Infertility Is Not Failure

National Infertility Awareness Week motivates people who are struggling to conceive to #StartAsking questions about infertility and to speak up about the support they need to overcome it. Infertility is not failure. It is not your fault. And it may not prevent you from having a family.

You Are Not Alone
Over 1.5 million married women ages 15 to 44 in the U.S. are infertile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than six million women have difficulty TTC, which is known as impaired fecundity. Men are part of the infertility problem as much as 40 percent of the time. Infertility affects men and women, married and single. Women who have recurrent pregnancy loss, which is loss of two or more pregnancies before the 20th week, are included.

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Many, many people suffer with fertility problems in silence or keep infertility a secret shared only with family or their closest friends. It may feel like you are isolated with this problem, but you probably know people who have been through it or are going through it now and have never shared their experience with you.

It’s Okay to Feel Your Pain
The emotions of infertility are a monthly roller coaster ride from hope and anticipation to despair and grieving when your period comes yet again. Many couples feel sadness and shame. It may seem like everyone else can get pregnant easily and you can’t. You may feel like you don’t have control of your own body. Well-meaning family members and friends can increase your feelings of guilt and pain by making thoughtless comments and questions. Going to family functions and events where children are present can add to your sadness.

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Allow yourself to feel your feelings. It’s okay to be sad. It may help to take a break from baby showers and other events you find painful. You’re not a bad person because you haven’t had a baby yet. Don’t withdraw from your partner. His emotions may be different from yours, but he’s probably feeling sadness and guilt as well. Be kind to each other, and remember you are a couple first, not just baby-making machines.

Is Fertility Treatment Right for Us?
If you’re under 35 and you’ve been TTC for a year, or 35 to 40 and trying for six months, or 40 or older and trying for three months, it is the right time to consider fertility treatment. Maybe you’ve already been thinking about it. Do your research and have a serious talk with your partner about the implications. How much is it likely to cost? Will your health insurance cover any of the costs? Can you afford to pay the out of pocket expenses, including fertility medications? Does it make sense to use your savings, take out loans or borrow on credit cards or home equity to finance treatment? Would your families be able and willing to help?

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There are other questions to consider, as well. Fertility treatment takes time as well as money. Is there a reproductive endocrinologist and a reputable fertility center near where you live or work? If not, are you able to commute to get treatment? Even if your fertility specialist is local, can you take time off from work for appointments and treatment? Fertility treatment can strain a relationship, emotionally, physically and financially. Are you both fully committed to doing this together?

Do your homework, have thoughtful discussions with your partner, and you can decide if fertility treatment is right for you. More than 70,000 babies were born in 2014 as a result of IVF, according to the CDC.

When Fertility Treatment Is Unsuccessful
Maybe you’ve tried fertility treatment and had one or two IVF cycles that failed. An IVF cycle fails when an embryo doesn’t attach to the uterus and start growing. In most cases this is caused by poor embryo quality, which is greatly affected by the age of the eggs. Any given IVF cycle has about a 25 percent chance of success. However, if you’re a woman under 35 your chance of success is about 45 percent, while a woman age 40 using her own eggs has about a 15 percent chance of success. Studies have shown that three tries at IVF increase success rates, but the age of a woman’s eggs is key.

Should you keep going? Only you and your partner can decide if you have the resources and the emotional strength to keep TTC. You are not bad people if you decide you’ve had enough and it’s time to stop. Maybe it’s time to consider other ways to build a family. Is adoption an option you would consider? Can you find other ways to bring children into your life, like foster parenting? There are many children in need of loving care.

You Are More Than Your Fertility
Whether you are able to have a biological child or not, remember there is more to you and your life than infertility. Respect the emotions you feel, but know when it’s time to get help with them. Support groups are available from RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, with both online and local in-person groups. If you’re in fertility treatment, your fertility clinic may have a counselor or a support group where you can share your feelings with others who understand.

Enjoy the good things in your life, and believe in yourself and your partner. You deserve understanding, respect, and support.