Research has shown that the stress of infertility ranks as high as the stress of a cancer diagnosis. This comes at no surprise to anyone who has suffered from infertility. When talking with members of our Creating a Family Facebook Support Group, I often encourage people to see a therapist, psychologist, or other mental health professional to help them cope. I always specify that they need to find a counselor that specializes in infertility or at the very least understands the grief associated with the inability to become pregnant, but considering where people live in relation to specialized therapist, I honestly didn’t make a huge deal about it if they couldn’t find one. I mean, any therapy is better than no therapy when you are struggling with grief. Right? Er um, WRONG! Listen in on what some people have heard from their therapist.
The first therapist I went to told me that my REAL problem was that I DIDN’T want children and was afraid I might get pregnant! This was after 6 years of infertility, with a hard-fast diagnosis that was almost 100% certain! A few years later, I went to another one, and told him what the first one said, thinking he would find it comical or at least say it was ridiculous. He said, “You know, I think he may have had something there!”
I went to see a therapist to help me cope with my 4 year battle with infertility, and the failure of fertility treatment to help me get pregnant. We had just switched infertility clinics and my new infertility doctor was running tests to see if my body was rejecting my husband’s sperm or was somehow allergic to his sperm. I mentioned this to the counselor, and she said that my “resistance” to my husband’s sperm was symbolic of my subconscious resistance to him, and that we needed couples counseling to resolve it. We were so desperate that we actually spent 6 months in counseling, even though our relationship was (and is) strong. And BTW [by the way], the [post-coital] tests came back showing nothing was wrong between my body and my husband’s sperm. I’ve never been back to a shrink since.
The woman I saw was “in bed” with the fertility doctor. As I started to question his treatment protocol (turns out I was right) and the fact he was just after our money at a 50% copay, things went sour with the shrink. She was the second one. The first one I saw once after our first stillbirth. I asked her if she’d heard of the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility“. She said, “No, why would I? I’m in my 50s”. I didn’t go back.
You’ve got to be kidding!?!
How to Find an Infertility Therapist
Unfortunately, there is no specific certification or training specific to infertility grief, but there are ways to find a therapist who has a clue in how to help the infertile.
- Ask your infertility clinic if they have mental health professionals on staff or can recommend one.
- The American Society of Reproductive Medicine lists members that are mental health professionals.
- Resolve lists mental health resources that are knowledgeable about infertility.
Good Books and Audio Podcasts on Infertility
Creating a Family has resources that may also help you deal with the overwhelming pain of infertility. Books are one of the first places I go when faced with any problem, and infertility is no exception. We divide our suggested books into several lists, including one we call “Good Reads”. I realize that “good reads” and “infertility” may seem to be an oxymoron, but these books really can help you cope.
We have also done many many shows on coping with the grief of infertility with some of the top experts in this field. You can find them listed on our How to Find an Infertility Therapist page. A one-hour podcast/radio show is no substitute for good counseling, but at least you can hear what a good therapist sounds like and you’ll feel less alone. One you may find helpful is Coping with the Emotions of Infertility and Miscarriage with Martha Diamond, a psychologist that specializes in infertility and loss, a survivor of infertility herself, and co-author of Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility.
I’m almost afraid to ask, but do you have your own infertility therapy nightmare? Or maybe a story of a good therapy experience?