Struggling with Infertility? What you need to know.
Before we jump in to expound on anything regarding potential causes, risk factors, or things you should know about infertility, we need to take some time to acknowledge two things:
Longing for a baby while being unable to conceive is a deeply personal and painful experience. Whether you’ve been struggling with infertility for a few months or several years, there’s nothing worse than having virtual strangers weigh in on the most intimate aspects of your body and sexual relationship. Offhand comments or flippant questions, while appearing insensitive, can be deeply hurtful. And it does not feel safe to confide, “We’ve been trying, but have been unable to have a baby.” For those struggling with secondary infertility, being unable to get pregnant or carry a baby to term after previously giving birth to a healthy baby, these comments and questions become even more complicated to handle. As you navigate the challenges of infertility, know that it’s okay to not give a response to the comments and questions. You are allowed to say, “I’m not comfortable talking about that with you.” Maybe allowing the person that made the comments or asked the questions to feel as uncomfortable as they made you feel, will help them learn a better way.
This is not your fault. While it may be true that there is medically something that is not “working properly”, the causes of your infertility are outside of your control. For those who experience miscarriage after a long struggle with infertility, the belief that they caused it or could have prevented it, can be devastating. Just as infertility happens for a variety of reasons, miscarriage has various probable causes, most of which are unknown. Regrettably, many carry the burden of blame, falsely believing that their inability to conceive or carry a child are somehow their fault. And unfortunately, well-meaning people can add weight to this by implying that this situation could have prevented. This is simply not true. Just as you cannot control the miracle of conception, all the many details involved in ovulation and fertilization that need to happen perfectly to conceive, you cannot control the outcome of your pregnancy. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise! Including you.
According to the Mayo Clinic, up to 15% of couples in the US struggle with infertility, even after having “frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year”. Infertility is a result of physiological issues, or how your body functions. Some of the causes of infertility in men include abnormal sperm function or production, health issues such as diabetes, medications, cancer treatments, sexual problems, and environmental factors. Some of the causes of infertility in women include ovulation disorders such as PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), thyroid issues, endometriosis, uterine or cervical abnormalities, cancer, or early menopause. Thankfully, many of these physiological issues can be resolved or improved through medical advances. But for couples who are well acquainted with infertility evaluations and testing, knowing the cause provides little comfort to their empty arms.
If infertility or miscarriage is part of your story, know that you are not alone. There are many people who struggle with infertility, but this commonality does not give license to say, “I know exactly how you feel”. Everyone’s journey through hardship and grief is different. So, while it is important to guard yourself against insensitive or nosey people, it is even more important to surround yourself with close friends. You need friends who not only know the deep pain you’re walking through, but who are willing to walk with you. Friends who listen more than they share advice. Friends who remind you of the truth and encourage you to keep going. Friends who rejoice over good news and provide comfort when the tears come.
If you have been struggling with infertility for any length of time, you know that quick tips and “how-to” posts will ring empty. Hope is found in being able to acknowledge the depth of pain, in being reminded that this is not your fault, and in bringing along close friends to support and encourage you on this journey. You are not alone.
To learn more about risk factors and causes of infertility or ovulation and tips for getting pregnant, you can check out the following links: