Infertility and Isolation: Feeling Alone in the Waiting Room
If you were ever to enter a fertility clinic during those early morning hours, you would quickly realize that infertility does not discriminate. The journey may be different for each one of these women, however as they go through the process of cycle monitoring they will quickly realize they are not alone. Sadly, why does this process feel so lonely? Why does no one look up from their cell phone until their name is called? No one makes eye contact for fear that they may be noticed by a neighbour, a co worker or an extended family member. Although 1 in 7 women experience infertility, the stigma still exists. Women fear judgement from family and their peer group. This stigma may extend to creating tension in their relationship and feeling more emotionally distant from their partner.
The emotionally painful and financially exhausting process of infertility is made worse by stigma. Women and couples often start to avoid friends and family fearing their judgement and the always dreaded question “Do you want children?”1 in 4 women goes through a miscarriage. If the statistic is very high, then why is this such a lonely experience? Why are women not given the opportunity to grieve? They may have to return to work in a week or less. There is very little consideration of her emotional recovery on the part of her employer.
When friends or even acquaintances have the courage to share their journey of a devastating loss such as miscarriage, stillbirth or their experience with fertility treatments, their struggle can allow women and couples to feel less vulnerable and alone.
Going through this emotional journey alone can be draining both individually and on your relationship. Symptoms such as lack of appetite, decreased energy, motivation, intensified anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and difficulty finding joy are signs to watch out for if they persist longer then two weeks and interfere with your daily functioning. This emotional time can lead to diagnoses of major depressive disorder or anxiety disorders. Women are even more vulnerable if they have a past history of being diagnosed with mood disorder or anxiety disorder. Also, fertility drugs can amplify hormonal changes which can intensify symptoms of mood or anxiety disorder.
Counselling and can help with healthier coping strategies and communicating in your relationship. Evidence based psychological treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness can allow for self-care and healthier thinking. Alternative therapy such as acupuncture and yoga can help promote relaxation. In more severe cases, medication such as anti-depressants may help women find more clarity in their thinking in order to have more progress in counselling.
Everyone can participate in ending the stigma of infertility by having the courage to share their story and not asking that daunting question “do you have any children/ do you even want children?”. You may not know what is going on in someones world. Provide support, not advice, everyone’s experience is different.
B Healthy Counselling supports women and couples during their emotional journey through infertility.
Samantha Attinello MSW, RSW, Psychotherapist
Specializes in providing psychotherapy to women and couples struggling with infertility. She has 15 years working in mental health and has a passion for supporting women and couples learn healthier coping strategies to manage life stressors. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.