Never thought infertility would happen to you? So do most other women and men struggling with fertility problems, according to a survey on the psychological impact of infertility, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. Conducted among individuals who reported difficulty getting pregnant within the previous 24 months, a total of 585 couples were included in the poll: 326 respondents were men and 259 were women.
Researchers turned up some surprising finds about infertility, including:
- 65 percent of couples didn't realize fertility could be a problem when they wanted to conceive
- 61 percent of couples concealed their infertility diagnosis from friends and family
- Only 53 percent of respondents had told their mother about their infertility diagnosis
- 54 percent of couples received unsolicited advice from family and friends
- 49 percent of respondents reported feeling uncomfortable being around pregnant women or couples with babies
- 56 percent reported that infertility has made sex physically difficult and anxiety producing
- 72 percent of the women reported feeling flawed and 50 percent of the men felt inadequate
What concerns research the most about the survey's findings is the unwillingness of men and women experiencing infertility to seek medical help, both because medical treatment may help couples become pregnant and doctors and other fertility specialists can help dispel myths and self-image issues surrounding conception problems.
"The silence that surrounds infertility is isolating, and the common misconceptions can be a barrier to seeking proper treatment," says Alice Domar, leader of The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, a member of the survey steering committee.
The most common type of advice couples received when they did share their fertility struggles with friends and family? Seventy-eight percent had been told to "just relax" and stop worrying so much.
"Relax and you'll get pregnant? If only it were that easy!" says Domar, who went on to clarify in a statement that the vast majority of individuals who have infertility have a medical reason, not a stress-related one. According to Domar, upwards of 90 percent of all infertility cases are caused by physical problems.
Having problems getting pregnant? You might want to heed this other statistic. As the survey found, among couples who went to see a fertility specialist, 91 percent wish that they would have had sooner.