Living with Infertility – A Therapist’s Perspective

TW – Infertility and Baby Loss

Did you know, around one in seven couples may have difficulty getting pregnant? One of the reasons I believe the perinatal period begins when you first start thinking about having a baby, rather than when you conceive, is because conceiving doesn’t happen easily for everyone. Infertility can also lead to significant emotional distress.

What is Infertility?

In general, infertility is defined as being unable to get pregnant after one year or more of unprotected sex. Within this general category, there are two types of infertility:

  • Primary infertility refers to couples who have not become pregnant after at least one year having sex without using birth control methods.
  • Secondary infertility refers to couples who have been able to get pregnant at least once but are now unable to conceive.

How Does Infertility Impact Mental Health?

If you are having difficulty conceiving, the impact on your mental health can be huge. Seeking treatment can make the experience even more challenging. The stress of appointments, extensive tests and medical procedures can take their toll.

A high number of people living with infertility experience low mood and depression. They may be grieving the loss of an easy conception or the life they’ve imagined with their much longed for baby. As well as the pain of pregnancy loss and miscarriage, for couples undergoing IVF there can be a great deal of trauma and grief associated with an unsuccessful egg retrieval or embryo transfer.

Low mood can also result from being around pregnant friends and family or attending baby related events such as showers, christenings or birthday parties. These occasions can be hard for those wanting to be pregnant themselves.

Negative feelings and self-blame are also common. There can be lots of comparison to others, particularly those who seem to have fallen pregnant easily. On top of this, the drugs associated with IVF can play havoc with your emotions, intensifying experiences that are already difficult.

Infertility can also affect your relationship with your partner. Some people feel resentment if their difficulties conceiving can be attributed to the other person, for example due to low sperm count or quality or a low egg count. At the same time, the other person may be struggling with feelings of guilt. Ultimately, fertility issues can place a lot of strain on your relationship.

How to Look After Your Mental Health While Living with Infertility

  • Allow yourself to feel all the feels. Your feelings are important and valid. If you’re angry, feel angry. Tell someone how angry and hurt you are feeling. It’s also OK to feel jealous of people who are pregnant, have had a baby or have children already. This is a very human response and it doesn’t make you a bad person.
  • Identify and lean into what you need. If doing certain things, such as going to a friend’s baby shower, feels too difficult, don’t do them. It’s OK to avoid unnecessary pain and prioritise your emotional well-being.
  • If someone unintentionally triggers you, don’t be afraid to let them know what you’re going through and how you are feeling. Hopefully, they will be compassionate and understanding.
  • Seek support, either from friends and family or through social media. For example, there is a great community of people living through infertility on Instagram. Talking to someone who will listen, understand and validate your feelings can be a big help.

Useful Links

How to Support Someone After Miscarriage

Pregnancy After Loss – How to Manage Anxiety


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