Infertility affects one in six couples. There are also those that are involuntarily childless, e.g. singles, same-sex couples, or persons whose partners are not willing to have children (or more children). It is one of the most severe challenges a person or couple may face in life.
Infertility is a loss that permeates every part of a person’s self-concept, including gender identity and sexuality. Over time, most infertile people experience shame, guilt, anxiety, anger, depression, loss of self-esteem, and relationship conflict.
Couples experiencing infertility have grief reactions similar to those experienced by terminally ill individuals: shock, denial, anger, sadness, betrayal, loss, etc. The couple system is at risk each time a partner transitions to another intense set of emotions.
Infertility affects a person’s functioning in the biological, psychological and social aspects of life. As treatments and procedures continue, the couple’s life centers more and more around their infertility. They experience helplessness, powerlessness, loss of control, desperation. It may be the first time they have experienced failure or an inability to master a goal. They may begin to isolate more from friends and family as they become more absorbed in their pain, and try to avoid being around pregnant women. It is easy for the partner with the medical issue to become absorbed in guilt and self-blame. Sex becomes a calendar-regulated chore rather than a joyous celebration of union. Medical procedures are invasive and humiliating.
Infertility loss must be thoroughly grieved to be successfully resolved. Even so, feelings of loss continue to ebb and flow throughout the life cycle, including for those who chose to parent through adoption.
Jean spent her young adult years making peace with her own infertility. Her counseling office is a safe, neutral place where intense emotions are validated and the many issues of infertility can be freely discussed.
Counseling is helpful when you are . . .
- facing difficult treatment decisions
- additional encouragement and support would help
- investigating other options for family building
Or when experiencing. . .
- persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, anger or anxiety
- disagreement or conflict between partners
- strained relationships with friends or family
- difficulty concentrating or remembering
- loss of desire to be around other people
- thoughts of suicide or death