If you’re undergoing fertility treatment and have noticed an increase in feelings of depression or anxiety, it’s likely not your imagination – research shows that the emotional distress associated with infertility is just as intense as it is for someone dealing with cancer, HIV or chronic pain. It’s a legitimate struggle and one that warrants support.
Whether you seek counseling, a family therapist or a support group, infertility is not an experience you need to go through alone.
Because infertility is not always seen as a disease or a sickness, treatment for the emotional complexities may be limited. Infertility counseling is a way to learn about, process and cope with a journey that you never wanted to be on – but that can ultimately lead you to parenthood.
Talking to a professional about the isolation and loneliness that often accompanies the experience can go a long way in helping you learn how to deal with infertility depression and anxiety. The goal is to help you manage expectations, process grief, address negative thought patterns and challenge feelings of hopelessness so that you can focus on treatment options and building your family.
If you’ve gotten to the point with infertility treatment that your doctor has suggested alternatives, it’s normal to go through a grieving process. This may also be the time to seek support; if you’re unsure how to know if you need infertility counseling, or how to find a family therapist if you do, talk to your doctor. He or she will likely be able to provide some referrals.
If you’re utilizing third party reproduction – that is, if you’re using an egg or sperm donor – or if you’re working with a gestational carrier, your clinic may require you to speak with a mental health professional. In that case, they will either have a qualified counselor available on staff or they will refer you to someone who has experience with the emotional aspects of the process.
If you prefer to work with a support group, they may have suggestions for this as well. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association will help you connect with all the resources you need.
According to an article published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics, “infertility counseling and psychotherapy should be offered by independent providers rather than by the medical team so that issues about ART success rates, ART with third-party reproduction and issues related to stopping treatment can be sufficiently addressed.”
The study goes on to say that mental health professionals and other qualified infertility counselors “should provide support counseling (e.g. grief work after a miscarriage) and short-term crisis counseling to patients after a failed IVF or ICSI trial. Mental health professionals (e.g., family therapists, psychologists) should address severe psychological problems (e.g., anxiety, depression, marital/sexual problems).”
When intended parents are exploring the requirements and qualities they’d like to have in a surrogate – known at ConceiveAbilities as a matching matters consult - they will work closely with a mental health professional. While the goal is to get questions answered and establish surrogate criteria, “this can sometimes take the form of a counseling session, depending on the intended parents,” says Alicia Denefe, LCPC, and Surrogacy Match Expert.
In addition to any emotional counseling that may take place during the matching matters consult, “we require that they have a mental health consult with a mental health professional. This is usually done at their clinic,” Alicia explains. “If they are working with a clinic that doesn’t, we’ll refer them to someone.” Either way, the importance of this consult cannot be overemphasized.
Some of the key points you’ll want to address when considering gamete donation or surrogacy include:
Infertility is an emotionally exhausting process and often requires support. If you’re ready to explore your options, ConceiveAbilities is here to answer your questions and guide you through each step.
All Things Conceivable is a blog dedicated to sharing the knowledge and expert opinions of the dedicated team at ConceiveAbilities, a Chicago-based egg donation and surrogacy agency.