If you're like most Americans, you either have or want children—in fact, only 5 percent of American adults report not wanting children. While this common societal norm can help forge lasting friendships and provide common ground for even the most divergent personalities, it can also make infertility all the more painful. If you or your partner is currently undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) in an attempt to conceive, you may be riding a roller coaster of emotions during each treatment cycle. What should you do to help yourself cope with these feelings while remaining a supportive partner? Read on to learn more about some types of therapy that may provide you with much-needed relief.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Unlike talk therapy (which may conjure up stereotypical images of a patient on a couch with a laconic doctor asking "how does that make you feel?"), CBT is an action-focused mental health treatment. CBT is designed to help ferret out negative self-talk and replace this inner narrative with more positive reinforcement. For those with addictive behaviors or other self-destructive habits, CBT can help provide coping mechanisms that will help you rise above these old temptations.
In the fertility context, you may be feeling betrayed by (or ashamed of) your body, guilty about potentially letting your spouse down, or irrationally angry toward other couples who seem to have conceived effortlessly. Often, these feelings have settled in for months before you ever seek fertility treatment, making it difficult for you to get into a positive frame of mind before your treatments commence. Your CBT therapist will help analyze the source of your feelings, provide reassurance that you're doing all you can, and help you come up with some natural-sounding mantras to repeat when you find yourself mulling over things outside your control.
While eliminating negative self-talk won't necessarily help you conceive, reducing the anxiety surrounding your fertility treatments will put you into a better frame of mind to deal with whatever may come next—whether the lifetime responsibility of parenthood or deciding between adoption, fostering, or a child-free existence. Find a mental health counseling service in your area to learn more.
Even for the nonliterary minded, writing your feelings can be cathartic and may help improve communication between you and your spouse. In many cases, writing down your thoughts can even help clarify them, helping you decide how to proceed with your fertility treatments or other milestone journeys.
If you find yourself dealing with writer's block every time you see a blank page (or computer screen), you may want to investigate some journaling prompts online. Committing to a daily or weekly journal to chronicle your progress— even something as simple as writing down five things that scare you and five things that make you hopeful—can be a worthwhile investment in your mental health.
Fertility treatment can be an isolating process, so commiserating about your turbulent emotions and physical changes with a group of men and women who have been in your shoes is invaluable. It can also be important to have a safe space to express yourself—even away from your spouse—without the judgment or well-meaning advice you so often receive from friends, relatives, and colleagues.
Your IVF clinic may be able to recommend a support group, but if you prefer the anonymity afforded by the world wide web, you could opt to join a private infertility forum or message board. These online forums have restricted membership to ensure you'll be able to safely express your feelings, and they can help you access a supportive (virtual) ear from anywhere around the world, at any time of day or night.