Feeling stress is part of our biological survival mechanism as human beings. It is a signal that danger is impending and action must be taken to seek safety. While it is a simple matter to obey traffic signals in order to cross a busy street safely, it is a much more complex matter to manage the chronic stress experienced in a situation where there is no simple solution.
Infertility is just such a complex problem and requires effective stress management skills.
The level of stress that couples experiencing infertility feel is comparable to the stress people feel during cancer treatment. Typical problem-solving techniques and hard work just can’t cure the problem. So what can a couple do to effectively navigate themselves through stress when they're having trouble getting pregnant?
COMMUNICATE: First and foremost in managing any type of stress is to communicate your thoughts and feelings, no matter what they are. All thoughts and feelings are valid, no matter how irrational they might seem. Listen to your spouse in a non-judgmental way and don’t pressure yourself to come up with a solution to make their feelings “go away.” In most cases, the infertility journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Practice patience during the roller coaster of emotions associated with a treatment cycle. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst is the optimal place to be when embarking on a treatment cycle.
SEEK SUPPORT: While most couples choose to keep their treatment private and confidential, seeking support from trusted others in your life will help to diffuse some of the pressure. Your support system should be educated about your treatment process in order to offer understanding and to avoid insensitive remarks borne of lack of knowledge. Availing yourself of discussion with others who have been through treatment can provide a road map so that you don’t take a wrong turn. Professional help can also be accessed if you are feeling overwhelmed, confused, or impaired in your daily life.
EDUCATE YOURSELF: Read useful and helpful books on fertility treatment that demystify the problem. Learn that your reactions are normal for the situation you are confronting. Find out what all the ART options are and understand the progression from one option to the other. Feel free to ask your treatment providers any questions you may have. No question is off limits if it helps you to clarify your situation. Both members of the couple should educate themselves and discuss what they have learned to make sure they are on the same wavelength about the treatment plan.
Tending to the emotional and psychological stress of infertility is essential in maintaining balance in your life and in your relationship. Expressing your feelings, seeking support, and educating yourself are important ways to keep on track as you confront the complex challenge of infertility treatment.