On the path to parenthood, one should feel comfortable seeking out support if they feel it’s ever needed, and that includes considering the help of infertility counseling.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant or have been going through either the IVF process or some other form of infertility treatment, you may be feeling the strain that any long-term medical condition can bring. Infertility can impact your relationship, your feelings of self-worth, your emotional state and can often cause feelings of depression. Turning to someone who specializes in mental health, especially someone who is particularly familiar with infertility, can provide some guidance and at times, an extra lifeline of support you need to get through the tough times fertility can bring.
What is Infertility Counseling?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, infertility counseling has become, “more sophisticated and widespread over the past decade.” If you and your partner feel you could benefit from infertility counseling, you have several options that you can pursue. Some clinics have a mental health person on staff that you can see one-on-one or in a couples setting.
If your clinic doesn’t have someone on hand, there are many different resources you can turn to find someone who specializes in infertility counseling. There are many online sites you can turn to such as Resolve: the National Infertility Association, which has a directory of experts, this PDF guide from Reproductive.org, and you could always contact local therapists in your area and inquire if any of them specialize in infertility.
Speaking with a professional can help immeasurably. Sometimes it may be to talk through an immediate issue, e.g. you want to do another round of treatment immediately, or wait a few months, or add PGT-A testing to your next IVF cycle. Perhaps it’s more that you want longer term tools and coping strategies to manage the tension and isolation that often accompany prolonged infertility treatment; Having a trained counselor who is there to be an objective party, assist you and your partner to communicate in a healthy way, and give you a safe place to talk through your feelings, can keep otherwise difficult conversations more calm and productive. They can also offer you coping tools and strategies to implement so ideally, you can begin to better manage the emotions you’ve been feeling.
Making the Decision to Pursue Infertility Counseling
One of the biggest situations for which infertility counseling may be helpful is when some form of third party reproduction has been suggested. This may be either donor eggs, donor sperm or surrogacy. This can be a big decision and on occasion, partners may not be on the same page about how they want to proceed. Having someone who specializes in both infertility and counseling can guide the discussion about whether or not this is something you and your partner feel comfortable with and address the emotions that third party reproduction can bring up. .
Other reasons to consider infertility counseling is if you feel that treatment or just the long term strain of trying to get pregnant itself has impacted your relationship or your own behavior. If you’ve been down, anxious, feeling more distant from others, or your behavior is not like your usual self, seeking help to talk through these feelings can provide insight. Even if you feel like you simply need more support or advice on ways to get through the more stressful times like “the two week wait” or when a cycle doesn’t work out as expected, infertility counseling is an option that can only benefit those who feel they need some additional guidance while they navigate their family building journey.
Many describe infertility as a rollercoaster of emotions as it can be unpredictable at times, but this is why having support systems in place like infertility counseling can be so beneficial. You never have to be alone when there are trained professionals available willing to help work through these many emotions and tough decisions. Between your doctor, your partner, your nurses, the infertility community and infertility counseling, you genuinely always have a team ready and waiting to help support you when you need them.