By Carol Toll, LCSW-C
Infertility is a life event that creates high levels of stress that may impact important areas of your life. Feelings about self, intimate relationships, friends, family, work, and financial decisions may be affected by infertility. Before you know it, fertility issues have become your world, taxing your emotional and material resources while evading your control.

What to do? Develop a support plan. A support plan is a personal game plan or “roadmap” that you create to help move from feeling powerless and isolated to in charge and connected. Changing how you perceive yourself and your situation paired with experiencing the understanding of others can go a long way to easing the challenges of fertility treatment.

Set the Stage for Support

Work individually or with your partner and start a support plan by assessing your current situation. Set aside a quiet time to take stock of your current feelings, treatment plan, and expectations, including both emotional and practical considerations. Make a list of “Things I Wish I Could Change.”

Next, decide that you are in control. Feeling out of control is especially distressing in infertility, where a major life goal is at stake. Determining what you can still influence or act on may bring back a sense of power. While it is true that predicting the outcome of treatment is not possible, you can decide how to think about it and what you choose to do during a treatment cycle. Rewrite your “Things I Wish I Could Change” list using empowering language. Rename it “Things I Will Change.”

Put power into your vocabulary. Reframe your situation by starting to speak about decisions, choices, and opportunities. Become informed and participate, rather than helpless and powerless. Label actions and thoughts in more positive terms. Make plans to begin doing the items on your “Things I Will Change List.”

Create Your Support Plan

Find a Support Group
Energized by your newly empowered outlook, explore support opportunities and choose to become an active participant in a support group or activity. Knowing you are not alone and that others share your concerns is gratifying. Sharing treatment tips and coping ideas lead to feeling in control and a sense of belonging. Support groups also help patients persevere in treatment giving every opportunity to achieve a positive outcome.

  • Shady Grove Fertility offers free monthly support groups on a variety of topics throughout the region. Check out upcoming support groups and other events.
  • RESOLVE, the national infertility association, offers:
    • Opportunities to participate in peer-led as well as professionally led support groups. Click here to see the RESOLVE support groups by state
    • Online support communities
    • Patient education about stress and infertility

Participate in a Support Activity

  • Join Shady Grove Fertility Facebook Group of more than 18,000 followers and discover a new community of support.
  • Investigate online support resources geared to your fertility interests.
  • Find a cycle buddy to share your treatment experience with.
  • Start or continue with appropriate exercise, yoga, acupuncture, or other pleasurable activities unrelated to fertility to feel better emotionally and physically during or between treatments. Learn more about these services offered at Pulling Down the Moon.
  • Consult with a mental health professional with expertise in fertility issues if you need more individual/couple support.

Follow-up on Your Support Plan

Give yourself a pat on the back for taking initiative and becoming actively involved in developing a support plan that ultimately leads to creating a support network from which you can draw strength from. As your needs change, adapt your plan to current challenges. Keep your “Things I Will Change List” up to date. You may even find you have become a leader and an inspiration for others who are in need of support. After all, you are now in charge.

Carol Toll, LCSW-C, has over 20 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and groups with fertility issues. She is a licensed clinical social worker in Maryland and Virginia and sees patients in Shady Grove Fertility’s Rockville and Columbia offices.

Shady Grove Fertility’s team of dedicated New Patient Liaisons are available to answer your questions and schedule a consultation with a physician. Call 877-971-7755 or click to schedule an appointment