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Phase III – Treatment

In this stage, fertility often governs the patient's entire life; stress reaches a peak when invasive treatments can become exhausting, both physically and psychologically. During the treatment period patients can be overwhelmed with frustration, feeling trapped by the seemingly endless cycle of drugs, frequent doctor visits and odd medical lingo. Patients can feel a loss of control over their lives, with so much dictated by medical procedures. Most people also express feelings of isolation because of the treatments and what is required.

During the treatment phase, people can experience extremely intense emotional highs and lows. When the treatment begins, most patients experience great hope of success and excitement. Couples can then feel disappointment, sadness or even depression if conception does not occur or the pregnancy is not sustained.

Frustration and loss of control

Many partners plan their lives so that they will begin a family at the time in their lives most appropriate for them. Many think that everything is possible if they work hard enough. Not being able to get pregnant is, for many, the first time they experience failure in the face of something beyond our control, regardless of how hard we try.

Like others, you may have used birth control for years, waiting until your careers were established and finances stable before starting a family.

The revelation that you are infertile withdraws these elements of control over your life. While in treatment, you may end up putting other important parts of your life on hold. You may postpone moving to a new house, changing jobs, continuing your education, or forming new relationships. And, the more things you give up, the less control you may feel over your life. Your life and your emotions may be dictated by the ups and downs of each treatment cycle and the optimism for success and the frustration of failure.

Managing frustration and regaining control

  • Invest time in learning about your infertility condition. You can get information online and from books, other patients, etc.). By gaining knowledge, you will feel more informed and in control when you meet with your fertility specialist. You will also be more prepared to understand the procedures and tests that you will undergo. Being knowledgeable will also help you discuss your opinions and ideas with your doctor.
  • Develop an action plan for your medical treatment, defining alternatives and possible courses of action. When approaching each treatment cycle, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. It would be great if you get pregnant; but, prepare yourself in case it does not happen. Quite a few partners refuse to think about the chance of failure and they plan treatment based on a single cycle. This is an unrealistic approach to fertility, and couples are only fooling themselves. The ability to be realistic allows you to better cope with treatment highs and lows. It is important to have the perspective of time, which typically involves 4 to 6 treatment cycles for a reasonable chance of success.
  • While you are undergoing treatment, set limits. At times, treatment becomes so all encompassing it's nearly impossible to "escape" it. Decide which treatments you will try and when you will stop treatment. This is something that only you can decide. After this difficult experience is over, you will want closure, knowing that you did all you could do to make it work, leaving no room for regrets or residual feelings in the future.
  • If friends or family are getting overly involved, do not hesitate to let them know that the decisions are yours and you know what is best for you.

Isolation

It is common for infertile couples to feel alone, and coping with the isolation can be very difficult. Despite good intentions, most people are not able to understand the complex feelings caused by infertility and fertility treatment. Comments such as "Just relax and you'll get pregnant," or "You can always adopt to have a baby of your own," can be very insensitive and painful. It is not uncommon for friendships and family relationships to change if those close to you cannot understand or empathize with you.

How to fee less isolated

Feel free to let your family and friends know that you need is their support, not their advice. When people ask questions or make comments, turn this into an opportunity to explain your situation from your perspective.

Sadness and Depression

Just by the nature of infertility, you may never know definitively what the core problem is or whether you are able to get pregnant. Therefore, the grief you are feeling does not always have a focus. There is ongoing hope that "it will happen this time." This state can suspend your emotions, creating an ongoing "hoping against hope" attitude, which can be very painful.

When a person dies, family and friends come together to grieve the loss; this helps in healing process. With infertility, in contrast, the loss is not always apparent to others. The loss can be a very private form of grief, and the couple can end up grieving alone.

Fighting depression 

Seek out support groups or experienced counselors who can often play a pivotal role in helping you manage your emotions and get back on track. This situation is certainly difficult and people react differently to crises based on their personal history, education and values. Hopefully, at the end of the process, you can be proud of yourself, knowing that you have done all that you could to succeed, even though the outcome may not be what you expected. You will have grown personally through this experience and will have become stronger in the process.

Fertility treatments: phases and feelings

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