Coping with infertility is a complex and challenging process for every couple or individual facing this experience. Infertility is a hard situation, and it often impacts your confidence, self-esteem, and wellbeing. Many studies have confirmed that the stress and mental effects experienced by those with infertility are similar to people with cancer, HIV or chronic diseases.
In addition to stress, anxiety, depression, and lack of confidence also come to play, regardless of whether the problem is male infertility, female infertility, both parties’ infertility, or unexplained causes. Infertility can cause you to struggle, pressuring and blaming yourself for not being able to conceive or being subject to the social pressure to have kids. Often, this makes things even harder for you.
If the pressure comes from within, you are also self-sabotaging yourself once you blame or shame yourself. When the judgments come from family, friends, or even strangers, the situation changes slightly, but it remains challenging. People tend to give you unrequired and unhelpful tips and suggest that your anxiety or stress is to blame for your infertility (which may not be true).
For women, this topic is especially sensitive. People make a habit of asking women, “When will you have a baby?” a potentially harmful question as it may have a massive impact on a woman’s life. Infertility, however, is not the only health problem some women are facing.
Impact Of Infertility On Women
Some women can experience other conditions that threaten fertility and complicate infertility treatment, like polycystic ovarian syndrome, chronic pelvic pain and eating disorders.
Although there are treatments to alleviate the effects of these illnesses, experiencing these can make women feel even more guilty, ashamed, and incapable.
But it is not only women who can have their confidence rocked.
Impact Of Infertility On Men
Infertility potentially cuts into a man’s sense of masculinity. Men often have the misconception that their ability to get a woman pregnant and continue their family’s genetic line is the only meaningful way to assert their masculinity.
Moreover, some treatments indicate that couples should have a sexual intercourses schedule, which increases men’s anxiety levels. Once sex becomes a performative duty instead of a loving act, the result can be erectile dysfunction, which increases the risk of anxiety, depression, and diminished self-esteem.
Living A Better, Fuller Life
In order to oppose the feelings of helplessness and stress brought up by infertility, we’ve compiled some things you should apply to start living a better, fuller life:
Stop Blaming Yourself: what does it matter if you waited “too long” to have a baby? Or if you did something that may affect your fertility, like eating fast food all the time? Most infertility cases are either not preventable or predictable. You can’t know if by changing something in the past, you’d be more fertile now, so stop blaming yourself. It doesn’t help. It just brings you down.
Don’t Wait For a Miracle: if you are trying to get pregnant for longer than a year (if you are over 35 years, you should consider six months of trying), and you still have not succeeded, you should see a doctor. Don’t waste time – some causes of infertility may worsen with time, and your chances may quickly disappear. So, don’t wait for a miracle. Instead, see your doctor and understand what is wrong and your available options.
Practice Self-care: treat yourself as you treat your family and friends and how you’d like to be treated. Give yourself a mental health check-up, get enough sleep, practice exercise, meditate, spend time with those that make you feel good and confident about yourself, regardless of infertility diagnosis.
Focus on The Present: don’t wait for a baby to start living. Do it now. You don’t need to be a traditional family with two or three kids, dogs, cats, and a big house to be happy with your family. You can be incredibly happy with just your partner. Yes! Just the two of you! Enjoy the present because you can’t change the past or control the future. Stop living in despair or guilt. Stop being constantly worried and anxious because of your infertility, as it may worsen your prospect of the future, subjecting you to disorders such as depression.
Stop Basing Self-Worth on Fertility: you are so much more than your fertility. You are not a different person than you were before you knew you were infertile. It is normal to feel worthless, ashamed and devastated. These are common emotions amongst men and women who’ve experienced infertility. However, you are still the same person you were before. Don’t let your essence wash up because of infertility – it does not define you.
Focus on Something You Love to Do: what are your hobbies? What do you like to do on your vacations? It could be reading, cycling, traveling, doing a sport, gardening, or anything else. Focus on something that makes you feel good and confident, and that is, at the same time, distracting.
Don’t Look at Sex as a Performance: if you keep looking at sex as solely a way to conceiving, it will probably affect your relationship. Sex doesn’t have to be a reminder of your infertility. Instead, use it to remind yourself and your partner of the passion, warmth, and connection you both share and strengthen it.
Seek Help: the more you keep your infertility secret, the more psychologically hurt you will be. You need understanding and support. Even if you want to keep some aspects of your infertility to yourself, like treatments or other medical issues, you still need someone to talk to, and it doesn’t have to be family or friends. You probably don’t want to hear unsolicited advice or feel a social stigma either way, so talk to someone you trust and that can give you the support you need. It can be a counselor, a doctor or a support group. Talking to someone will improve your confidence and self-esteem, make the emotions more manageable and avoid feelings of loneliness, depression or anxiety.
You can’t control the past or the physical aspects of your infertility, but you can control how you deal with it. How you think and the things you do daily shape the way you feel. You are worth a lot, with or without children. Remember that infertility does not define you and that you are not alone. Focus on the best version of yourself, regardless of whether you still have options to conceive or not.