Coping with infertility

Coping with infertility can be extremely difficult. It's an issue of the unknown — you can't predict how long it will last or what the outcome will be. The emotional burden on a couple is considerable. Taking these steps can help you cope:

Be prepared. The uncertainty of infertility testing and treatments can be difficult and stressful. Ask your doctor to explain the steps he or she is planning to take so that you can prepare yourself for each one.

Set limits. Try to decide in advance how many and what kind of procedures are emotionally and financially acceptable for you and your partner. Fertility treatments may be expensive and often are not covered by insurance companies, and a successful pregnancy often depends on repeated attempts.

Consider other options. Determine alternatives — adoption, donor sperm or egg, donor embryo, gestational carrier or adoption, or even having no children — as early as possible in the infertility evaluation. This may reduce anxiety during treatments and feelings of hopelessness if conception doesn't occur.

Seek support. Locate support groups or counseling services for help before and after treatment to help endure the process and ease the grief should treatment fail.

Managing emotional stress during treatment

Consider these strategies to help manage emotional stress during treatment:

Express yourself. Reach out to others rather than repressing guilt or anger.

Stay in touch with loved ones. Talking to your partner, family and friends can be very beneficial. The best support often comes from loved ones and those closest to you.

Reduce stress. Some studies have shown that couples experiencing psychological stress had poorer results with infertility treatment. If you can, find a way to reduce stress in your life before trying to become pregnant.

Exercise and eat a healthy diet. Keeping up a moderate exercise routine and a healthy diet can improve your outlook and keep you focused on living your life despite fertility problems.

Managing emotional effects of the outcome

Whatever the result of your fertility treatment, you'll face the possibility of psychological challenges. Seek professional help if the emotional impact of any outcomes becomes too heavy for you or your partner, such as:

Not achieving pregnancy, or having a miscarriage. The emotional stress of not being able to have a baby can be devastating even on the most loving and affectionate relationships.

Success. Even if fertility treatment is successful, it's common to experience stress and fear of failure during pregnancy. If you have a history of depression or anxiety disorder, you're at increased risk of these problems recurring in the months after your child's birth.

Multiple births. A successful pregnancy that results in multiple births introduces new medical complexities and the likelihood of significant emotional stress both during pregnancy and after delivery.