Waiting to become parents can be a long, heartbreaking journey — especially when it’s due to struggles with infertility. If you’re experiencing this in your life, know that you’re not alone: in general, 12 percent of women aged 15–44 have ever experienced infertility or used infertility services in the United States today. That’s about 7.3 million people.
It’s also important to know that there is hope — and, one way or another, you can become the parent you’ve always dreamed of being. Whether that’s through assisted reproductive technology like IVF or surrogacy, or another family-building method like adoption, you can bring a child into your life. The first step is coping with your infertility and preparing to move forward with the next stage of your life.
Infertility is a difficult process to overcome, but dealing with infertility is instrumental to pursuing a positive family-building journey in the future. Left unchecked, the emotional and physical effects of struggling with infertility can negatively affect the rest of your life. Therefore, while it’s normal to experience feelings of grief and loss while accepting your infertility, if you hope to create your happy family, it’s important to do so sooner rather than later.
But, what are the paths to overcoming infertility? Here’s how to cope with infertility in a healthy way to move forward with your parenthood dreams.
1. Acknowledge your feelings.
Dealing with infertility is certainly a difficult emotional journey — which is why it’s important to accept those emotions, rather than pretend they don’t exist. It’s natural to feel grief and loss when you find yourself unable to have a child naturally on your own, especially when it may seem to come so easily to those you know and love.
However, when you don’t properly express these feelings, it can lead to emotional distress and even physical side effects. All hopeful parents struggling with infertility should take the steps to be honest with themselves and their partners about what they’re feeling. Only then can you properly address these feelings and be able to move forward in a positive way.
2. Always be honest with your partner.
When you’re living with infertility, it can be easy to build up resentment and anger toward your partner when you two can’t conceive naturally. And, while these feelings are completely normal, it’s important to overcome them. Your partner is the person who will be there for you more than anyone while you go through this infertility process, and it’s important that you remain a strong team throughout this journey. Make sure you are always sharing your feelings with them in a positive, healthy way and, when this becomes too difficult, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from a trusted therapist.
3. Speak with a trusted counselor.
If you and your partner can’t express your feelings in a healthy way, you might consider speaking with a fertility counselor or trained therapist before you choose to pursue any family-building options. Overcoming infertility is hard, and there’s no shame in reaching out for help if you and your partner are feeling the stress and disappointment of this journey in an especially draining way. If you are already working with a fertility clinic, they can likely refer you to a professional who is familiar with couples in your situation.
4. Understand your options.
Part of the difficulty of coping with infertility is the feeling of helplessness and not knowing what to do next. If you’re in this situation, many professionals can help you better understand what your infertility options are — and, when you better understand your options, you better understand what steps you can take, which, in turn, can help you be more positive about where you are currently at in your infertility process.
5. Join an infertility support group.
When you’re struggling with infertility, it can be frustrating to hear well-meaning but unhelpful advice from friends and family members who don’t fully understand what you’re going through. For some hopeful parents, it can be helpful to hear from others who are also coping with infertility. You can find this kind of community in an infertility support group; the National Infertility Association provides a list of groups by state here. By talking to those who are at all different stages of the infertility journey, you may find the support and stories of hope you’re looking for.
6. Find healthy outlets for your emotions.
The stress and disappointment while overcoming infertility can be overwhelming, and you may not always feel like talking them out to address them. In these cases, find other ways to overcome these feelings: write in a journal, go for a walk or exercise, volunteer with a cause that’s important to you, etc. By taking the steps to do something positive, you can try to find some happiness in a part of your life that you may not see as “happy” at the moment.
7. Reestablish intimacy with your partner.
When you’ve been trying so long to conceive, any intimacy with your partner may feel forced or done solely with the purpose of conceiving — and that can impact your relationship with them. Intimacy of all kinds — sexual and romantic — can go a long way to relieving stress and making you feel like your old self again, so it can be beneficial to try to “reignite the romance.” Find ways to reconnect with your partner by making them a special meal or drink, buying them a sweet present, or simply holding hands and going for a romantic stroll in the city park.
8. Be optimistic — but also realistic.
When you’re spending time grieving infertility, it’s important to remain optimistic and hopeful. However, it’s also important that you give yourself realistic goals at this point in your infertility process. For example, believing you’ll miraculously conceive naturally after being diagnosed with severe infertility problems is not a healthy ideal to have. Instead, work with your infertility counselor to understand what is possible in your situation and what you can do to reach those goals. When you do reach those smaller goals, you’ll have more satisfaction than if you set yourself on larger, less attainable goals from the beginning.
9. Don’t blame yourself.
Accepting infertility is a hard thing to do, but it’s important that you don’t blame yourself as you come to this acceptance. In most situations, a person’s infertility or difficulty conceiving is not their fault; it’s a combination of genetics and other factors that you can’t control. Blaming yourself for your infertility won’t be productive to your family-building goals; instead, focus your energy on the positive steps you can take to reach those goals.
10. Take care of yourself.
Many of these tips have one thing in common: self-care. The different steps of overcoming infertility can be overwhelming, but it’s important to focus on yourself throughout this time. The healthier and happier you feel, the less debilitating your infertility journey will be to you and your relationship. Even when things seem too difficult, take time for yourself in whatever way works best for you.
Overcoming infertility is the first step toward reach your parenthood dreams, as many family-building professionals require you to address these emotions before moving forward with their programs. If you are having difficulty coping with your infertility, reach out to a professional for more help. Accepting infertility is not an easy process, and no one should have to go through it alone.