when you’re wondering if you’ll ever have one.

  • Andrea Schneider, LCSW

    Andrea Schneider, LCSW

    April 22nd, 2011 at 10:11 AM

    Thanks for the replies, all. To address a few questions, truly, my stance is very client-directed. The choice to become a parent and how one goes about doing so is a very personal one. People who are experiencing fertility challenges do not need judgement, but an open mind and support. As a therapist, I encourage couples with these particular challenges to engage in self-care. For some, that means taking a temporary break from baby showers and events with children. By no means was I implying to forever avoid children. Things are not all black and white, and there are many shades of grey. My hope is for people to open their eyes, remove judgement, and grow some compassion for people’s journeys.
    Best wishes, Andrea Schneider, LCSW

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