For many couples, an infertility diagnosis is a call to action. In the wake of receiving the worst-case scenario news, they may spend a period of time in shock and/or mourning – but then they begin to use the business of infertility treatments to keep incessantly busy to avoid the welling tides of emotion that build up inside.
At NCFMC, we encourage patients to begin building the support network they’ll need as the train leaves the station of “ignorant bliss” and begins chugging at a rapid pace through station after station of “what happens next.”
Infertility Support Comes in Many Forms
There isn’t any one support system that works better than others. We find that most individuals and couples do best when they take the time and use their resources to create a layered approach to their support.
Here are some of the support systems available to you here in Northern California. They can become emotional lifesavers down the road, especially if your personal journey takes longer than anticipated or includes a series of setbacks or failed fertility treatments.
Connect with an infertility support group in your area
The “good news” is that you are not alone. While infertility can feel isolating at times (especially when it feels like everyone around you boasts a burgeoning belly), ASRM statistics show us that about 12% of couples in the United States are challenged by infertility in some way, shape or form. Joining a support group is a way to connect with others who share your pain – and your victories – and who don’t require an explanation of every test, acronym, diagnosis and every treatment/results that you bring up in conversation.
We recommend visiting the RESOLVE website to find an infertility support group in your area. These support groups tend to be some of the strongest and most active. They are sponsored and funded by RESOLVE and fertility specialists who support resolve (NCFMC is a Platinum Sponsor for the Northern California Walk of Hope, which takes place here in Sacramento. It’s a support-group led activity to bring infertility awareness into the forefront). There are both Peer Led and Professional Led groups.
NCFMC patients have found great solace in one of the RESOLVE supported groups, located at the Enloe Medical Center so consider checking them out if you live in the Chico/Enloe area.
Subscribe to fertility blogs
Don’t feel like going public yet? That’s totally understandable. For some individuals, an infertility diagnosis is a very private thing and they don’t want to share it with anyone. If that is where you’re at, consider reading and subscribing to blogs written by women who are in the same boat as you. Here is a list of Infertility Blogs put together by Healthline contributors. The blogs are open, honest, heartfelt, painful and can also be incredibly funny. The infertility bloggers have created an informal support group of their own, as witnessed by their readers’ comments and responses.
Schedule an appointment with a fertility counselor
Please don’t wait too long on this one. Often, individuals or couples wait until they are at the crisis point before seeking the help of a fertility counselor. This is such a shame. The reality is that signing up with a counselor during the beginning phases of your diagnosis is one of the best infertility support gifts you can give yourself. We recommend using the RESOLVE website or psychologytoday.com to find a fertility counselor in your area.
Initially, the counselor – a licensed MFT or Psychologist who often has personal infertility experience – will help you sort out what your diagnosis means to you at the emotional level. She can also help you to navigate test results and treatment options along the way. If you begin to consider the use of an egg donor or embryo donor, the counselor will facilitate the process of working through those feelings.
And, of course, your fertility counselor will be a wonderful ally to have on board if your romantic relationship begins to show the signs of the inevitable wear-and-tear the infertility roller coaster brings along on the ride.
Find a relaxation practice that works for you
The medical reality is that chronic stress does seem to have a negative effect on fertility. A body that is constantly experiencing hormonal fluctuations of the instinctual fight-or-flight response system (which happens when you’re stressed) has higher cortisol levels, increased inflammation and a suppressed immune system. Women under high-stress can even start skipping periods, which means they aren’t ovulating.
Once of the best gifts you can give yourself is to begin exploring the realm of relaxation techniques to find the ones that resonates best with your interests and personality. From yoga classes, Tai Chi or Qi Gong – all of which incorporate breathing techniques – to meditating or taking walks outside in nature, all can help you keep those stress-levels in check. Not only will it support your fertility goals, these practices will help to substation your well-being for the rest of your life (and throughout your parenting journey!!!).
Try getting acupuncture
There are several studies now that connect acupuncture and fertility success. The greatest success has been seen using acupuncture after embryo transfer. However, there is no reason why you shouldn’t begin receiving acupuncture treatments now – helping to balance your body’s energy and meridians in a way that supports your energetic as well as your physical well-being. Plus, having a few sessions before your IVF treatment will get you more familiar with the practice.
Have a little help from your friends without kids
Sometimes, friendships slip away for a while because it can be very hard to remain friends with women who have children or, better/worse – who are pregnant. As much as they love you and care for you, it may seem as if they live on another planet now. This is a great time to reach out to your friends who don’t have kids – and tell them exactly what you need.
Do you need to grab a decaf coffee and kvetch non-stop about the trials and tribulations of infertility? Or, do you need to go out for a fun night of dancing and not even mention the words treatments, pregnancy or baby? Be clear about what you need – and let your friends bolster your spirit. There really is life before, during, and after your infertility diagnosis and treatment – but sometimes you have to work a little harder to tap into it.
The infertility journey is never easy, but surrounding yourself with layers of support will certainly help to buffer the blows along the way. Has or was infertility an issue for you? Please share your favorite support outlets that helped to get you through the darkest time. Leave your suggestions in the NCFMC comment box below.