Couples who are having difficulties becoming or staying pregnant are not alone. Approximately 7 million couples have some sort of infertility issue and must deal with the emotional, physical and often financial ramifications. It can place tremendous stress on a couple’s relationship and on their relationships with family and friends. The focus of this article is to help couples learn better ways of coping with infertility.

If you are reading this, you have an advantage. You are taking control of your fertility by examining your treatment options. You may have already tried some other types of treatment with your gynecologist, acupuncturist, nutritionist, or other methods to help you conceive. Perhaps you’ve been treated once, twice, maybe three or four times by a specialist, and been unsuccessful…you feel like a failure.

The word failure conjures up a gamut of negative feelings, especially when it is tied to the hope of bringing a baby into the world. There is no doubt that dealing with the disappointment of not being able to get pregnant can take a massive emotional toll on an eager couple. It is common that many couples or individuals become depressed and anxious during this process. The strain in the marriage and among family members sometimes becomes unbearable.

Seeking counseling can help patients through the emotional rollercoaster that often accompanies infertility treatment. Here are some coping strategies to consider.

1. Educate yourself. Technology changes quickly these days, so it is helpful to be on top of all the newest treatment types. Do some research yourself, or ask your Reproductive Endocronologist to answer any questions you may have.

2. Self-care. Nurture yourself or your partner as this can be a most stressful time. Exercise, eat healthily, find time to relax and decompress (maybe a massage or some other indulgent treatment), meditate or utilize whatever other types of activities bring you comfort or ease stress.

3. Communicate. It can be easy to play the blame game, so be mindful of any negative thought processes about your partner and communicate them to one another in a non-critical manner. Typically, when you don’t express your feelings, they tend to come out in another way. Arguments, snapping at one another, isolating or avoiding may occur due to lack of healthy expression of feelings. Being aware of this and taking extra time to give love and support to one another is crucial.

4. Balance optimism with realism. It’s important to maintain a positive outlook while managing your expectations. Luckily you are either researching or actively seeking treatment with a center that has some of the highest success rates in the country.

5. Know your limitations. If attending baby showers or 1st birthday parties is too difficult for you at this time, acknowledge this and say “no” as you need to.

6. Seek couples or individual counseling if feelings of anxiety or depression (see below) are overwhelming.

* Anxiety symptoms: feeling overwhelmed, heightened fears, dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pain, constant worrying, feeling unable to take action or control, and difficulty functioning due to these symptoms.

* Depression symptoms: changes in appetite or sleeping patterns, loss of interest in usual activities, difficulty thinking of anything other than one's infertility, feeling hopeless and helpless, fleeting thoughts of death and dying, difficulty making decisions, feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Join a therapy or self-help group with other couples struggling with infertility issues. Although infertility is primarily a medical problem, during treatment it is important to address the emotional implications. Joining a support group or seeing a qualified counselor is especially important at any of the following points:
* When you begin a new phase of your treatment
* After a course of treatment has failed
* When you are faced with difficult decisions about treatment
* When you are thinking about options such as surrogacy, egg or sperm donation
* When you are considering stopping medical treatment
* When you are thinking about adopting
* When one or both of you have troubling feelings that won’t go away
* When you experience strained relationships with your partner, friends, or family
* When you avoid being with others because of the infertility
It is important to take care of yourself. One of the most challenging aspects of advanced fertility care is dealing with emotional ups and downs. Whether through family, friends or professionals, make sure that you get the support you need. Participating in therapy can help you manage your emotions and give you the skills needed to help cope with the challenges of infertility.

Author's Bio: 

Jennifer Yates, MFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in Manhattan Beach, and serving Los Angeles and surrounding areas. Jennifer comes with over 10 years experience working with individuals, couples, families and adults.