• National Infertility Awareness Week, held annually in April, sheds light on the challenges faced by those dealing with infertility, urging collective efforts towards awareness, support, and improved resources.
  • Infertility affects approximately 9% of men and 11% of women, with 56% of women and 32% of men experiencing depression due to infertility-related issues.
  • Assisted reproductive services (ART) offer options like in vitro fertilization, donor conception, surrogacy, adoption, or choosing childfree living, albeit often accompanied by emotional strain.
  • Challenges beyond infertility, including legal complexities and financial burdens associated with ART, compound stress for couples navigating infertility.
  • Seeking professional mental health support is essential for couples facing infertility, facilitating mutual support and healthy coping mechanisms amidst the emotional turmoil.

Every April, National Infertility Awareness Week (April 21-27) serves as a reminder of the struggles faced by those who are dealing with infertility. During this time, we are each encouraged to come together to raise awareness, offer support, and advocate for better resources and understanding surrounding infertility and its impact on individuals and couples.

Learn more about how infertility can affect mental health, and how support via therapy can ease the difficult emotions that may arise as a result of infertility-related problems.

How Common Are Infertility Issues?

Infertility is a widespread issue, one that affects both men and women. Research shows that: 

  • Infertility affects about 9% of men and 11% of women.
  • Depression due to infertility impacts 56% of women and 32% of men.
  • Infertility often leads to feelings of depression, anxiety, shame, grief, and embarrassment, intensifying the struggle.

“Couples grappling with infertility often face emotional hurdles, including resentment,” observes Tawnie Putignano, LCSW, a specialist in grief/loss, anxiety, and women’s issues at Thriveworks in the Woodlands. “However, it’s crucial to understand that there are alternative paths to parenthood, such as assisted reproductive services (ART), adoption, or foster care.”

While infertility may create an obstacle for those wishing to have a biological child, there are still other options available to couples and individuals alike.

The Impact of Infertility

Often, assisted reproductive services (ART) can be a helpful resource to those who are struggling with infertility issues. This and some of the other options available for couples and individuals include: 

  • In vitro fertilization: This involves retrieving eggs from a woman’s ovaries and fertilizing them with sperm in a lab, then transferring the embryo(s) to the uterus.
  • Donors: If one partner has viable eggs or sperm but the other does not, donor eggs or sperm can be used for conception.
  • Surrogacy: In cases where a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy to term, a surrogate can carry the pregnancy using the intended parents’ sperm and/or eggs.
  • Adoption or foster care: Some individuals or couples choose to build their families through adoption or foster care rather than pursuing fertility treatments.
  • Childfree living: For some, accepting a life without biological children and focusing on other aspects of life can be a fulfilling choice.

With the anticipation of success causing immense emotional strain, ART services can often be a source of stress, depression, and anxiety, particularly for women. Counseling for women’s issues, for men’s issues, or even for couples, can often help ease the tension involved during the ART process.

Challenges Beyond Infertility

Infertility-related mental health concerns can pose additional challenges, often exacerbated by external factors such as legal regulations and financial constraints. AFT services may be affected by:

  • Variations in AFT and IVF laws and availability create uncertainty for couples.
  • Legal rulings regarding embryos as children add stress and fear of legal implications.
  • Financial burdens, with IVF costs and storage fees being substantial, further exacerbate stress.

Seeking professional mental health support is crucial for couples navigating infertility, focusing on mutual support and healthy coping mechanisms.

Therapeutic Support and Coping Strategies

“Tackling the emotional toll of infertility, I’d like to emphasize that therapy can be a vital support during this journey,” asserts Tawnie Putignano, LCSW, a specialist in grief/loss, anxiety, and women’s issues at Thriveworks in the Woodlands.

When grappling with infertility-related depression, stress, and anxiety, therapy provides a supportive environment for both individuals and couples to navigate the emotional challenges. In therapy sessions, individuals and couples can both learn effective communication strategies to avoid the blame game, fostering a sense of unity and shared responsibility in their journey. 

Therapists guide couples through potential outcomes together, helping them to confront fears and uncertainties collaboratively, and to reduce blame and shame. Additionally, therapists may be able to recommend resources such as support groups where couples can connect with others facing similar struggles to gain invaluable support.

For individuals experiencing infertility-related emotional distress, therapy offers a safe space to address their unique concerns and feelings. Through therapy, individuals can work through complex emotions such as grief, guilt, and frustration, finding healthy ways to cope with infertility issues. 

By participating in therapy, both couples and individuals can reduce feelings of isolation, normalize discussions surrounding infertility, and cultivate resilience in the face of infertility issues.