A recent study in the journal Human Reproduction showed that of men and women struggling with infertility, less than half actively sought medical or professional help for it. Every day, modern science is finding new ways to give couples the children that may have eluded them otherwise. But what this study shows us is that the journey out of infertility can still be so daunting that many couples are too afraid to even begin with the first step!
If this sounds familiar, now may be the time to try and understand exactly why you’re not comfortable seeking help for your fertility issues. With a little investigation, you may discover that your concerns are not as unusual - or hopeless! - as you once thought.
“I can’t afford it”
In America, a single round of fertility treatments can cost upwards of $13 000 - certainly not cheap. But in my experience, fear about the cost of fertility treatment is often just the tip of the iceberg.
Dig a little deeper and you may find other painful emotions hidden underneath an attitude of resignation or dismissal. Some women may actually be able to afford the cost but have difficulty believing that their desires are worth the expense, and this is what they really mean when they say “it’s too expensive.”
“IVF is too difficult, and I’m afraid”
Horror stories about the rigors of fertility treatment are not too hard to find. And if you’ve always thought of conception as something natural, effortless, and simply something a good woman knows how to do, you may have trouble wrapping your head around the challenges and risks of fertility treatment. You may be intimidated about the procedures, finding them too invasive, too dangerous, too stressful.
These are valid concerns to weigh up before embarking on something this important. But at the same time, it’s a decision that needs to be made from a full understanding of the facts and options available. Some couples may delay seeking help because doing so would feel like admitting a problem they’re not ready to face yet. Likewise, the fear may not be of the difficulties involved, but of not being successful even after those difficulties are endured.
“I’m too embarrassed”
Whether we know it or not, many of us have quite complex sets of beliefs and assumptions about fertility. But not seeking help means that those painful and confusing emotions remain unexplored. Behind embarrassment may lurk deeper feelings of shame, self-blame and other negative thinking patterns.
The decision to not seek help could also stem from the belief that the issue is not really serious enough and doesn’t warrant any fuss. Lastly, complicated personal beliefs and religious concerns may prevent you from seeking help, not to mention pressure from family or a partner who doesn’t share your values when it comes to having children.
The way forward: be proactive
Everyone approaches their fertility in a slightly different way. You may take some time to arrive at the point where you feel comfortable reaching out and asking for help. Or you may want to dive right in immediately and not waste any time finding solutions that work for you. But whatever your experience of infertility, I’ve found that a certain mindset can help you navigate your emotions with a lot more clarity and compassion.
1. Educate yourself
Knowledge is power. Researching certain facts about your unique situation can be scary - but in almost every case knowing exactly what you’re dealing with is better than letting your fears grow unchecked or unchallenged.
Do some research on the costs involved and how you might be able to afford them. Keep an open mind. Approach knowledgeable professionals for help understanding the exact biology of conception, the options open to you, and the statistics and risk involved. Seek help on online forums and share your experience.
Lastly, try not to get carried away with fears that may not be as bad as you think. For example, instead of worrying yourself about the prospect of unwanted multiple births, do some research. How common are multiple births really? Are your fears and reservations really founded? Getting a thorough grasp of the mechanics of infertility can be surprisingly empowering.
2. Take control
Infertility can feel like it’s entirely out of your control. Conception can start to seem like it’s simply up to fate or luck, and so it’s tempting to slip into resignation, quietly losing hope and assuming nothing can be done.
But you are more in control than you think! Many couples find it very helpful to set themselves generous timelines and limits. For example, they may put a cap on what they’re willing to spend on treatments and a date after which they will mindfully put an end to medical interventions. Rather than “giving up”, this approach can go a long way to putting control back in your hands and giving you something concrete to work with.
If you’re part of the more than 50% of people who are reluctant to seek out help for infertility, take heart. Understanding what’s behind your reluctance may help you move forward with more understanding and control.