We often don’t take the time to consider how our emotional response to stress affects the body. This is especially true of men and women struggling with infertility. While all physical avenues are looked into, but it is rare to find a fertility center or a care provider that will also offer the emotional support needed. Childbirth and parenting are seen as rites of passage that, when denied to those who seek it, may cause feelings of sadness, loss, and grief that can lead to depression. Emerging evidence demonstrates the importance of the mind-body connection and research shows that compounded stress in the body may result in stress-induced illness. Similarly, infertility related stressors have been shown to have a direct impact on a marriage or partnership, a person’s identity, and worldview.
Some stressors that are often experienced are:
- Alters a person’s idea of the future.
- Infertility creates an intergenerational effect on parents and siblings
- Procreation is tied to cultural and social beliefs about sexual identity.
- The inability to have children can cause an individual’s self-perception of femininity or masculinity and a feeling of failure, feelings of being defective, and unattractive.
- Infertility can cause the individual to lose self-confidence, optimism for the future, and raise doubts about the individuals competencies in other roles, such as parenting and marital relationships
- As peers become pregnant and close friends and relatives begin to ask about children, the individual may become increasingly aware and self-conscious about their inability to have children.
- Disclosing this information may cause individuals to receive unhelpful and insensitive advice from their social support
- It is estimated that 31% of couples seek medical treatment for infertility. Upon start of treatment the individual may have to undergo several tests, monitor their hormones on a regular basis, undergo biopsies, etc. Waiting for test results may cause additional stress and anxiety. If tests are inconclusive, they often lead to additional testing and medical interventions.
- Stemming form the inability to predict the future, infertile women are more aware of their reproductive functions and timing of sexual activity
- Emotional reaction to infertility may be anger, depression and guilt. Feelings of being inferior and guilt for not getting pregnant can lead to depression
- Infertility may cause couples to re-evaluate their union. The individual with the reproductive problem may feel guilty for not fulfilling their partners desire for children, feel unworthy and like they are holding their partner back from having a family of their own.
- Financial strain because of medical treatments.
- Communication problems or not telling their partner about their infertility for fear of losing their partner.
- Sexual relations may become a chore because it is no longer spontaneous.
- Each month the anticipation of getting pregnant and having the onset of menses or when the pregnancy test comes back negative.
Unfortunately, in times like these we often don’t consider how using an integrative health and wellness coach can provide support during difficult times when the body is not responding in the way it “should” or how we expect it to. The psychological and emotional impact of infertility is well documented in the scientific literature. A coach with knowledge of the mind-body connection and infertility can be of great benefit in teaching stress reduction techniques, guidance in setting tangible goals, and reframing negative ideas and viewpoints. By using a coach, someone struggling with infertility related stressors might be able to work through some of the difficult emotional and/or physical side effects of fertility medication and find healthy ways to cope that resonate with their core values and beliefs.