The Emotional Effects of Infertility on Women

December 9, 2008

I Feel Like I've Been Hit By a Truck

There is nothing that can compare to the emotional impact of knowing you are infertile. After the immediate sense of being run over by a bulldozer subsides, numbness takes over. Questions abound. How could this have happened to us? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with you? What have we done wrong? Are we being punished?

It's More Than a Physical Problem

Much attention is paid to the physiological aspects of infertility, but there is a deep river of emotion that needs to be dealt with as well. The initial feeling of failure that comes from the inability to perform life's most basic task - reproduction - can be overwhelming. Women, by their very nature, tend to take the entire weight of responsibility and then blame themselves for whatever the perceived problem might be. This blame manifests in guilt which, left uncurbed, becomes depression.

The Great Eruption

Women tend to be the first to know there's a problem while men may need some convincing. Emotions can run wild as they surface. Frustration, anger, fear, denial, self pity and jealousy create a sordid soup of painful feelings. The loss of a dream, the dashing of hope, the feelings of stress and tension open the door to emotional vulnerability and sensitivities.

Can't Measure Up

Many women experience a profound sense of loss when they discover they are unable to have children. For most of their lives they had marriage and motherhood modeled to them, and now they seem unable to fulfill that role. Femininity comes into question as well. After all, what is a woman if not a mother? The plaguing feeling of being cursed for some real or imagined wrong can tie a woman's emotions into knots.

It's Important to Grieve

All of this not only takes a toll on a woman, but it profoundly affects her mate, her marriage, family and friendships. It is important for a woman to allow herself to grieve - it's a natural response to loss. By withholding the expression of grief, a woman can not only open the door to more emotional trauma, but she can also create some physical problems that may require medical attention. The idea that we can separate our body from our psyche is an inaccurate assumption. It is important to express grief when it is felt and not carry it forward. When grief is carried forward it initiates hopelessness.

You Can Help Yourself

By adopting a loving and accepting attitude toward herself, a woman can halt the self-afflicted blame and guilt. By leaving the "if onlys" at the door and purposing to be accepting of oneself, one's mate and one's relationship may not change the situation, but it certainly does change the way a person is looking at it.

It's Not a Life Sentence

Infertility is not easy - but it isn't terminal either. If being a parent is truly the desire of the heart, then there are myriad ways to accomplish the feat. One of the important aspects to it all is that "no" is not the correct answer. Many women who are now parents were told initially they would never conceive and carry a baby to term. Why not you?

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