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The emotional impact of infertility

Infertility is not just a physical matter.

It brings with it profound emotional stress. It is a life crisis, which represents a threat to people’s plans, hopes and dreams. A sense of life ‘being on hold’ is common and making decisions about other aspects of life often becomes extremely difficult. Anger, frustration and resentment are also common responses to infertility. Angry feelings can emerge as a result of loss of control and the loss of choices that seem so readily available to those who conceive without awareness or particular appreciation for their pregnancy.

Build up your health team sooner rather than later which can help you conceive more consciously with greater confidence while knowing you are doing the best you can for your health, and that of your future family. A supportive team, with varying points of view can help ensure that potential problems are identified and treated and nothing gets missed.  This is true holistic health care.  Ideally your team will be open to communication in all directions.  Keep copies of all your test results ideally in chronological order – this includes blood tests, ultrasound reports, and any other tests.  Your Doctors, specialists, natural health practitioners should all be able to provide this for you. 

Because feeling out of control is such a major factor in the experience of infertility, doing things to increase your sense of control is a useful start.   This means recognising the difference between those things you can’t control and those things you can.

Coping strategies

  • Seek information from infertility specialists, counsellors, Fertility NZ, libraries and other online resources (be aware that not all online information is accurate), to inform yourself about the options for you and become more aware of those things you do still have control over.

  • Question information you are given, search all the available options and talk about them before deciding on a plan of action.

  • Joining a local group can be immensely helpful in normalising your experience and feeling less isolated at a time when friends and family may be unaware of the situation, or unsure of how to be supportive.  Fertility NZ has a network of volunteers who have ‘been there’ and understand what you are going through.

  • It is inevitable that infertility will impact on your self esteem, relationship, friendships, life plans, career plans and anything else you care to name, so to minimise the negative impact, good preventative self care is crucial.

  • Self-care may involve you building up your ‘inner resources’ in the areas of nutrition, yoga, mindfulness, regular exercise, and sleep, having fun and being pampered.

  • The common feeling that life is on hold can be made worse when people put off doing things (taking job promotions, changing careers, buying clothes etc) hoping they will be pregnant next month, next season, next year. Try to live life as fully as possible in the present while you hope the future will bring you your dream. Scheduling a regular time to review your feelings and thinking about your infertility with a partner or key support person seems to be beneficial.  This can help prevent infertility dominating all conversation or alternatively not being addressed at all. Also having someone outside your relationship with whom you can fully share (without being judged) the emotions involved is useful. These people are hard to find - choose carefully!

  • It is well documented that writing or drawing about painful experiences is also often therapeutic. Writing a personal journal, or painting/drawing may be a form of release for you to try, during tense and stressful times.

Ironically, points of crisis and pain can be opportunities for growth. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend going through infertility. Seeing an infertility counsellor can give you another ally to help guide you through your journey, which can have many twists and turns. 

The importance of couselling

Seeking out professional support while going through a fertility journey is a great way to receive support from someone removed emotionally from your situation and an invaluable exercise in prioritising self-care.

Information for whānau and friends

Are you supporting someone you love through their infertility journey?

Here to support you

We have volunteers who facilitate coffee groups, including guest speaker evenings, in 12 locations around the country.  Connect with your local group - people often tell us that they wish they'd done so earlier!  

Talking to other parents who have also experienced pregnancy loss, can help you put your own feelings into context and provide ideas and inspiration for your own recovery. Reading – facts, stories, articles – can validate your feelings and make you feel less isolated.

  • Counselling services are available at all fertility clinics 

  • Contact SANDS or Miscarriage Support NZ

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