Helpful Considerations for Infertility Newcomers
Written by Erin Mitchell, MSW, LCSW
If you are new to the concept of infertility or infertility treatment, this post is for you. Infertility is defined as a disease characterized by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse or due to an impairment of a person’s capacity to reproduce either as an individual or with their partner. Infertility can also refer to a person’s inability to sustain a pregnancy to term. Not all couples have to wait the full year before seeking treatment, as there are other factors that can decrease that timeline.
It’s important to understand that infertility is something that is far more common than most people think. 1 in 8 couples have difficulty getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy to term.
One of the reasons that it feels so uncommon is because many people choose not to talk about their infertility diagnosis and experience; however, it really is more widespread than most imagine. A couple ages 29 to 33 years old with a normal functioning reproductive system has only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month (National Women’s Health Resource Center). After six months of trying, 60% of couples will conceive without medical assistance (Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997).
Infertility is something that no one is ever really prepared for in their lives. Most have learned what needs to be done to prevent pregnancy, but there is very little readily available information about difficulty getting pregnant or difficulty sustaining pregnancy to term. One of the most helpful websites I have found for learning about infertility is Resolve.org. If you are concerned that you may have undiagnosed infertility, you can use their Personal Assessment Tool. If you have already been diagnosed with infertility, you can learn more through Infertility 101.
How would you go about learning if infertility is something that you are experiencing? The first step would be to talk with your OB/GYN or primary care doctor. They should be able to provide you with a guideline of what would need to happen before you can be referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE). An RE is a doctor that specializes in treating infertility.
Infertility treatments can be covered by insurance, but are not always, so it is important to know what your coverage happens to be before proceeding. The following states have mandates in place to make insurance cover infertility treatment: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island.
Beyond the actionable considerations for infertility, it is important to consider the emotional impact of this diagnosis. For many individuals, this is a long process with many ups and downs along the way. It is normal to feel very emotional during this time. Emotions may also be heightened if one is taking hormonal medications, which are common in most infertility treatments, making managing emotional responses even more difficult.
So, the big question is, how can you and your partner navigate this turbulent time? Below you will find some suggestions.
The list above has been edited for clarification and brevity. It is originally sourced from Infertility Counseling: A Comprehensive Handbook for Clinicians, Second Edition, by Sharon N. Covington & Linda Hammer Burns, found on page 187.