This guest blog was written by Helga Fasching, Psy.D. www.drfasching.net
Is infertility stressful?
An infertility diagnosis most likely will be experienced as a hugely stressful period in most people’s lives. When we feel stressed, our brain releases hormones that signal to our body to respond – either “fight” or “flee” – termed the “fight-or-flight” response. And sinceyour infertility diagnosis is the culmination of sometimes years of trying to have a baby, of disappointment, of worry, of sadness, of anger, of anxiety, our bodies won’t return to a more relaxed state anytime soon. On the contrary, this diagnosis will probably feel like the last straw that you are barely able to take.
Some people will feel numb for some time. They won’t be able to think about what “infertility” means to them and how, or even if, to proceed. Others will dive into decision-making mode so as not to lose a minute to have the baby they so much wish for: Which treatment? When? No treatment? Adoption? The common denominator for the variety of responses people manifest is stressful feelings.
Research has shown that women diagnosed with infertility have significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms than fertile women. One study (Domar, Zuttermeister, & Friedman, 1993) found that levels of depression and anxiety were indistinguishable from levels of those women with cancer, HIV+, and heart disease. Infertility is stressful and can affect all areas in your life.
Infertility can, and most likely will, affect your relationship with your partner since you two won’t react in the exact same way to your diagnosis. It can impact your relationships with friends and family. How much to disclose? How to react to insensitive remarks? What about those baby showers? It can affect your job and relationship with co-workers. Most likely you will have to miss some work in order to make it to your doctor appointments. A co-worker may be pregnant and that’s the one thing you cannot tolerate right now. And then there is the financial side to infertility and its treatment.
So, what to do about it?
First of all, you are not alone. At any given time, there are about 72 million women worldwide who are infertile and a little more than half of these are currently seeking medical care. We can assume that most of these women experience stressful feelings such as depressive symptoms, anger, irritability, sleep disruption, anxiety, and many others that can result in isolation and loneliness.
Also, it is completely normal to experience stress and to respond to stress in a variety of ways. Don’t be surprised if you feel really, really bad at times. You are dealing with something big and something you never thought you’d have to go through.
There are some strategies though that you can use to manage your stress. The following are some techniques that will help alleviate your stress – if you practice:
At this difficult time in your life, it’s normal to experience all sorts of feelings that sometimes seem to overwhelm you. Be good to yourself, practice some coping strategies every day, and remember that, no matter how, you will resolve your infertility. You will be fine.