Infertiity is defined as difficulty conceiving for a period of 12 months of regular, unprotected sex at the time of ovulation. Statistics estimate that one in 5 or 6 couples are effected and fall into one of the following groups: female factor contribution (35%), male factor contribution (35%), combined factors (20%) and unexplained infertility (10%).
Couples struggling with difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term speak of a deep and profound pain that is evoked from the unfulfilled longing to have a child. Everyday activities can be an ever present reminder that this primal yearning to be a parent remains frustrated.
Infertility diagnosis and treatment is a couple’s issue. The shock of the diagnosis and how it is processed will depend on the strengths of the relationship. This may be the first time in a couple’s life that their life plans have not materialized as expected. This life crisis may elicit powerful feelings of grief, fear, anger, confusion and may demand more than the available coping skills.
Fertility Focused Psychotherapy will help a couple process feelings and information regarding complex decisions that need to be made, especially whether or not to proceed with ART (artificial reproductive technology). Those who choose to undergo ART interventions frequently need help understanding the vocabulary and nature of interventions, some of which are intrusive and whose outcomes can be uncertain. The medical workup and interventions prescribed to promote conception may disrupt the couple’s sexual relationship. The focus on conceiving can displace all other needs, especially those for tenderness, emotional connection and shared pleasure.
Psychotherapy will help couples learn to identify and express their feelings while maintaining empathy for their partner’s experience. In addition, psychotherapy will promote the development of skills and strategies that highlight self care and nurturance of the relationship. These skills help deepen intimacy and repair unintended hurts that may have resulted from feeling misunderstood.They will also help couples think through difficult decisions about treatment options and the finances to pay for them.
Getting help promptly is important not only for the couple’s emotional health, but also for the success of medical treatments. Research indicates that women who participated in therapies that teach tools for coping with depression, anxiety and stress may have better fertility outcomes. These findings are explained by the interconnection of the mind and the body. Our feelings, thoughts, beliefs, expectations, experiences spark a cascade of biochemical changes that impact both a woman’s and man’s reproductive system.
Through the process of Psychotherapy, couples find their path to becoming parents and building a family. In addition, they reestablish a sense of psychological wellbeing and confidence that they can meet their needs and life goals.
SYMPTOMS THAT INDICATE THE NEED FOR A PSYCHOTHERAPY CONSULTATION:
- loss of interest in usual activities
- diminished ability to focus or accomplish tasks
- change in sleep patterns (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, early morning waking, sleeping more than usual)
- change in appetite or weight (increase or decrease) • increased use of drugs and/or alcohol
- persistent feelings of worthlessness, pessimism, guilt • persistent feelings of anger or bitterness
- heightened sense of fearfulness, panic, feeling life is out of control
- somatic preoccupation (excessive worry about health and wellbeing)
- difficulty thinking of anything other than getting pregnant
- increase in obsessions and compulsive behaviors
3. MARITAL DISRUPTION
- change in sexual relationship (sexual difficulties, loss of desire and sexual satisfaction)
- communication difficulties – feeling one’s spouse doesn’t understand the depth of pain or the experience, sense of aloneness, disruption of emotional and physical intimacy.
- difficulty resolving differences regarding decisions that need to be made.
4. INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
- increased tension with family members, friends, and colleagues
- increased social isolation as result of avoiding of situations that trigger pain