The emotional burden of infertility
Fertility and Pregnancy The turmoil of emotions caused by infertility has significant, often overlooked, effects on people’s life . But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Kate Brian, of Infertility Network UK.
Brian explains: “The emotional impact of fertility problems is absolutely huge. It affects every single moment of your waking life. But, unless it happens to you or someone close to you, it is often underestimated. And yet, for most people their children are the most important thing in life, so not to be able to have that can be devastating.”
Depression is very common. And so are feelings of failure and of having let down partners and family, adds Brian. “There is a lot of blaming yourself, wondering what you did wrong, and why it happened to you.”
Quite shockingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, in a survey by Infertility Network UK about a fifth of participants said they had suicidal thoughts because of difficulties conceiving To make matters worse, fertility problems are something affected people don’t always want to talk about. And so the sense of isolation can be overwhelming.
Life on hold
“We often don’t realise that infertility affects life choices,” says Brian. “People literally put their life on hold. They may not apply for a new job, move house, or go on holiday, because they might be pregnant by then or because they are saving up to pay for more fertility treatment.”
Brian says a major problem is that there is a general misunderstanding of the issues surrounding infertility. “We see women who haven’t really understood how quickly their fertility declines with age and, perhaps more importantly, who are under the false impression that fertility treatment can turn back this decline. The reality is that, once you are in your 40s, particularly after 42 years of age, treatments like in vitro fertilisation, or IVF, may not always be effective, because they cannot turn back the biological clock.”
Promoting awareness and education
“We would like to see more education about fertility awareness in schools,” says Brian. “A recent survey for Infertility Network UK found that many young people don’t know when they are most likely to conceive.”
You are not alone
She adds that information is key for people who have conceiving as this can help them to regain some of the control that they may feel they may have lost.
“Counselling is also extremely important, as are support groups and talking to other people who are in the same situation. We shouldn’t forget that, in the UK alone, there are around 3.5 million people who have fertility problems. Just being able to share your experience can be incredibly helpful, partly because it makes you realise that you are not alone.
“What is helpful for one person may not be helpful for another. But once you have identified the type of support that works best for you, the benefits can be remarkable.”