How to cope with the emotional stress of infertility

The joy of pursuing pregnancy can quickly morph into frustration, as the days turn into weeks and months of waiting and hoping. You may be ready to make that leap into parenthood — but your body might not be.

Have you been attempting to conceive a pregnancy? Do you feel like it is never going to happen? And everyone else around you is getting pregnant? I have some advice to help you cope with infertility and know your options moving forward.

Step one: Talk to your gynecologist.

If you don’t have an OB/GYN, that’s a good place to start. Ask your primary care doctor for a referral to an OB/GYN who can guide you throughout this pregnancy journey. It’s important to have an OB/GYN that you feel comfortable around and that you feel you can trust.

If you have been trying to conceive for more than 12 months, then it is time to investigate with your OB/GYN. Or, if you are over 35, then it’s time to investigate after six months. Gynecologists are trained to provide fertility testing. Three main areas to look into are ovulation, patency of fallopian tubes and sperm count. Your gynecologist can provide testing for all of these concerns.

Fertility 101: What you need to know about getting pregnant

Ovulation

Anovulation, or lack of ovulation, can be due to a variety of causes such as thyroid issues, elevated prolactin, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or, most likely, for no identifiable reason. 

Your doctor can typically treat whatever the root cause seems to be. There are simple remedies for problems like thyroid imbalance or elevated prolactin. PCOS and anovulation of unknown cause are usually treated with oral medications, which are inexpensive and work well for many women — though it can take several months to find the best dosage for you. If the oral medications do not work, then injections may be needed. Your OB/GYN can help figure out what treatments are right for you.

It’s important to have an OB/GYN that you feel comfortable around and that you feel you can trust.

Fallopian tubes

The fallopian tubes carry the ovulated egg to the uterus. These delicate tubes can become scarred by prior infection or surgeries. Sometimes, these infections occur without the woman even being aware, but regardless of cause, this scarring can cause issues with conceiving a baby. If the tubes are not open, then the egg and sperm cannot meet to achieve fertilization — clearly, that’s a problem. An OB/GYN can use an X-ray called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to determine the patency of your fallopian tubes and also check the structure of your uterus.

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Sperm count

The third major factor which must be working properly in order to achieve pregnancy is the sperm count. Your spouse or partner will be asked to provide a specimen for evaluation. In approximately 40 percent of cases, a low sperm count is contributing to the couple’s fertility issues.

Generally, a check of ovulation, an HSG and a sperm count can be done within one to two menstrual cycles and a treatment plan can then be discussed and implemented.

Step two: Take care of yourself.

Time goes by. You’ve been following your doctor’s plan but unfortunately still have not gotten pregnant. Although your doctor continues to move your treatments forward, you begin to lose hope. Every month feels like a year and the onset of every period is a disappointment.

But don’t be discouraged — coping with this emotional upheaval every month can be difficult but remember that you are not alone. During this time, it’s important to care for your own physical and mental health needs.

Preparing your body for pregnancy

While your doctor handles your medical plan, you must look after yourself. Try these ideas if your fertility struggles begin to weigh you down:

  • Share your feelings with your spouse and consider discussing with trusted family and friends.
  • Take care of yourself by exercising, getting enough sleep and making healthy food choices.
  • Keep your focus on the positive aspects of your life and try not to dwell on the negatives.
  • Consider joining a support group. There may be a group in your area or you can get plugged in with an online community of other women and couples experiencing the same struggle.

Step three: Hang in there.

Lastly, just hang in there. Remember that every woman’s pregnancy experience and timeline is different. If you acknowledge at the start that the process may take a while, it will be easier to stay calm and positive throughout your journey. Know that you always have the support of your OB/GYN to answer questions and help you find support along the way.

A message of hope for those struggling with infertility

Know that you always have the support of your OB/GYN to answer questions and help you find support along the way.

Find an OB/GYN you can trust to guide you from pregnancy to parenthood.

About the author

Sheila H. Bonds, MD
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Sheila H. Bonds, MD, is an obstetrician-gynecologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – College Station.

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How to cope with the emotional stress of infertility