How to Seek Psychotherapy for Fertility Issues

Three Parts:Getting Individual TherapySeeking Therapy with your PartnerExploring Other Support Options

Problems with fertility can cause deep wounds and create problems in your relationship unlike ever before. Further, there’s no roadmap to guide you through making decisions, knowing how to explore options, or knowing when to give up. All in all, fertility problems cause immense strain on individuals and couples and often, therapy can be hugely beneficial in relieving this strain. When seeking therapy, work with a therapist you like and find helpful.

Part 1
Getting Individual Therapy

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    Know when to seek therapy. You may feel unsure whether or not to get therapy for yourself. Therapy can be helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed, feeling hopeless, having a difficult time coping with daily activities, are constantly on edge, or feeling like you may harm yourself or someone else.[1] Infertility can cause a tremendous amount of stress, and it can be difficult coping with that much stress. Therapy can help you cope with stress better and work toward better functioning.
    • If you’re overwhelmingly tearful or having a difficult time coping with infertility, it’s okay to reach out for help and work with a therapist.
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    Find a therapist. There are lots of ways to find a therapist, and you may find one that specializes in working with individuals struggling with problems related to fertility. You can ask friends or family for a recommendation, talk to your primary care provider, call your insurance provider, or do an online search.[2] You may ask your fertility treatment team if they have any recommendations, or go to a support group and ask for a recommendation. Do some research beforehand to find a therapist who appeals to you and whom you can see yourself feeling comfortable sharing yourself with.
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    Target your symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s common to experience anxiety and/or depression when dealing with issues of infertility.[3] You may feel frustrated or hopeless, especially if treatments fail. It can be difficult to deal with psychological symptoms and you may feel unsure of how to handle them on your own. Discuss your symptoms with your therapist and work on creating treatment goals to improve your symptoms and coping.
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    Explore your emotional experience. It can be difficult to know who to share your fertility problems with and how much to share. At the same time, it can feel like keeping your sadness or frustration to yourself is killing you. Therapy is a safe place to talk about all issues related to infertility and how they make you feel. It’s okay to discuss whatever comes up for you emotionally around fertility, such as feeling like a failure, feeling frustrated with your partner, or resenting the fact that other people are having unplanned pregnancies around you.[4]
    • Therapy can help you work through your emotions and help you express yourself in a healthy way.
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    Talk about self-worth. Infertility can take a toll on your self-worth.[5] You may feel like less of a woman or less of a man due to your inability to conceive. You may feel like a failure or like your body has turned against your desires. It can be traumatic to feel like you cannot go through with such a natural function. If you’re struggling with self-worth, talk about this with your therapist.

Part 2
Seeking Therapy with your Partner

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    Find a therapist together. If you decide to get therapy together, choose a therapist together as well. Choose someone who both of you feel comfortable around and willing to open up to in therapy. When dealing with infertility, couples’ therapy can be hugely beneficial.[6]
    • You may choose to see a marriage and family therapist (MFT) who specializes in working with couples. You may also find an infertility specialist.
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    Improve your communication together. When dealing with fertility issues and treatment options, you and your partner may disagree on what is best. This can cause significant strain in the relationship. Use therapy as a way to address issues and to reduce conflicts and stress. It’s common for couples to disagree on treatment options, and a therapist can help you sort through your options and communicate your needs more effectively together.[7]
    • When under such intense stress such as going through infertility problems, it’s important to strengthen your communication and bond with each other in order to support one another.
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    Talk about strains in your partnership. Therapy is an opportunity for you and your partner to talk openly and honestly with each other. Avoiding difficulties may make them worse. If you’re having a hard time or experiencing more conflict with your partner, talk it out in therapy.[8]
    • For example, if one person wants to continue treatments and the other does not, this can cause strain in your relationship. Express these strains openly with your therapist and find ways to approach these differences constructively together.
    • If one person is infertile, it can cause guilt or anger in the partnership. Talk about these feelings openly.
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    Navigate your concerns. You may have specific items that you and your partner are struggling to resolve. Brings these concerns up to the therapist as central to your therapy.[9] Especially if you feel overwhelmed by options or by making the “right” choice, it can be helpful to talk over your options with a therapist. He or she can help guide you in this process.
    • For example, you may want to consider all of your options in how to proceed. You and your partner may need to create some clarity over medical treatments, adoption, using a surrogate, or even separation.
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    Discuss sex. Some couples may notice a dramatic shift in sexual pleasure when dealing with infertility. Instead of having sex for pleasure and connection, sex may be specifically calculated for certain times in order to conceive. This can leave couples feeling less connected during sex or less fulfilled in their sexual encounters. You may also begin to experience related sexual dysfunction due to the pressures to perform and conceive.[10]
    • Bring up sex during therapy if it has become a problem in your relationship. Remember that most things are up for discussion when working with a therapist, even sex!

Part 3
Exploring Other Support Options

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    Join a support group. Your therapist may recommend that you join a support group. A support group can be helpful in joining you with other couples who have similar experiences as you.[11] A support group is a great place to share advice and support, talk about recommendations, and talk about your experiences. It can also help you feel less alone and isolated in your struggles.
    • Ask your therapist, general practitioner, or local mental health clinic for recommendations for joining an infertility support group. You can also check online resources and forums.
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    Talk to friends and family. You may find it helpful to discuss your process with friends and family. Loved ones can be a significant source of support and love during difficult times.[12] Talk to people who will listen and comfort you. While some people may want to give advice, say that what you need most is comfort and support.
    • Sometimes family members have a difficult time relating or understanding fertility problems. If someone gives you bad advice (“Just relax! You’ll get pregnant when you least expect it!”), you don’t have to confide in him or her. It’s your choice what you share and with whom you share it.
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    Practice relaxation regularly. Fertility problems and treatments can cause considerable stress, both to the person receiving treatments and to the relationship. Get into a habit of managing stress regularly by doing activities such as daily yoga, qi gong, tai chi, and meditation or guided imagery.[13]
    • Better yet, find a relaxation technique that you and your partner can do together, and practice it 30 minutes or more each day.

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Categories: Emotional Conditions