• Dr Peter Chew

Infertility journey: The Emotional Rollercoaster

On a recent reflection of her infertility journey, B told me that her emotions were like going on a rollercoaster ride. There were times when she felt high with anticipation and excitement. At other times, her emotions were down with pain, helplessness and hopelessness.

“Doc, I am married for the past 4 years and have been trying to conceive since marriage.” B recounted “I have gone through all the fertility tests and have tried IVF 3 times without success. I do not mind enduring the physical pain of going through the process of daily injections, eggs retrieval and embryo transfer. But the emotional stress is too overwhelming. Every time after the embryo is transferred, I am on an emotional high. I feel excited and would imagine that I am pregnant. I even work out the estimated date when my baby would arrive. Then comes disappointment. I cry when menses come. The low levels of the hormones during my period could only aggravate the pain of yet another failure. I feel angry, frustrated and impatient. Helplessness and grief consume me. When pregnancy evades me again and again, I sink into hopelessness and depression.”

B felt lonely. The emotional aspects of women grappled with infertility are often ignored. Research studies have shown that the anxiety and depression in women who suffer from infertility is just as severe as those suffering from cancer and heart disease. In dealing with infertility, it is important to understand how the women feel and what go through their minds so that her negative emotions can be better managed.

I explained to B the various emotional stages that she had gone through and that it was alright to expect the ups and downs. The feelings might appear out of control but they were usually temporary.

She should acknowledge her losses so that she could grieve them accordingly. Accepting the loss every month will not take the pain away, but it would discharge her pent-up feelings of anger, frustration and sadness.

She should also “ventilate” her emotion with her husband or close friends. By “talking them out”, the negative emotions would become more manageable. “Letting go “can be liberating. She could also write her feeling in a journal if she would like to keep her feelings private.

Her relationship with her husband was also important. They should support each other with good communication.

I referred B to a professional counsellor who helped her cope with grief and stress. B began to re-examine her life with a different perspective. She reframed her perception of infertility and decided to adopt a child moving forward.

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