Infertility affects about 9% of men and 10% of women of reproductive age. Even though infertility is a relatively common issue, it doesn’t change the fact that it can be a challenging and isolating experience. Infertility does not only affect physical health but mental health as well. Those dealing with infertility often experience feelings […]
Infertility Counseling: When to Try it and What to Expect
Infertility affects about 9% of men and 10% of women of reproductive age. Even though infertility is a relatively common issue, it doesn’t change the fact that it can be a challenging and isolating experience.
Infertility does not only affect physical health but mental health as well. Those dealing with infertility often experience feelings of depression or guilt. Couples who experience infertility may also find that the stress has negatively affected their relationship.
A solid support system is important for anyone experiencing fertility loss, but sometimes a little extra professional help can be beneficial in this department, which is nothing to be ashamed of.
If you have had questions about whether or not infertility counseling is for you and what to expect, look no further. We are here to answer all of your questions about infertility counseling.
Why infertility counseling?
As with any loss, those that receive infertility diagnoses will go through different stages of guilt, fear, and shame. Infertility counseling is a type of therapy that aims to help those experiencing infertility cope with its various emotional and physical challenges and hopefully come to accept them.
Depending on whether you are an individual woman or a couple, infertility counseling will have slightly different goals.
Studies have shown that infertility affects all aspects of life starting from the physical, psychological, emotional, sociocultural, and financial status of couples. This might make it feel like your world and your relationship are crumbling, and you don’t know where to begin to fix things.
While devastating for everyone, the entire experience surrounding infertility is inherently different for men and women. This is often difficult to articulate to a partner, and therefore for the partner to understand.
Research also shows that women are more willing to openly discuss fertility issues than men which can be problematic for maintaining healthy communication. Couples may also disagree about how and when to discuss these issues with friends or other family members.
The challenges of infertility don’t stop at diagnosis. Many couples choose to pursue assisted reproductive technology (ART) like IVF to try and conceive. These couples often realize that the physical demands of these procedures have a negative effect on their sex lives.
It can also be difficult to make decisions as a couple about how long to pursue ART treatments and when to consider alternative options, like adoption, surrogacy, or sperm donation.
Infertility counseling for couples aims to improve communication so that both partners can better understand each other’s experiences and reactions so that they can support each other in the way the other person needs.
When there is better communication, there is better support. When there is better support, there is less conflict. Decreasing conflict is one of the main goals of infertility counseling.
Navigating the path of infertility is hard, but it is a little bit easier when you feel adequately supported.
What does infertility counseling look like?
The timeline for infertility counseling will vary, with some couples seeing progress within 9-12 sessions. Of course, this is circumstantial, and depending on the intricacies of each relationship counseling could be a shorter or longer process.
The psychological effects of infertility are very real, with anxiety and depression rates in women experiencing infertility on par with those experiencing cancer, and heart conditions.
While your infertility counseling will look different depending on the therapist you choose, the goal will always ultimately be the same. To identify the source of the depression and anxiety, and give you tools to cope with it.
Depending on the specific issues a person or couple is facing (feelings of helplessness, diminished self-worth, etc.) each session will be geared toward tackling these problems. As we mentioned above, couples might focus more on improving communication and understanding of one another.
Your therapist is your guide for learning how to navigate these emotions because sometimes we just don’t know how to deal with them on our own, and that’s okay!
Usually, the first time you meet with an infertility counselor or therapist, you will cover the basics. Things like medical history, what your infertility diagnosis was like, how long you have been trying to have a baby, and so on.
If you are a couple, the counselor may ask each party to discuss how infertility has impacted them individually. Dr. Connie Shapiro, a fertility therapist, states that asking each person what is important to them helps to determine a treatment plan for the couple.
If considering sperm or egg donation, therapists will often discuss the stigmas or fears that come with these procedures. Often parents are concerned that if there is not a biological connection, there may be an issue with bonding with the child or that society will look at the parent-child connection differently.
Therapists can also help these couples determine the best way to disclose the nature of conception to the child to prevent any secrets in the family.
Infertility counselors also help educate couples regarding the medical, legal, and psychological issues surrounding third-party conception so that they feel confident if choosing this family-building alternative.
Finding a fertility counselor
Asking for a referral from your fertility clinic is a great place to start when looking for a fertility counselor. If you are not yet using a fertility clinic, you can usually find a list online of therapists that specialize in fertility issues in your area.
You should have a list of questions ready when contacting a fertility counselor. This will help you determine what to expect from working with this person.
Some examples of questions to ask potential fertility counselors are:
- What is your experience working with people with fertility issues?
- Would the sessions be individual or with both partners?
- How often would the sessions take place?
- Do you take insurance and how much do sessions cost?
The cost of fertility counseling depends on a number of factors.
Some therapists may be covered by insurance, while others may not. Some clinics provide fertility counselors included in the cost of a procedure like IVF, while others do not.
How do I know if I should pursue fertility counseling?
Anyone experiencing fertility issues would probably benefit from fertility counseling in one way or another. However, not everyone may feel they want to or can afford to pursue fertility counseling.
The choice is ultimately yours, but we recommend seriously considering it in a few situations.
Obviously, infertility is not easy for anyone. That being said, if you feel that infertility has led to feelings of extreme depression or anxiety, fertility counseling is probably a good choice.
As we mentioned above, fertility counseling is also a good idea for couples that feel their relationship has been negatively impacted by their experience with infertility.
Some studies show that couples experiencing fertility issues are more likely to separate. The strain of infertility on any relationship is undeniable, which is why considering fertility counseling might be a good idea.
Fertility counseling can also be great for determining the best course of treatment for both individual women and couples. Making such a big decision can be daunting, especially when faced with so many different options.
Fertility counseling can also help those coming to terms with the fact that having a biological child is not an option for them. This can be an extremely difficult pill to swallow and there is no shame in seeking professional help for guidance.
For some in this situation, adoption might be the best option while others may choose to live a child-free life.
Talking it out with a therapist can help you determine what is right for you and your family.
If you are on the fence about trying fertility counseling, it might be a good idea to give it a try. You stand more to gain than to lose.
If you find it is not your cup of tea, no one is forcing you to continue. But you might find that fertility counseling is just what you need to lighten the already heavy burden of infertility. Why carry it alone if you don’t have to?