It is widely recognized that couples undergoing fertility treatment not only endure the physical aspect of the treatments, but also face emotional, social, and financial struggles as well. Women with infertility experience elevated levels of anxiety and depression with each negative pregnancy test, both prior to seeking evaluation, and also as they undergo testing and treatment. While often further removed from the treatments, men of infertile couples also experience significant distress throughout the process. Unfortunately, there is a strong negative relationship between a couple’s fertility and their marital satisfaction, especially in couples undergoing IVF. Adding insult to injury, some studies have reported lower IVF pregnancy rates in women with higher stress, anxiety or depression levels.
As women’s health practitioner, it is becoming increasingly important to recognize the impact of infertility on a couple’s emotional and psychological well-being. Many techniques have been employed to help couples through this journey including: cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, mind-body intervention, hypnosis, group psychotherapy, and acupuncture, to name a few.
For my patients, I strongly support counseling with a therapist that is experienced in working with infertile couples. I also believe that group discussion and peer support can significantly improve a couple’s experience through the infertility process.
At Coastal Fertility we hold a support group called “Exhale” on the third Thursday of every month that is available to all of our patients at no charge. Exhale is led by one of our veteran nurses and has truly become a support system for many of our patients. It is not uncommon for our graduated pregnant patients to continue attending the meetings to lend support to others. It is crucial to remember that the infertility journey is not purely clinical, but a multi-faceted and challenging experience. As physicians, we must strive to go above and beyond to provide more than just clinical support to our patients during this difficult time.