It took me a little longer to write this article than usual as I had to take myself back to the phase when we were going through one of the most stressful and testing times of our lives. The time when we had almost lost hope but still somehow could not give up. I had to open the closet in my mind where i had stored my memories that I had conveniently folded and hidden in corners.
My mind was almost reluctant to go back and recall the events and feelings I experienced during my 3 year long fertility treatment journey. It was one hell of a rollercoaster ride of hopes and disappointments, promises, and devastating results, month after month. When my husband and I first decided to seek medical help after trying to conceive and not getting pregnant, little did I know we would need a lot more than just medical support.
The infertility treatment process is far from what you imagine or prepare yourself for before signing up for it. When we first met the doctor, she clearly explained the treatments and diagnosis levels involved and how fertility assistance works.
She told how it starts with blood tests and sperm count and moves to testing for ovulation, fallopian tubes, etc. It gets more invasive and intrusive at every step, finally leading to IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization) as a last resort.
I give my doctor all her due credit for explaining the procedure in detail, but no one told me about the physical, emotional, and psychological pain that comes with it. And the unwanted distress and anxiety it brings along.
Emotional impact of infertility on women
It is hard to put in words how it felt emotionally and mentally going through all the medical procedures to fulfill the wish to have a family.
You are still getting used to the idea of someone peeping into your vagina every day to measure the size of the egg for 15 days in a month. You’re handed a series of instructions from doctors, a list of tests, scans, and all the hormones that need to be administered into your body through needles or, at times, vaginally.
The impact of infertility on women’s mental health is profound. When all this dedication and effort doesn’t yield positive results, it leaves you with a feeling of uncertainty and confusion. It is like feeling the grief of a loss that you haven’t encountered. You feel a pinch in your heart every time you get your periods and still put up a brave smile and carry on with the same tiring and exhausting procedure next month with the same hope.
Honestly, the emotional pain of the whole process is at times more severe than the physical pain endured. Unlike physical pain, the mental baggage of this process cannot be seen, measured, dealt with, or addressed directly.
Emotional impact of infertility on marriage
The effects of infertility among couples have led to devastating consequences at times. The psychological impact of infertility on a couple is far more complicated. There can be lots of unnoticed and hidden reasons for the emotional and mental strain.
Most of the couples going through infertility feel stress, anger (for unknown reasons), and reduced sexual drive, leading to marital issues and, at times, depression. Getting disappointed every month after putting in all the effort leaves you in a confused state of sadness, a feeling of defeat, and may reduce your self-esteem.
This deteriorated mental state can cause turbulence in your relationship with your partner. I realized we were both always on edge and would lose temper on little things, resulting in frequent episodes of heated arguments between us.
Here are some of the contributing factors:
Blame it on hormonal juices
Most fertility drugs also involve hormones or alter the hormonal balance; their effects and side effects vary from patient to patient. For some women, these drugs may not cause any significant side effects. However, it leads to increased mood swings, anxiety, fatigue, sleep disorder, and lack of focus in most women. All this can lead to a sudden flare-up between couples over the tiniest of issues.
Lack of support
When I look back on the challenging times, the toughest part was not the long tiring series of treatment procedures we had to go through every cycle. It was physically draining to wait by the doctor’s clinic for blood tests, ultrasounds, painful thigh injections every day—all while juggling work and personal life. But what made it all the more difficult was that I had no one to open up to and share how I felt.
Don’t get me wrong. I had solid support from my family and friends, who all stood by me and supported us through this process. Still, sadly no one knew how mentally painful this process could be. No one could guess the need to check on me or my husband about how going through this repeatedly affected us.
I cannot blame anyone, as it took me also a while to realize I was not the same person anymore. I went through the motions. The tests, scans, insemination, progesterone, repeat. Redefining pain with every cycle without even trying to feel it. But not acknowledging my feelings was only making it worse. I was becoming more and more irritated, angry, and sad.
Diminished sex drive
One thing that strengthens the marriage both emotionally and physically is sex, which also becomes a chore under a doctor’s prescribed timetable. You are told when to and when not to engage in sex. This strict adherence to a schedule can be frustrating and can reduce intimacy, drifting couples apart. Many couples complain of sexual dysfunction during their fertility programs.
How to cope with the emotional stress
I wish someone would have shared these tips with us earlier; it would have saved us from a series of emotional rages and distress:
- Talk it out. Talking about how you feel will help you understand and deal with your feelings better. It is alright not to feel completely okay and happy, but it is not right to feel the need to hide it. Share with a friend or trusted family member, and most importantly, share with your spouse and lend them an ear every time they need to vent.
- Seek help. Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional intervention and counseling during the procedure. It will be an excellent option to start both medical and psychological consultations together. This will help you cope with the highs and lows of the treatment procedure.
- Connect with other couples in the same boat. It will help you feel heard and understood.
- Take a break if you feel it is too much for you both to process and handle. Pause the treatment for a month or two to rejuvenate yourself and your marriage when you feel the need for it.
The silver lining
As challenging as it gets, I also learned one thing looking back. This testing and stressful time brought my husband and me closer and made our bond more robust than ever. I realized when you are vulnerable and weak, opening up to someone needs real strength and trust.
In hindsight, talking about our insecurities helped us build a stronger trust in one another. The key is to be patient and kind to one another and sail through the rough waters hand in hand.