Friday, January 22, 2010
By: Rachel Thomas, MA, LMFT

It’s no secret that men and women cope with stress differently. So when infertility creeps in on a relationship, this is often one of the first true crises that the couple encounters. Infertility is on the rise as more than 5 million people of childbearing age in the United States will experience it. Infertility is the failure to produce a pregnancy that results in a live birth after 6 months of trying for women over 35 years old and 1 year of trying for women under 35.

Typically, the most common marital issues that couples struggle with are sex and money. With infertility, couples struggle with both. The fun, carefree adventure of “creating life” turns to a chore and pressure. Eventually both associate sex with failure, frustration, and anxiety. Then you add the cost of infertility treatment, which can cost thousands of dollars, and it compounds the issue to an even greater level. Unfortunately, few people have health insurance that covers multiple procedures or any procedures at all. This leads towards big decisions and discussions over whether to take out a loan, borrow money from family, and/or deciding how much they want to invest in this unpredictable process.

Along with sex and money, infertility can also interfere with work, family, and friends. Strong feelings of jealousy, rage, and longing arise and are communicated and shared in different ways. Since most people are unprepared for infertility, the grief envelopes them as they cope with hopes and dreams being different than they planned. While stress does not cause infertility, infertility definitely causes stress.

The good news is that 2/3 of infertility couples who seek medical intervention are able to give birth. People do eventually move through the infertility chapter in their lives, whether it end with a biological baby, an adopted baby, or a choice to be childless. The goal in the therapy process is to provide a safe environment for couples to reconnect and find ways to support each other. Helping couples stay mindful and in the present moment, finding new ways to stay intimate, and listening to each others needs, will not only help them through infertility, it will also provide a foundation of mutual support as their life continues on. It has been said that infertility is like riding a rollercoaster with anticipation, nervous-excitement, and some jerks and twists along the way. As therapists, our role is to provide the mindful support, and remind them of all of their choices that are in this amusement park called life.

Domar,Alice D.(2002). Conquering infertility: Dr. Alice Domar’s Mind/Body guide to enhancing fertility and coping wit infertility.New York: Penguin Books.

Author : Rachel B. Thomas LMFT
Rachel Thomas, MA, LMFT is currently in private practice in Scottsdale. She specializes in infertility/reproductive care, grief and loss, and couples issues. Rachel also teaches MFT courses at Ottawa University, and is an AAMFT Approved Supervisor. You can learn more about Ms. Thomas here on the Directory.