Infertility is defined as the inability to naturally conceive a child after regular, unprotected sexual intercourse for over one year. When individuals and couples begin the journey of trying to become parents, the months that go by without a resulting pregnancy can result in a confrontation with the unexpected diagnosis of infertility. The causes of infertility are as varied as the treatments and men and women face a myriad of interventions and choices that are often overwhelming and confusing.
The first hint that there may be a problem emerges after several attempts at trying to conceive without a resulting pregnancy. Depending on a woman’s age, family history with pregnancy and medical issues, a visit to the gynecologist may result in the suggestion to keep trying for a period of one year or begin the process of testing. If testing is suggested, then the man will also undergo examination to determine if the cause of infertility is male factor. In the past, it was conventional thought that women bore the responsibility for infertility. In recent years, through more advance diagnostic methods, it has been shown that male factor infertility accounts for as much as 35% of the causes of infertility.
Individuals and couples diagnosed with infertility experience an array of emotional responses that can disrupt one’s self-view in the present and for the future. The shock of one’s body not doing what it is supposed to do can result in feelings of shame, inadequacy, fear, anger and powerlessness. After an individual or couple finds out about their infertility, a decision has to then be made to proceed or not, with invasive testing and procedures. The decision to move forward with ART requires learning about options in order to make informed choices and, resiliency to undergo the process and demands of assisted reproductive interventions.
Coping with infertility requires a strong and stable platform from which to launch in to the medicalized area of reproduction. Individuals and couples need to become educated about the many choices available and this can become daunting when viewed through an emotionally stressed lens. Dealing with issues that often rise to the surface, including underlying relationship problems, financial strain, dysfunctional family dynamics, newly discovered illnesses and collaborating with the ART medical team is an overwhelming task for a person whose sense of self has been altered by an infertility diagnosis.
It has been shown that people diagnosed with infertility benefit from a holistic approach toward achieving the desired goal of having a child. Seeking help from a therapist who specializes in helping individuals and couples diagnosed with infertility is a way to learn about the diagnosis and develop the skills and coping strategies that are necessary on the journey to becoming a parent.