It is estimated that 10% of women will experience infertility. These numbers may be increasing as women are having children later in life. A woman is considered to be infertile if she has activity been trying to get pregnant for a year without success. Infertility in women can be caused by various medical conditions including endometriosis, uterine fibroids, primary ovarian insufficiency, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease, and scar tissue in the uterus (from surgeries, ectopic pregnancies, and complications from STDs or other infections). By age 30, becoming pregnant becomes more difficult each year. This is usually related to a woman’s ovaries releasing fewer eggs and less healthy eggs being released. The risk of miscarriage also increases as women age. If you are facing infertility here are a few ideas to help you cope with this difficult situation:
- Talk to your Doctor: It is important to get an official diagnosis of infertility and determine the cause of your infertility in order to effectively treat the problem. Your doctor will likely order a series of tests that will help to determine the causes of your infertility. Sometimes medical interventions may be as simple as learning how to track your ovulation. In other situations a doctor may request laparoscopic surgery to determine the cause of your infertility.
- Focus on the Factors you can Control: Stress, being underweight or overweight, smoking, drug or alcohol abuse and an unhealthy diet can contribute to infertility. These are all changeable factors that will help you live a healthier more balanced life, as well as increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
- Consider Alternative Treatments: Reiki, acupuncture, massage and meditation have been found to help women with infertility. If you are open to alternative treatments, it may be worth giving one (or a few) a try.
- Learn About Your Options: There are many ways to have and grow a family including adoption, surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, etc. There are many paths that can lead to the same place—having a healthy family. Explore the options available to you and your partner to decrease hopelessness and determine which options you are both open to.
- Increase your Social Support: Going through infertility diagnosis and treatment can be emotionally distressing, physically distressing, and stressful to your relationship. If you need more social support, make sure to reach out to friends and family members you believe can be understanding of the situation. If you are struggling with finding supportive individuals in your life, consider seeking therapy or joining an infertility support group.
- Set Boundaries: Some women struggling with infertility find it upsetting to be around friends or family members who are celebrating pregnancies or children’s birthdays. Often women will feel guilty about having negative reactions to these events. However, these reactions are understandable and normal. You may need to set boundaries with friends and family members about what events you want to attend, or even topics of conversation. It is okay to send a gift instead of attending a baby shower if it is going to be too upsetting!
Therapy can be helpful in navigating the infertility process. Because the diagnosis and treatment process can be taxing on a couple, many couples find couples therapy useful in managing stress and making decisions regarding their options for having a family. Consider reaching out to a therapist if you and/or your partner are struggling with infertility.