If you’re here, reading this, perhaps you’re feeling low about not being able to get pregnant. It’s a tough deal for both partners. What is infertility?
Infertility is defined as being unable to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse. For those over age 35 this is often reduced to 6 months of unprotected sex.
What causes infertility?
There are a lot of known causes for infertility, but a diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’ – you may hear it called ‘idiopathic infertility’ – is given to up to 30% of couples trying to conceive.
Some fertility experts believe that for many of these couples there is an explanation, but we just don’t yet know what it is. Science hasn’t found the reason because although technology has come a long way, there’s still a long way to go.
In women, some of the causes of infertility include:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) or
- another hormonal imbalance,
- damage to the fallopian tubes from surgery or infection,
What if you don’t know the cause of your infertility?
Women with a reason for their infertility often say that, although it’s difficult to deal with, it’s easier than not knowing. Perhaps you can relate to that.
Stress is a significant barrier to fertility and no doubt you’ve heard your doctor say you should avoid stress when trying to conceive. No doubt also, you know how difficult that is.
So how do you deal with the stress of investigations and procedures, hope that disappears on a monthly basis, a tense relationship with your partner, functional sex and the thought that you may have to accept a childless life?
Talk to your doctor and ask for a referral for a referral for ‘talking therapies’. Talking therapies are really helpful for everyone, no matter what their age, sex, race, education or income. The 2 main talking therapies are counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). You can find out more about each of these online, but a brief overview goes like this:
Counselling to help deal with unexplained fertility.
It’s often easier to talk to a stranger about a problem, than a close friend or family member.
A counsellor will sit with you on a 1 to 1 basis, or with your partner, and allow you to talk, cry and work out your feelings without judging you. Your counsellor may ask your questions to help you explore the issue and find answers from within.
They may also run group sessions that may be helpful to you.
Trying to conceive can take the fun and spontaneity out of sex and restrict it only to your fertile days. If your relationship is under strain because of fertility issues, then seeking counselling as a couple (as well as on your own, if you feel you need that too) may help you survive the ordeal together.
For UK couples, there’s more on counselling here: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/help-infertility.aspx
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help deal with fertility problems.
CBT talking therapy works by helping you manage your problems by helping you change the way you think and behave. It’s commonly used to help people with anxiety and depression, and there is also CBT for insomnia.
It’s not about taking the problem away, but is based on the concept that our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and actions are all linked. Sometimes we get stuck in a cycle of destructive/stressful/upsetting thoughts and actions and CBT helps break the cycle and take back control.
It doesn’t look to the past, but looks at the here-and-now and tries to help you find ways to improve your mindset everyday.
Look here for more information on CBT: http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mentalhealthinformation/therapies/cognitivebehaviouraltherapy.aspx
Jenny was 30 when she met her husband and they were both ready to have a family right away. But it didn’t happen.
So while they were busy congratulating their friends on conceptions and births, inside they both felt like dying.
‘It was so, so hard. My period would come like clockwork and after a year we saw a specialist. She was nice but all the investigations left me feeling like a piece of meat, and we were both very downhearted.’
They didn’t talk to friends and family about their trouble and their relationship was under a lot of strain.
‘We were only having sex to try and make a baby – it wasn’t fun the way it used to be – and we barely talked at all at home. I really began to wonder if we’d survive as a couple.’
One day Jenny overheard a conversation in the gym locker room.
‘I heard 2 women talking about how a mutual friend had had counselling for some job-related stress she was experiencing, and how successful it had been. They had seen such a change in her. It just struck a chord with me – right time, right place – and I talked to my husband about it.
We’ve had counselling together and I’ve had sessions on my own. I’m not yet pregnant but feel a bit ‘lighter’ about that, if that makes sense. We have more fun as a couple and we still hope for a family one day, one way or another.’