Infertility is many things. It is a medical diagnosis recognized by the World Health Organization. It is a public health issue. It is challenging, both physically and emotionally, to navigate. It is much more common than many of us think.
How do I know if I might be experiencing infertility? It is estimated that infertility will affect about 1 in 8 couples. Those who are met with a diagnosis of infertility often receive this diagnosis after many months of trying to conceive unsuccessfully. It is recommended that for woman under the age of 35, they consult with a reproductive endocrinologist, a medical specialist in infertility, after a year of trying to conceive with no success. This time frame is reduced to after 6 months if you are over the age of 35 since we know that advancing age has a huge effect on one’s fertility.
What causes infertility? The cause of the infertility can be varied and in some cases even after extensive testing and evaluation the cause of infertility will remain unknown. Depending on the results of your testing and evaluation, your medical team will advise you on the best course of action moving forward in order to maximize your chances of conception, with the information that they have available to them. This can range from prescribing certain fertility enhancing drugs to recommending assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), to conceive.
Regardless of the recommended path forward, this can and is an extremely stressful time for many individuals and couples. Stress during this time period can come in the form of:
- Financial stress because of the extremely high cost for some of these fertility treatments.
- Relational stress as you navigate difficult questions from family and friends about family building or try to make joint decisions with a partner about what treatments you are and are not comfortable with.
- Physical stress because of the demanding schedule of blood work and ultrasounds that you are required to go through if you are doing certain fertility treatments.
- Emotional stress because this wasn’t what you thought your journey to parenthood would look like.
While it can be hard to reach out for support during this time, this is also a time when support can be very helpful. This support can come in many forms – informational, practical, and emotional.
- If you are looking for more information about infertility or your diagnosis, it can be tempting to turn to blogs and various internet platforms, but keep in mind that many of those who post on these sites are not M.D.s. So make sure to check your sources and reach out to a medical professional before trying some of the suggestions you see online. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has a lot of helpful and reliable information about infertility. This is a good place to start.
- For practical support, think about rescheduling your work hours if you can for those early morning blood draws and ultrasounds. See if there is someone who can cover for you at work if needed. Come up with some responses or ways of handling questions ahead of time from friends or family about when to expect a baby or if you are trying. Knowing how you can respond in these situations and thinking through it ahead of time can decrease distress in the moment.
- For emotional support, take a look around for support groups where you can connect with others who are experiencing infertility. Many of these support groups are now operating virtually making them easier to attend. Look for books and posts written by others who have experienced infertility. Reach out to a therapist who specializes in working with infertility.
Infertility is many things, but above all it is hard. Reach out to others during this time and draw on the support available.