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The Psychological Impact of Infertility on Women

    Shame and guilt are common emotions reported by women dealing with infertility.

    The “Happily Ever After” fairy tale has women believe that they will grow up, marry and bear children. Of course, everyone is an individual and has different life goals, but for many, children are part of their desired life plan. No one ever mentions that your desire to have children does not magically mean you will be able to. Furthermore, no one mentions that successfully conceiving a child without issues does not guarantee that you will easily be able to do so the next time around. Lastly, no one tells you as a woman how to cope when infertility strikes. Below are some commonly described emotional struggles that woman with infertility issues report along with ways to try and challenge your negative thinking and minimize these unwelcome feelings.

    First off, struggling to conceive, and/or carry a pregnancy to term is not your fault. Infertility is a medical condition as real as any other and assigning blame to yourself is as irrational as blaming the neighbor’s dog. In difficult situations, people often want to find someone to hold responsible. For many, it is a way of trying to make sense of your devastating reality. Having answers somehow seems to make one feel less powerless. While it is important to try and find out why a couple is struggling with infertility to allow for the appropriate intervention, it is not OK to point fingers and can be very damaging to one’s own self-esteem or that of others. Unfortunately, society’s social stigma does not always support healthy thinking. Sometimes, it perpetuates the myth that a woman who is struggling with infertility is “damaged” or “defective.” However, challenging as it may seem, it is imperative to interpret this for what it is, a false accusation, and do your best to try and not let it seep in.

    Secondly, infertility does not make you less of a woman. Are you not more than just someone who can bear children? I imagine you have other parts to yourself such as devoted partner, friend or coworker. Look for other ways you have contributed in your life and try to remind yourself that it is unfair to define yourself by one thing. You are much more beautifully complex than that.

    Often people who are struggling with infertility report feeling shame. Shame is defined as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” (Oxford Dictionaries) What have you done purposely wrong? I am certain that you did not ask to be in this situation. Who asks to feel tremendous emotional pain? It is more important than ever to be kind to yourself and nurture your soul. Also, it is helpful to surround yourself with the people in your life that provide such support.

    It is clear that infertility can have great psychological impacts. People report symptoms associated with clinical anxiety and depressive disorders. It can create great stress on a relationship and its impact can create feelings as if you have lost control over your life, both present, and future and possibly regret your past. People may feel very alone and have a tendency to want to withdraw from others. It may become very painful to hear of or be around others who are pregnant including close family and friends. Some woman report feeling guilty about these feelings. It is perfectly natural to feel envy toward someone that has something you so desperately want. It does not mean you wish harm to them and does not make you a bad person. It simply makes you human.

    For some, being around supportive people may be enough to get through the psychological impacts of dealing with infertility. However, if you find yourself still struggling it may be helpful to reach out to a professional who can help you further so you can get some much-deserved relief.

    If you or someone you know needs emotional support dealing with infertility, please contact me to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.