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.
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Common reactions include shock at the diagnosis and its 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.
While these feelings are a natural reaction to loss of fertility, see below for some 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 stop trying to have a child.
Learn more about the impact on your relationship with a partner and your sexuality.
I am glad my doctor helped me work through the emotions of what was my top priority. I finally felt that overcoming cancer and getting on with my life were most important and everything else came after that.Duncan
Learning that cancer treatment has affected your ability to have children can be challenging. There is no right or wrong way of coping. The strategies described here may help you feel a greater sense of control and confidence.
|Find support from family and friends|
Family and friends may not know how to communicate with you or they may make unhelpful comments such as, “Be positive” or “At least you’re alive”. You may need to remind people that you aren’t asking for advice or solutions, and that you simply want them to listen as you express your feelings.
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.
|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. Consider joining a cancer- or fertility-related support group.
A professional counsellor can help you discuss the impact of cancer and infertility on your relationships, ethical concerns, coping with fertility treatments, and your emotions about other people’s pregnancies, births and babies. Most fertility units have a fertility counsellor or you can find a private infertility counsellor near you at Access Australia.
|Try relaxation and meditation exercises |
Both of these strategies can help reduce stress and anxiety. Listen to our meditation and relaxation audio tracks now.
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.
You may find it easier to withdraw from family members and friends to give yourself 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 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. It’s okay 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.
I used to cry my eyes out every time I saw a friend with a new baby or I heard someone in my family was pregnant. Now I genuinely feel joy and happiness for them as I celebrate their news.Grace
Dr Ying Li, Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist, RPA Fertility Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; Dr Antoinette Anazodo, Paediatric and Adolescent Oncologist, Sydney Children’s Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW, and Lead Clinician for Youth Cancer NSW/ACT; Paul Baden, Consumer; Dawn Bedwell, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Maurice Edwards, Special Counsel, Watts McCray Lawyers, NSW; Helena Green, Clinical Sexologist and Counsellor, InSync for Life, WA; Dr Michelle Peate, Program Leader, Psychosocial Health and Wellbeing Research (emPoWeR) Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Royal Women’s Hospital, The University of Melbourne, VIC; A/Prof Kate Stern, Gynaecologist and Reproductive Endocrinologist and Head, Fertility Preservation Service, Royal Women’s Hospital Melbourne, The University of Melbourne, VIC; Prof Jane Ussher, Chair, Women’s Health Psychology, Translational Health Resea ch Institute (THRI), School of Medicine, Western Sydney University, NSW; Renee Van Den Bosch, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.