When you and your partner decide to start a family, or to have another baby, it is an exciting time—until things don’t go as planned, and it takes longer than you’d expected. You’re stressed. And it seems that are at the doctor’s office at least once a week. A therapist is the last person you have time for.
Fertility treatment is stressful and time consuming. Talking with someone about your experience might make the process more manageable. Whether you are overwhelmed and stressed, feel like your relationship with your partner is in trouble, or you struggle with a specific issue, having a safe place to discuss your problems and find effective solutions might be what the doctor ordered.
Medical research suggests that infertility-related stress may lead to a physiological response that can disrupt hormonal and immune functioning, and can negatively impact fertility treatment as a result. If you experience symptoms of distress associated with fertility treatment—such as trouble sleeping, eating problems, overwhelming sadness or anxiety, trouble at work or relationships—it might help to talk with someone with experience with fertility treatment. Individual treatment, using mindfulness-based approaches and stress management techniques, can be effective for learning skills to help you cope during this challenging time. Support groups and mind-body programs for infertility can help you learn new skills while also connecting with other women who understand your experience.
A diagnosis of infertility, and all the associated treatments, can try even the most loving relationships. Couples counseling can provide you and your partner a forum for working through your treatment decisions, improving intimacy, and finding ways to reconnect and support each other as you go through the process of getting pregnant with medical assistance.
Maybe you feel you are coping as well as can be expected, but there is one aspect of the process that remains stressful. Working with a therapist experienced in fertility issues may help you find tools to manage that specific issue. Many people have a phobia related to needles. If you contemplate an intervention that requires injections, this phobia might impact your ability to move forward. Exposure therapy won’t make the injections less painful, but it can help you cope with the fear of needles. Perhaps your doctor suggested you make significant behavioral changes, such as losing or gaining weight or quitting smoking, to help improve your chances of successful treatment. Or maybe it is getting hard to deal with friends or family members, in which case learning skills to be more assertive or to control your anger would help. Making changes or learning these skills is something you could potentially do on your own, but having the support of a professional may help you reach your goals and find relief more quickly.
If you’re now convinced that finding a therapist skilled in working with those dealing with infertility is a good idea, you might wonder how to find someone. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) has created guidelines for the qualifications for infertility counselors. Provider qualifications require:
- a graduate degree in a mental health related field, such as psychology, counseling, or social work.
- a license to practice.
- training related to the medical and psychological aspects of infertility.
- clinical experience in the field.
- participation in continuing education.
Another good resource for finding a therapist who specializes in this area is Resolve.
© Copyright 2010 by Jennifer Harned Adams, Ph.D.. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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