Advice for Coping with Infertility

The Normal Emotions of Infertility & How to Get Through Them

Sad couple worried about how to cope with the stress of infertility
Infertility is emotionally difficult for men and women. Take the time to learn coping skills and seek support. You don't have to do this alone. Tetra Images / Getty Images

If you're having a hard time coping with infertility, you're not alone. Research has shown that the psychological stress experienced by women with infertility is similar to that of women coping with illnesses like cancer, HIV, and chronic pain. And, of course, men suffer emotionally as well.

Infertility is not an easy disease to cope with.

To make things worse, you may hear from friends or family that your anxiety is causing the infertility.

But this is not true. While researchers once thought that stress caused infertility, more recent studies do not make this connection.

Here are the emotions many couples experience when facing infertility, followed by practical advice on how to cope better.

Emotional Impact of Infertility

The whirlwind of emotions that infertility brings can feel overwhelming. Sometimes knowing that your feelings are normal can help.

Some of the feelings you may experience include:

  • Denial: You might tell yourself that you just know next month will bring a positive pregnancy test, and then, when it doesn't, feel a huge sense of sadness and shock. You may spend too much time "waiting for a miracle" instead of seeking help.
  • Shame: You may experience the shame and stigma of infertility. Women may feel that a diagnosis of infertility makes them less feminine, while men may feel that a diagnosis makes them less masculine. You may also feel that you are somehow less of a person if you can't have a child on your own.
  • Lack of Control: You may feel a lack of control, knowing that there is nothing you can do to guarantee or know if treatments will work.

Marital or Relationship Stress

Infertility can also put stress on your relationship, with studies showing that couples dealing with infertility are more likely to feel unhappy with themselves and their marriages.

Infertility may affect your relationship in a number of ways, including:

Ways to Cope

With the myriad of feelings surrounding infertility, good coping skills are essential. Here are a few tips to help manage and lower the stress of infertility:

When You're Feeling Depressed

If you find yourself feeling...

  • constantly sad or anxious
  • not sleeping well or oversleeping
  • feeling completely isolated
  • having thoughts of death and dying

...then it is especially important that you speak to your doctor about your feelings.

First of all, depression can be a symptom of hormonal imbalance. Your doctor needs to know.

Second of all, depression requires more than just coping techniques and self-care. (Though those things are important!) You may need more help to feel better. Please reach out for that help.

Don't try to do this alone. You are not alone.



Michelle P. Lukse and Nicholas A. Vacc. "Grief, Depression, and Coping in Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment." Obstetrics & Gynecology 1999 93:245-251. Accessed January 30, 2008.

Hirsch AM and Hirsch SM. "The Effect of Infertility on Marriage and Self-concept." Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing Jan-Feb 1989 18(1):13-20.

If you are having trouble conceiving, speak with someone who can help. American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed January 30, 2008.

Rebecca A. Clay. "Does Stress Hinder Conception?" Monitor on Psychology. Sept. 2006 Volume 37, No. 8. Accessed January 30, 2008.

Rebecca A. Clay. "Battling the Self-blame of Infertility" Monitor on Psychology. Sept. 2006 Volume 37, No. 8. Accessed January 30, 2008.

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