By Amy Heiman*, M.S., LCPC
For many couples, having a child comes easily, even “on schedule.” But for more than 5 million people of childbearing age in the United States alone, it is not that easy. It is estimated that 1 in 6 couples will struggle with infertility. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a child while trying for one year if 30 years of age or under or 6 months if over 30, or to successfully carry a child to term.
Experiencing infertility is a major life crisis that puts many other areas of your life on hold, and it can have a tremendous effect on your relationships — to your spouse, friends, family, and co-workers, even God. Infertility is a medical condition of the reproductive system, and is NOT caused by stress. The cause infertility is related to a female condition 35% of the time, to the male 35% of the time, with the remaining being a combined medical problem (20%) or “unexplained” (10%).
Infertility has a strong impact on one’s self—esteem. Your life may feel out of control. You may be angry with your body for not working as it “should.” You feel like you are on an emotional roller coaster of hope, waiting, and disappointment month after month. You may start to isolate yourself from family and friends, especially those that are pregnant or have young children. The holidays can be especially difficult.
The strains of infertility are often deeply felt in the marital relationship. One partner may be optimistic about treatment while the other one feels like giving up. Treatment is often harder for the female as it is her body that goes through all the poking and prodding. Sexual intimacy and communication are commonly strained. It is important to maintain some normalcy in your relationship — to have fun together when you are not talking about infertility.
Fortunately, there are many options available today to couples experiencing infertility. Medical science offers hope to many couples, while others pursue adoption to build their families. Still others will choose to remain childfree after years of unsuccessful treatment. There are many decisions to be made along the way. Individual, couples or group therapy or a support group can be invaluable during this time.
You should know that you are not alone. Resolve is a national organization dedicated to providing timely information, advocacy and support to couples experiencing infertility. The Illinois chapter offers a help line, monthly educational seminars, peer support groups, a yearly symposium, referrals and resources. For more information, call their toll-free hotline at 1-866-668-2566 or visit them online at www.resolveofillinois.org. You can also access the National chapter online at www.resolve.org.
I have been a volunteer of Resolve for over four years. I have personally experienced infertility and am now the proud parent of a son through adoption. I found Resolve’s programs and groups to be extremely helpful. I am trained as a marriage and family therapist. Please call me for an appointment if I can help you through the emotional life crisis of infertility. There is hope.