Who is the face of the typical infertility patient? Actually you’d be surprised. Infertility is far more common than we imagine. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine about 7.3 million couples in the United States are afflicted with some sort of infertility issue. That’s roughly 12% of those who are in the reproductive age population who are having difficulty attempting to conceive.
What do those numbers look like to the everyday person on the street? That would mean one in seven in your Spin , Zumba or yoga class, every 10th person in line at Starbucks, are faced with some sort of infertility issue regardless of whether they are aware of it or not. Those numbers are concerning to say the least.
And for those who are aware, who are patients at a fertility clinic, who are valiantly trying to find out why their bodies aren’t working the way they are supposed to and who are experiencing the stress that comes along with infertility – it all can be incredibly overwhelming, humiliating, and painful. Thankfully we as a nation are waking up and seeing that we need to not only address the physical part of infertility but we need to address the emotional and often spiritual needs of infertility as well.
So how do we do that? How do we address those needs that are not physical? We learn, we become educated, informed, and finally empowered. Some women often feel it’s too overwhelming to know what’s really going on. But the reality is it’s really important to know what’s going on with your body, to learn and become educated about your specific medical condition and find the right doctor to meet your needs.
Infertility on a whole causes enormous amounts of anxiety especially when you are trying to conceive. The havoc anxiety can wreak can be devastating. That’s why it’s incredibly important to be completely honest with yourself, your partner if you have one and your physician about what’s going on with your body and to be accepting of the problem. Knowledge really is power. And when we know what’s going on with our bodies or what’s not going on with our bodies we can then make a plan and things don’t seem as scary as when we didn’t know.
We have to know the facts. For instance many women are dismayed when they reach the age of 38-40 and are told their fertility has taken a hit and time is running out for them to have a baby with their own eggs. “My doctor never told me I couldn’t have a baby easily after 35?” “Why didn’t someone tell me sooner?” the infertility patient says after receiving a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve.
Fertility peaks between the age of 20-24 and then begins to decline at age 28 and then again at age 32. By age 35 fertility beings to drop dramatically. What does this mean for you? This translates as follows: a healthy 32-year-old woman has about a 20-25% chance per month to get pregnant. By age 40, however, her chance is only about 5% per month. That means women who are older than 35 should consult a specialist after six months of unsuccessfully trying for pregnancy.
Know your treatment options as there are all kinds of things a patient can try to help you conceive. There are holistic treatments – acupuncture, massage, diet, gluten and dairy free diets, Chinese herbs, Reiki work, meditation, hypnotherapy, body talk, yoga, and visualization. There are then medical treatments, medications, ovulation kits, timed intercourse, intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), donor egg IVF, and gestational surrogacy.
The key word is education and knowing your options.
Once we have the educational piece down how do we deal with all of those feelings? The best way to deal with stress is to see someone who specializes in stress reduction and stress management. In most cases that is a mental health professional who can talk with you about how you are feeling. Often times validate how you are feeling. And most importantly help you create a plan for your mental and spiritual well-being. For some it’s meeting weekly and talking about the feelings of inadequacy that accompanies infertility, managing the stress, and dealing with the psychological impact of infertility treatment.
Find someone to lean on, a friend, or a family member. Circle the wagons and form a strong support system. Infertility is often hard to talk about. No one really wants to talk about it because it’s such an intimate subject. But talking about it, making it not so scary is one of the healthiest things an individual or couple can do. It will help you not to feel like you are the only one that you are all alone, and isolated.
Keep your mind and life full and busy. We find when we are overly focused on any issue or problem and there is no balance whatever we are facing can become all too consuming and take over our lives. Keep a journal, reconnect with your partner, start a new project, establish boundaries with yourself. Find a support group that can provide the emotional support you might need and receive talking to others who are going through the same thing you are.
If you have a spiritual community, lean on them – whether that be your church, synagogue, or temple. If someone offers prayers, chants, good energy, white light, good thoughts, or whatever let them, it really can’t hurt.
There’s no way to prepare another person in regards to dealing with the diagnosis and trek through the jungles of infertility. It’s impossible because each person is going to react and deal with their circumstances differently. The most important thing to remember is that infertility doesn’t define you as a person. It will always be a part of who you are, but it’s still just one part to a multi-faceted individual.