Dorothy Greenfeld, LCSW, is the Director of Psychological Support Services at the Yale Fertility Center and Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Yale University School of Medicine. She earned her Master’s in Social Work from Columbia University and is licensed by the state of Connecticut. She has counseled couples seeking parenthood through assisted reproduction in the Yale program since 1982.
The Emotional Rollercoaster
“Emotional rollercoaster” is a phrase often used to describe the ups and downs of infertility. As if the diagnosis and the treatment weren't difficult enough, the emotional turmoil surrounding infertility—while perfectly normal—is yet another source of anxiety and stress. Psychological support and counseling can be very helpful to couples going through this process.
Although infertility affects one in six couples in the United States, when faced with it most people feel isolated and alone. Especially difficult but normal feelings associated with infertility are:
- A loss of interest in usual activities
- Difficulty thinking of anything other than one's infertility
- Change in sleeping and/or eating patterns
- Fleeting thoughts of death and dying
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
At times these symptoms may lead to strained relationships with one's partner, family, friends, and/or colleagues at work. An open (but entirely confidential) discussion of these issues with a counselor can often be quite helpful. In fact, infertile couples face a number of issues that can be helped by a meeting with a mental health professional.
A counselor can provide important information about treatment options and help to facilitate discussion of such highly charged topics as whether or not to pursue a particular treatment; whether and how to pursue third party assistance (such as donor sperm, donor oocyte, and surrogacy); and whether or not to pursue adoption. The counselor can also help with questions about multiple pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and when and whether to stop treatment.