Two Good Eggs

Two cracked eggs find the sunnyside (and funny side) of trying to conceive

Research: Infertility is Painful

on December 5, 2012

I’d like to thank Ria from for introducing me to this very interesting article. Please check out her blog. She has a beautiful, spiritual, positive perspective on dealing with the harsh reality of infertility.

The Bible and The Pain of Infertility by Kimberly Monroe & Philip Monroe 

A few poignant excerpts:

“In one study, 63% of women who experienced both infertility and divorce rated their infertility as more painful than their divorce. In another study, women who experienced either chronic or life-threatening diseases ranked the emotional pain of infertility at similar levels to that of terminal illness.”

Amazing. Sadly amazing, but it makes me feel as though we are not just getting “all worked up” over something minor. I wish this information was better known. As I mentioned in Suggestion Box at Maximum Capacity, if people better understood the struggle, we wouldn’t feel so isolated and different.

“One unique thing about infertility is the hope/despair cycle. At the beginning of her monthly cycle, a woman has great hope. I’m going to get pregnant this month. I know it. The month ends. No pregnancy. She despairs. The next month comes. Great hope again. But no pregnancy. Hope careens down to despair. When she’s in treatment for infertility, the woman has hope. She forces herself through the process, trying more things, doing more things. She hopes. But, the higher the hope, the deeper the fall. The despair side intensifies after each failure to conceive.”

Isn’t this the truth!? Everything is a cycle for us. The neat thing is we keep getting back up, rising to the occasion, and opening ourselves to possibility with renewed hope. Although many of us have whispered (or screamed) the words “I can’t do this anymore,” we continue to fight and, in turn, strengthen our bonds with each other.

“Hormone crazies. On the upside of your cycle, when you have estrogen, you’re moving along, thinking clearly, and acting with purpose. You’re on top of things. But on the progesterone side of the cycle, you react in a different manner. It’s hard to think, easy to get stuck, and easy to be depressed.”

Thank you, science. I wish I had found this statement long ago. What we feel and how we act is just a magnification of our hormones’ natural properties. It’s not just because we are struggling to conceive. Sure, our emotions and anxieties are elevated, but infertility is not the only culprit on those days when we feel helpless, frustrated, and in despair. Oh, the beauty of hormones.

“Grief. No funeral. No burial. No flowers. No cards. Yet there is a death: the death of hopes of the wonder of a child emerging from your love.”

This is a tough statement to read, but I think it gives a fairly accurate overview of the darkness we feel when another month passes and pregnancy is not achieved. It’s something few understand. It may seem morbid, or even naive, to compare our struggles to death, but the emotions are eerily similar.

Here is some supporting research:

Many Couples Struggle with Infertility in Silence

An anonymous epidemic 
Having difficulty getting pregnant can cause as much grief as losing a loved one, says Linda D. Applegarth, Ed.D., director of psychological services at the Perelman Cohen Center. “But it’s different. It is chronic and elusive,” she adds. “There’s a fear that life will be eternally empty. Some feel a sense of damage and brokenness; it goes to the heart of who they are.” The result is the dread and shame that Applegarth sees in her waiting room. “Patients slink around and sit in corners because they don’t want to see anyone they know from their work or social circle,” she says, “even if it would mean they would know someone going through the same thing.” Only 5 percent of patients use the psychological support services their clinic offers, despite data showing how helpful they can be.

Because no one wants to discuss infertility, “nothing gets done about it,” says Lindsay Beck, founder of Fertile Hope, a program run by the Lance Armstrong Foundation in Austin, Texas, that supports cancer patients whose treatments threaten their fertility. “Infertility is where breast cancer was in the 1970s — completely in the closet.” Beck’s treatments for her tongue cancer and its recurrence aged her reproductive system by possibly a decade; she ultimately had five IVF procedures and two children. She’s undergoing fertility treatments again in hopes of conceiving a third. “In my experience, it’s a much lighter atmosphere in the cancer waiting room than in the IVF waiting room,” she says. “Cancer patients talk about anti-nausea drugs and what worked for them. They look at each other as a means of support. For some reason, fertility patients tend to ignore each other in the waiting room.” Beck says that “the cancer card” makes it easier for women to talk about their difficulties trying to get pregnant — and to find financial assistance to pay for treatment — after chemotherapy, radiation or both have ravaged their body. “Everyone relates to cancer and is supportive of helping cancer patients,” she says. “For the average fertility patient, there is no united front.”

The Psychological Impact of Infertility and its Treatment 

While the causes of infertility are overwhelmingly physiological, the resulting heartache may exact a huge psychological toll. The physical and emotional ordeal of infertility treatment often make matters worse.

Many women who have been through it and some of their male partners have said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives.

Other research has suggested that women with infertility feel as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer or hypertension, or who are recovering from a heart attack.

Men tend to report less distress than women. However, one study found that men’s reactions may depend on who is diagnosed with infertility. When their wives or partners are infertile, men do not report being as distressed as the women do. But when men learn that they are the ones who are infertile, they experience the same levels of low self-esteem, stigma and depression as infertile women do.

Research: The Relationship Between Stress and Infertility

The psychological impact of infertility can be profound and depressive symptoms are more common in the infertile population than in matched fertile women.Approximately 10 percent of infertile women meet the criteria for a major depressive episode, 30-50 percent report depressive symptoms, and 66 percent report feeling depressed after infertility treatment failure. The majority of infertile women report that infertility is the most upsetting experience of their lives. Infertile women report equivalent levels of anxiety and depression as women with cancer, HIV status or heart disease.

…the findings of a 2000 Harvard Medical School study, which showed that participation in an infertility support group can actually increase a woman’s chances of conceiving in a given menstrual cycle over 50 percent, jumping from 20 to 54 percent. Dr. Linda Applegarth, Director of Psychological Services at the Center for Reproductive Medicine, explained that not only are support groups important for women to find common ground with others and a safe space to share their feelings, but they can also be a wealth of knowledge regarding appropriate information about where to go for good infertility treatment.

Check out this link for more infertility related research:
Infertility and the Mind/Body Connection

4 responses to “Research: Infertility is Painful

  1. Ria says:

    Thank you for your kind words about my blog. I enjoy reading yours, too. Thanks for collecting all this research.

  2. Birthmuse says:

    Brilliant! Authentic support ~ the missing and highly valuable link! Thankyou for the sunshine amongst the rain! xxxxxxx

  3. ivfmale says:

    Excellent post! Having dealt with both divorce and infertility, IF definitely was more painful for me.

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