Recent literature has reported that the emotional reactions and consequences of infertility can be compared to those experienced in a post traumatic stress reaction. With post traumatic stress, there is an avoidance of situations that remind the person of the stress, an anxiety around those situations and often-chronic ruminating or thinking about the situation – causing significant distress. In addition, the woman or couple goes through a constant grieving cycle each month with reactions like shock, disbelief, bargaining, anger and depression. However, instead of acceptance, the couple faces a new cycle of hope again as the next cycle or treatment begins. Thus, the process of infertility has often been given the metaphor of a “rollercoaster”.
The causes of infertility and the processes one undergoes in diagnosing, and subsequently treating, infertility have their own emotional consequences for the individual and the couple. The journey is usually multi-faceted including dynamics such as miscarriages, failed treatment outcomes and decisions about which direction to take. All of these have an impact on the individual with responses like depression, anxiety, helplessness and isolation. The consequences on the marriage include financial implications, intimacy difficulties and a tendency to withdraw from one another as the way in which men and women cope in this situation differs. The individual and/ or couple often feels quite isolated on this road as they start avoiding social situations as a means of coping with the disappointment and distress.
- The aims of therapy are multifaceted:
- To deal with the distressing reality of a fertility problem and the impact this has on you as an individual as well as the impact on your relationship. This may include guilt, intimacy difficulties or simply guidance and understanding in terms of managing you and/or your partner’s distress.
- To assist in making decisions about the fertility process and future treatment thereof;
- To plan for, and predict, the process of invasive treatment processes. It has been shown that the more knowledge one has about the process before it starts, the more predictable the process becomes and the better it is managed emotionally. The anticipation of a procedure like IVF or ICSI is often far more frightening than the reality. By making the process predictable, you are making it more manageable.
The above is managed on an individual basis or as a couple. Attending therapy for the management of these stressful processes is not a weakness, but a strength where one acquires healthy skills to cope with infertility. This, in turn, optimises your chances for a successful pregnancy result.
Finally, we know that stress has an integral relationship with our physical health which means that the more stressed we are, the more our health is at risk. This would have an impact on our fertility as well as on the outcome of treatment. We address a very specific stress called Time Urgency Perfectionism Stress which defines stress in a measurable way. Historically, literature has been unsure of the role stress plays in infertility. However, recent literature – as well as studies conducted under the auspices of Medfem Fertility Clinic (see www.timeurgency.com) has shown that the reduction of stress, can account for higher pregnancy rates. Therefore, not managing your stress might give you the same results as the next person, but managing your stress will give you a better than average chance of falling pregnant.
Your TUPS stress can be analysed for free at www.timeurgency.com. Thereafter, courses are offered which are very practical in terms of management. They define stress in a measurable way, and the techniques implemented are easy to master, simple, and easy to apply. The course is very solution- driven and practical. Each session covers a topic and a skill and workbooks are provided for easy application of the session into your daily life. TUPS courses are offered in a group setting of ±10 women, for a period of ten weeks once a week for an hour. The group course is facilitated by a clinical psychologist and includes free access to the on-line site. Medical aids tend to reimburse varying amounts. The courses are held at Medfem Fertility Clinic in the evenings.
Couple and individual courses are also offered.
Finally, the book Faster, Better, Sicker: Time Urgency Perfectionism Stress and Your Health is available on-line as a free download at www.timeurgency.com. The book provides a background to the impact of stress and infertility.
For information about courses or booking of appointments, please call Kim at (011) 463-2244.