When I was first told that I was perimenopausal, meaning for me that I would not have a genetic child of my own, I was overwhelmed. I couldn’t quite put my finger on how I was feeling but it was summed up by my therapist: GRIEF and to some extent: SHAME. I was resentful, angry, and upset that this was my fate. Why were others getting pregnant so easily, sometimes unplanned, and I couldn’t do the one thing that I wanted more than anything in the world? I felt lonely and desperate for answers.
Infertility is rarely something you know in advance of trying to conceive even though it affects one in six people in Canada. Even with these high numbers, it is often not a topic that is much discussed.
Here, we consider some of the mental health challenges that may accompany news of infertility:
Loneliness and Isolation:
Couples and individuals experiencing infertility can feel isolated, especially if friends and family are asking about their plans to start a family. They may also find it hard to be around friends or others with children, especially babies or pregnant people.
Anxiety and Depression:
Seeing the negative line on the pregnancy test for yet another month can be devastating, especially if there was some hope that this month would be different. This may increase feelings of depression and anxiety, and impact self-esteem and overall well-being.
Grief and Loss:
The feelings of not conceiving can feel like a loss, not just of a potential baby, but of future hopes and dreams of having a family. When people crave the family lifestyle, they may become unable to enjoy the everyday activities they once relied on for pleasure.
The cost of fertility treatment can be a huge burden to people, especially if it was not expected. This may mean putting off that mortgage down payment, holiday or new car. It can seem unfair that other people get pregnant ‘at no cost’ and that your experience is costing thousands of dollars.
The challenges mentioned above can have a big impact on the relationship as partners navigate the appointments, the research, the financial strain and the feelings of depression, loss and grief. It is such an important time for couples to support each other, which can be difficult given the circumstances.
Connecting with others who are experiencing this journey can alleviate the feeling of isolation and provide some support on your journey. I bumped into an old friend in the fertility clinic and we reconnected, which was a huge help for both of us on our journeys.
Always easier said than done, and so important to do what you can to take care of yourself. Whatever brings you joy – a walk in nature, chatting with friends, cooking, exercise – can help with your overall well-being and self-esteem.
Give yourself permission to feel the emotions you are experiencing – it’s ok to be sad, angry, resentful, and grieving – try not to minimize or repress those feelings. Also, be aware that your partner may be having similar, or different, emotions and that’s ok too.
Researching what the medical jargon means can help with anxiety about the future and allow some sense of control. Knowing medical terms, potential treatment options and potential outcomes can be helpful to help with uncertainty.
Infertility can be a daunting time, full of uncertainty and an array of emotions. Seeking help to talk through these feelings can help you feel supported. It may be hard to discuss these experiences with friends, family and colleagues during this time. If you would like to reach out for low cost counselling, you can connect with me through this link: