If you and your partner have been trying to have a baby for a year or more, you are not alone. Approximately 6 million American couples have difficulty conceiving. Infertility is one of the most distressing life crises that a couple can experience. For most people, conception is thought of as a joyful, exciting time in a couples’ life. Instead, life is filled with uncertainty, anxiety, sadness, and emotional turmoil.
COMMON REACTIONS TO INFERTILITY
Some common reactions to infertility include:
- Anger / Frustration
- Jealousy / Envy ␣Feelings of isolation
- Feelings of defectiveness
COMMON EFFECTS ON RELATIONSHIPS
Due to the inherently stressful nature of infertility, a couple’s relationship can be compromised if concerns and reactions are not addressed. A partner may feel angry or even guilty about the cause of infertility. Both may feel frustrated if the cause is unknown. There may also be disagreement about the various treatment options to pursue, which can cause conflict in the relationship. One partner may want to be very aggressive about treatment, and there may be different feelings about stopping treatment all together. Sexual dysfunction may also occur as sex becomes stressful and “goal oriented” toward the end of babymaking rather than pleasure and love making. More and more infertility experts are recommending theraputic consultation at some point during the process. Therapy can be geared towards an individual or the couple to
help the individual/couple work through their feelings of grief, loss, anxiety, sadness, anger, and defectiveness. It is extremely difficult to make good decisions when the mind is clouded with these intense emotions.
Facilitating Decision Making / Problem Solving: Counseling can strengthen problem solving skills and facilitate decision making in regard to medical treatments and alternative family build- ing options (e.g., adoption).
Enhancing Communication: Counseling can enhance communication and mutual support within the couple. Frustration in the relationship can occur when there are differences in coping styles (e.g., one partner is expressive and wishes to talk about feelings and reactions while the other tends to contain reactions in effort to shield his or her partner). Over time, if these differences in coping styles are not recognized, partners can feel misunderstood and isolated from one another, at a time when each partner really needs the other.
Managing Stress: Recent findings indicate that stress can affect the way the brain orchestrates hormones responsible for reproduction. Therefore, stress management strategies are proving to be an effective method of coping with infertility
and, in addition, may play a positive role in improving conception rates. Techniques often include relaxation training and cognitive restructurng, a technique that helps people modify thinkng patterns that contribute to negative moods and maladaptive behaviors. What is Cogntive Therapy?
The overall goal of Cognitive Therapy is to help clients restructure their thinking. There are three broad phases of Cognitive Therapy. The first is helping clients become aware of exactly what they are thinking when they are in distress. Once thoughts are identified, the second phase is to examine the validity and accuracy of the thoughts and perceptions. Typically, negative thoughts are incorrect or are an exaggeration of the truth. The third phase is to challenge negative thoughts by responding back to them with a more accurate, realistic way of thinking. Clients are taught to utilize this process outside of therapy sessions. The therapy is structured, problem-focused and present-oriented.
WHEN TO CONSIDER COUNSELING
Counseling should not be viewed as a last ditch effort, but rather as a way to better understand infertility and its effects. Counseling can help individuals and couples develop coping mechanisms and avoid common problems inherent in the process.
OTHER REPRODUCTIVE RELATED ISSUES
Counseling can also be helpful to individuals and couples who have experienced a miscarriage or are considering alternative family building options such as adoption.
FREE PHONE CONSULTATION
Mindy Staum, LCSW is happy to discuss your specific concerns and explain how Cognitive Therapy may benefit you. Please call (732) 580-8383 to schedule your appointment today.