As many as 1 in 6 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. When I first learned I was “infertile”, my emotions were affected like any other significant loss — in this case I was grieving my sense of control over my families’ destiny. Like grief, the emotional states follow a similar pattern of anger, bargaining, and even depression.
The stigma of infertility is hard to bear and lonely. Infertility is trauma -but it’s not a life sentence.
As I learned, infertility can be isolating and relationships will be strained. Most advice from family and friends is well-intentioned but misguided; inadvertently picking the scab of infertility and prolonging the pain. On the one hand you want as many events and distractions as possible and, at the same time, it feels easier to avoid social interactions altogether.
Infertility Trauma is real
New research suggests that infertility is the fourth most traumatic life event a woman can go through. Unfortunately, 61 percent of women going through infertility don’t tell their family or friends about this struggle. The stigma that comes with the diagnosis of infertility is far reaching. Individuals are approached with questions and comments that feel like a punch to the gut, and weigh like a ton of bricks. “When are you going to have a baby?” Or, “Don’t wait too long, your biological clock is ticking.” Or, “Do you not want kids?” It seems to be an expectation in our society that a couple will procreate. Often it may be perceived as unnatural if it does not happen after a certain amount of time. If these couples do choose to open it up about their struggle they are often met with comments that are unproductive and hurtful. “Just relax, it will happen when you least expect it.” Or, “You’re trying too hard.” Or, “Just have more sex!” Or, “ Go on vacation and relax, it will happen.” If only it was this easy! The stigma of infertility is hard to bear and lonely. Infertility is not a choice.
Can Stress and Trauma Related to Infertility Actually Keep Me From Getting Pregnant?
The stress and anxiety related to infertility struggles can snowball into anxiety-related sexual dysfunction and other marital conflicts. Stress and trauma affect your health and wellbeing and can be equally damaging to the prospect of getting pregnant if not dealt with properly. The long-term effects of stress and trauma will increase certain hormone levels in your body and interfere with your body’s processes. Simply put, stress and trauma have a negative effect on how your brain signals your body’s physical response. This stress can also lead to other health conditions that may cause erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. If you or your spouse are dealing with stress and/of trauma related to infertility, it’s advised that you seek help sooner than later.
Does Infertility Cause PTSD?
It’s widely known that infertility is heartbreaking for couples but does it affect them as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? For those who have witnessed a life threatening event or serious injury, PTSD can have all too real side effects. By this definition, a miscarriage at any stage would suggest an emotional injury that could manifest into PTSD.
Infertility Aftercare: Therapies and Supplements
- Resources and support make a world of difference when you’re tackling the hurdles of infertility. Here are a few options for infertility aftercare:
- Coaching – Work with a coach to make a plan. Discuss strategies to take back control of your mind, body, day, week, and month.
- Counseling – Work with a therapist to identify and address sources of stress, grief, and anxiety. Create a toolbox to manage emotions as they crop up throughout your day.
- Marriage Counseling – Work together with a counselor to find common ground and establish a firm foundation for communication.
- Psychodynamic therapy: Address your subconscious conflicts and find root causes of stress and trauma
- Sex therapy: Work with a sex therapist to focus on sensational pleasure and reduce stress in your sex life. This could also include sexual anxiety therapy.
In summary, the definition of trauma is personal and will vary based on individual experiences with infertility. The healing process is a marathon so it’s helpful to have a support crew along the way. Please let me know how I can help you.
speak with nurse practitioner and fertility coach
ARE YOU READY TO FEEL EMPOWERED AND TAKE BACK CONTROL? Together we will discuss what you have been through so far and decide how you can best move forward to overcome barriers you are encountering.