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Infertility is rarely—if ever—strictly a physical problem. Rather, its diagnosis can often come with a host of difficult and often disabling emotional issues, ones that affect women, men, and couples in different ways. Neglecting or discounting these issues can prove costly to one’s emotional well-being and destructive to marriages and other relationships.
Some people turn to individual or couples therapy provided by trained counselors, psychologists or licensed clinical social workers, others seek out the support of online communities for support, but the most popular path involves active support groups.
However or wherever you choose to seek support for issues related to infertility, please do seek it out. Infertile couples and individuals face so many unexpected emotions, they must learn to deal with unfamiliar stress and anger, and claw their way through times like the holidays, when others have expectations of them they can’t fulfill. In other words, it can be a trying time, and no one has to go through it alone.
Support groups are the most common resource for folks looking to cope with the wide range of emotional and procedural issues involved in infertility.
Who goes to these support groups?
Generally, support groups will feature individuals and couples at various stages of the process of infertility. Those in attendance may be recently diagnosed with infertility, weighing certain infertility treatments, in the middle of treatments involving drugs or procedures, or they may be considering alternatives such as adoption.
Can a support group help me?
Everybody is different, and everyone deals with infertility in their own way. However, there are a number of emotions, reactions, and problems that tend to be common among infertile people and partners. The group setting, which encourages open communication, creates a common bond that many find indispensable in dealing with the emotional issues that come along with infertility. They can be both therapeutic and empowering in dealing with such issues as:
The sense of isolation and loneliness brought on by clinical procedures or media coverage of fertility;
The sense of guilt and helplessness when facing the prospect of infertility;
The sense of inadequacy, that somehow they aren’t a complete ‘woman’ or ‘man’;
The loss of sexual desire during infertility treatment and how it can affect a couple;
The feeling that there is no one to talk to;
The feeling of being overwhelmed by a dizzying list of treatment options;
The feeling that infertility is taking control of your life.
Furthermore, attending support groups allows for others to learn of resources they were unaware of; to get clinic or specialist recommendations from others, or simply to find people who understand how difficult it can be.
Who runs these groups and how do I find one?
Infertility support groups aren’t run by one specific person or specialist. Rather, they can be run by professionals such as social workers, clinicians, specialists, or they can be peer-led, by folks who have gone through the experience.
To find one, check with your doctor, health care provider, infertility clinic or specialist, or even a local hospital. On the internet, you can begin by checking with the National Infertility Association at www.resolve.org or the American Fertility Association at www.theafa.org.