Emotional impact of infertility

How people respond to infertility varies. It’s common to experience a range of emotions, and at times it may feel like you’re on an emotional roller-coaster.

Common reactions include shock at the diagnosis and impact on fertility, grief and loss of future plans, anger or depression from disruption of life plans, uncertainty about the future, loss of control over life direction, and worry about the potential effects of early menopause (such as reduced bone density).

These feelings may be intensified by the physical and emotional process of infertility treatment, and by not knowing if it will work. People who didn’t get a chance to think about their fertility until treatment was over say the emotions can be especially strong.

    — Thuy

While these feelings are a natural reaction to loss of fertility, see the next two pages for ways to manage these feelings before they overwhelm you. It may also help to consider other ways of becoming a parent, or you may decide to be child-free.

For more on the impact on partner relationships and sexuality, see Relationships and sexuality.

Learn more about:

Listen to our podcasts on Sex and Cancer and Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis

Coping strategies

Learning that cancer treatment has affected your ability to have children can be challenging. There is no right or wrong way of coping, but it’s useful to consider different strategies to help you feel a greater sense of control and confidence. The strategies described here may help you cope.

  • Find support from family and friends — Family and friends may not know how to communicate with you in a way that makes you feel supported.  They may make unhelpful comments such as, “Be positive” or “At least you’re alive”. These comments may make you feel like no-one understands what you’ve been through. You may need to remind people that you aren’t asking for advice or solutions, and that you simply want someone to listen as you express your feelings.
  • Gather information — The impact of cancer on your fertility may change your future plans or make them unpredictable. Knowing your options for building a family may help you deal with feelings of uncertainty. Reading this booklet and talking to health professionals will help you learn more about your options.
  • Explore peer support — Talking to people who have been in a similar situation to you may make you feel less isolated and provide you with practical strategies to help you cope. You can access peer support by joining a cancer- or fertility-related support group, or asking your health care team if you can be put in touch with a person who has been in a similar situation.
  • Consider counselling — Some people find it useful to talk to someone who is not their partner, family member or friend. You can see a professional counsellor alone or with a partner. You may choose to speak to a psychologist, social worker, nurse, fertility counsellor or your doctor. Together you can discuss the impact of cancer and infertility on your relationships, moral or ethical concerns, coping with successful or unsuccessful fertility treatments, and your emotions about other people’s pregnancies, births and babies. To find an infertility counsellor near you, visit Access Australia.
  • Try relaxation and meditation exercises — Both of these strategies can help reduce stress and anxiety. You can listen to our meditation and relaxation audio tracks now.

When you don’t want to talk about it

There may be times when you do not want to talk about the impact of cancer treatment on your fertility. This may be because you think you don’t have the words to describe how you feel, you are afraid of breaking down, or you find it too overwhelming or confronting.

Some people withdraw from family members and friends to give themselves time to make sense of what’s going on. If you are a private person, this might be the best way for you to process your feelings. Exploring your thoughts by writing in a journal or expressing yourself creatively can be particularly helpful if you find it difficult to talk to others.

You may want to avoid being a burden to others or fear appearing as if you are not coping. You may be specifically avoiding friends or family members who are pregnant or have children because it brings up painful emotions. Give yourself permission to decline invitations to baby-focused events until you feel able to cope.

Over time and with support, you may come to terms with what you are going through and be able to open up to others. The pain of seeing your friends or family members with children will lessen.

    — Grace

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on Fertility and Cancer.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in May 2018
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