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Surviving Infertility: Coping with the Ups and Downs

What is it about infertility that makes it such a difficult journey? 

Despite the hard roads of the emotional ups and downs, there is also the invasiveness of treatment procedures – from taking pills, hormone injections, ultrasound appointments, to undergoing procedures. There are so many emotions that come up with not knowing when and if you will ever be a parent. You may be struggling handling the wish to be in more control, the uncertainty of the whole process, the fear of the unknown, and realizing that what might have worked for you in the past to de-stress no longer work or might not be sufficient. 

The emotional aspect of infertility is particularly challenging as it often involves repeated cycles of hope and disappointment. Waiting each month for the outcome of a pregnancy test is not only uncertain but also emotionally taxing. And it’s this emotional rollercoaster that can truly take a toll. Studies show that individuals going through fertility difficulties may experience similar levels of anxiety and depression as those with serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, and HIV. Considering the high impact the emotional challenges can have on an individual and on relationships, addressing the common stressors and finding ways to cope would be essential. 

Whether you are experiencing infertility for the first time or have been struggling with it for years, understanding the importance of support and learning effective coping strategies is definitely needed no matter at what stage in this process you are at.  

This article will explore the emotional journey of infertility, common stressors, and how to cope with the associated stress.

Coping with the Stress of Infertility

The process of trying to conceive can be full of highs and lows, and it can be easy to get lost in the pain and disappointment of the lows. While taking care of your physical health, it is equally important to take care of your emotional health while navigating infertility. 

Common Sources of Stress

The feeling of infinite waves of stress that can come with the diagnosis of infertility can make it difficult to cope with the emotions. It often feels like the diagnosis of infertility comes out of the blue, leaving those affected feeling blindsided and inadequate. While there are many sources of stress within infertility, it can be helpful to identify common ones to help develop strategies for coping.

One of the most common sources of stress in dealing with infertility is the fear of the unknown. While various treatments and options are available, it can be overwhelming to consider the potential outcomes of different routes. When seeking fertility treatments, couples often have to consider the potential implications of their choices and circumstances, such as the cost and risk of the procedures, the success rates, the probability of having multiple children, the side effects of medications, and the complications that may come with any of those choices. As such, there can be tremendous uncertainty and fear associated with pursuing any treatment due to the associated risks and the unknowns surrounding infertility.

Another common source of stress in dealing with infertility is the fear of the opinions and judgments of others. Many people struggling with infertility feel isolated, ashamed, and afraid to speak openly with others. A lot of judgment and stigma can be attached to infertility, making it challenging to be open and vulnerable with family and friends. This can also lead to guilt and shame, causing couples to feel like they should be able to ‘overcome’ their infertility on their own.

Yet another source of significant stress can be the pressure on your relationship and sex life. Infertility can make sex feel like a chore rather than pleasure, as it becomes more about trying to conceive than enjoying each other’s company. This can lead to a loss of intimacy and a decline in sexual satisfaction. 

Finally, the emotional rollercoaster is another common source of stress in dealing with infertility. There can be unexpected highs and lows, and couples often struggle to emotionally prepare for each new stage of the journey. Infertility can be an emotional minefield, and those dealing with infertility often find themselves on an emotional rollercoaster, constantly feeling like they’re on a never-ending emotional rollercoaster.

The emotional journey of infertility can be a difficult and often uncertain one. It is important to identify your sources of stress so you can better understand your stress triggers. Paying attention to the so-called ‘triggers’ and what overwhelms you will be the first step towards healthy coping. 


Strategies for Managing Stress

The emotional rollercoaster of infertility can be an incredibly exhausting experience. It comes with a great range of emotions, from joy and excitement to sadness, disappointment and even depression. Finding healthy ways to manage stress is essential, as it can take a toll on both physical and emotional health. 

Life is full of uncertainty, and fertility is one of them. Here are some strategies for managing and minimizing stress during your journey. 

  • Acknowledge Your Feelings: It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and not try to push them away. Acknowledge that your emotions are valid and allow yourself to feel them without guilt or shame. 
  • Focus on What is Within Your Control: Take time to pause and reflect on what you can do to make your journey a little easier, rather than getting stuck on things you cannot control. Additionally, it’s important to remember that it is okay and very common to experience a wide range of emotions. How you react to stress is the only thing within your control. 
  • Take Care of Yourself: Taking care of yourself physically is essential during this time. Eat healthily, exercise, and get adequate rest. Also, be mindful of your mental health. Find enjoyable activities that you can do daily to help boost your mood, such as yoga, journaling, going for a walk, or listening to music. Taking some time to disconnect from the fertility journey and connect with yourself is much needed in coping with the stress of infertility. 
  • Balance Optimism with Realism: It can be easy to get caught in feelings of hopelessness and despair. By remaining optimistic and hopeful, you can keep a positive outlook on the chance to conceive, even in the face of disappointment. On the other hand, it is important to remain realistic about the challenges and limitations of infertility, acknowledging that it may take longer than expected to conceive or that certain treatments may not be successful. By balancing optimism with realism, couples can maintain a sense of hope and motivation while also preparing for potential setbacks, which can help them manage the stress of infertility in a more effective way. 
  • You are not Alone: Infertility affects all ages, races, ethnicities, and genders. Knowing that you are not alone can be empowering. There are many organizations and support groups for couples dealing with infertility that provide education, emotional support, and hope. Here are some good resources: https://www.asrm.org/ and https://resolve.org/ 
  • Seek Professional Help: If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to seek professional help. Speak to a therapist about how you’re feeling and what strategies you can use to cope. They can provide valuable insight and emotional support. 

Everyone is different, and it’s important to find strategies that work for you. What works for one person may not work for another, so it is important to stay in tune with your body and mind and adjust as needed. These are just a few strategies for coping with the stress of infertility.

Coping with stress is key. Allow yourself to cry, scream, laugh, or vent. Make sure to give yourself time and space to process your emotions.

Final Thoughts

Infertility can be a difficult emotional journey. Through self-care, understanding the range of your emotions and the support of those around you, it is possible to cope with the highs and lows that life throws at you. Utilize the support networks and strategies discussed in this article to help you find strength and perspective during this journey.

With patience, resilience and perseverance, you can come out of this feeling empowered and more at peace with yourself. So, don’t give in to the obstacles. Instead, take the necessary steps to find strength and resilience. Through it all, you will be reminded of the importance of self-love and acceptance, and that remarkable stories can come out of the greatest struggles.

If you are experiencing anxiety or depression related to infertility, it is important to seek professional help. A mental health counsellor with expertise in infertility can provide support and guidance throughout your journey. Your therapy will be tailored to address specific things that are happening to you at this point in time. 

In treatment, you can learn coping mechanisms to help you manage the stress of infertility in a healthy way, improve communication with your partner, and even grow personally from this experience. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help

Picture of Delia Petrescu

Delia Petrescu

Founder & Director
BA, MA, Registered Psychotherapist (RP)

Delia Petrescu, MA, RP is a Toronto-based psychotherapist, psychometrist, and the founder of Get Reconnected Psychotherapy and Counselling Services. She provides virtual therapy sessions Ontario-wide. Delia has experience working with adults struggling with adjustment difficulties, depression, anxiety, and trauma. She specializes in integrative and holistic care for those coping with life crises such as fertility concerns. Read more about Delia

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