The truth is, infertility trauma can look like a smile if it has to because no one ever communicates with one single emotion: we feel in circles, not straight lines. Our joys don’t simply dissolve our pain; they just learn to coexist. It's okay (and 100% okay) to laugh one minute and cry the next, to feel strong one moment, and then second-guess everything we thought we’d learned the following.

What are the symptoms of infertility trauma?

Symptoms from infertility trauma and related experiences, like loss and unsuccessful treatments, are valid and 100% real. Sometimes they don’t even seem like symptoms.

The following are common infertility trauma symptoms: irregular sleep patterns, insomnia, anxiety, worst-case scenario thinking, bouts of depression/isolation, anger from anxiety, weight gain/loss, fear of being touched or within close proximity of others, sensitivity to loud noises and feeling overwhelmed by big groups. 

Other people’s failure to validate your experience can be another layer of grief and is often one of the main reasons why people don't share their feelings which results in feelings of isolation. There is such fear of being rejected when someone opens up and is vulnerable, and often this state of vulnerability is only met with indifference or platitudes. 

Re-establishing a sense of safety after infertility trauma is crucial. Infertility trauma stems from the compounded feelings of 'not having a choice,’ and instead having to endure stressful experiences. These experiences could be procedures, tests, schedules, protocols, and even dynamics with healthcare professionals, and these scenarios often make you feel powerless and vulnerable.

Sometimes the pain comes from feeling like you’ve already had to sacrifice so much: the fun planning, spur-of-the-moment sex, the anticipation of the two-week wait (TWW), the excitement of peeing on a stick, the ultrasound keepsake, and the cute, creative way of telling your partner.

neon sign that reads you're doing great

As an infertility counselor, these are the stories I hear so frequently:

“What was supposed to be just ours is now shared between so many. Other people get to know the status of our pregnancy before we do.”

“People tell us when, where, and how - which makes nothing about it effortless.”

“Every pregnancy announcement, shower invite, and gender reveal stings so badly. We see the excitement and glee in your eyes, and we are scared we will never feel that. Or that we will, and it will be taken away.”

Sound familiar?

The truth about infertility trauma is...

  • You don't need to hit rock bottom to be deserving of empathy.

  • You don't need to lose your sanity to accept emotional support.

  • You don't need to be physically unwell to need time to rest and heal.

These hard, complicated emotions are never a reflection of one's character. Infertility doesn't have to be a lonely, isolating place. Hanging on by a thread doesn't have to be the norm. You were not meant to do this alone.

As an infertility counselor specializing in trauma, these are the truths I want to talk more about: 

  • You will feel pressure from others to move on.
  • Infertility trauma brings out the best and worst in close relationships.
  • Anger is a very healthy part of the process.
  • People will say insensitive, hurtful things without even realizing they are.
  • It can make you question your own faith.
  • It can feel all-consuming, and you will question your sanity.
  • You will often feel more validated by online friends.
  • Hormones and meds make emotions 10 times worse.
  • A BFP doesn't take away all the anxiety.
  • You have more control over this process than it feels like. 

woman holding a sign about infertility trauma

How an infertility counselor can help

An infertility counselor doesn’t aim to make you 'not feel' anymore but instead will help you learn how to manage those painful feelings and normalize your behavior because all behavior makes sense in the context of infertility trauma. 

With the help of an infertility counselor, you will learn to shift the weight of your experiences.

We need some amount of control to feel safe. Trying to control the situation is not a bad thing, because it's not about being controlling; it's about feeling safe.

With the help of an infertility counselor, you’ll learn to recognize and process: what is genuine emotion and what is a trauma reaction.

These feelings are all-consuming, and overwhelming, and can sometimes cloud our judgment and make us question our own beliefs. 

Support is about learning tools and techniques that allow for subtle shifts. That gives someone a safe place to share and be seen and validated in a non-judgmental way. 

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Healing comes from the connection! 

So, why choose an infertility counselor for trauma? 

  • To work through tough emotions and hard decisions. 
  • To feel better in their day-to-day life. 
  • To gain more control over their life. 
  • To work through the trauma they've experienced and are still carrying. 
  • To gain new perspectives and tools on how to live with more peace going forward.

an infertility counselor

For what reasons do people reach out to an infertility counselor?

  • Working through feelings before and after treatment
  • Relationship strategies
  • Treatment tips and info
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Relationship tools
  • Miscarriage/loss
  • Non-judgmental space to share
  • Professional perspective
  • Pregnancy after infertility
  • IVF/IUI pre and post-consult/decisions

Infertility counseling is the perfect accompaniment to fertility treatments and procedures people might be going through. An infertility counselor’s support and guidance are tailored to those experiencing stress and anxiety related to infertility, loss, and related procedures such as IUI/IVF. Infertility counselors understand that trying to conceive can be frustrating, scary, and extremely lonely at times, especially after numerous attempts. 

Couples are often left wondering ‘Why is this happening to us? What are we doing wrong? Where should we go from here?’ The fact is stress and anxiety increase with each passing month. Despite the wonderful medical intervention couples receive, mental and emotional support is often missed in the process.

When it comes to infertility counseling, the goal is to allow people to feel understood and gain the tools to help process emotions as they come. Ultimately, infertility counselors support those trying to conceive as they explore why they are feeling certain emotions like jealousy, anger, and disconnect and work through how these emotions come out in their daily life.

Chiemi aka Miss.Conception Coach is a published writer and Infertility Trauma Support Specialist. She lends her unique voice and expertise to help people better understand, validate, and process their infertility trauma. She uses her platform to raise awareness about the emotions felt and the reality of the mental health issues people experience after treatments like IVF/IUI. Through her unique counseling style, she helps people understand, validate and process their infertility trauma and grief. She offers worldwide individual and couples teletherapy. Connect with Chiemi on Instagram and visit her website to learn more. *This article was originally published on Fertility Help Hub.