Self-management

Coping and support

Coping with infertility can be extremely difficult because there are so many unknowns. The emotional burden on a couple is considerable. Taking these steps can help you cope:

  • Be prepared. The uncertainty of infertility testing and treatments can be difficult and stressful. Ask your doctor to explain the steps, and prepare for each one.
  • Set limits. Decide before starting treatment which procedures, and how many, are emotionally and financially acceptable for you and your partner. Fertility treatments may be expensive and often are not covered by insurance companies, and a successful pregnancy often depends on repeated attempts.
  • Consider other options. Determine alternatives — adoption, donor sperm or egg, donor embryo, gestational carrier or adoption, or even having no children — as early as possible in the infertility evaluation. This may reduce anxiety during treatments and feelings of hopelessness if conception doesn't occur.
  • Seek support. Locate support groups or counseling services for help before and after treatment to help endure the process and ease the grief should treatment fail.

Managing emotional stress during treatment

Try these strategies to help manage emotional stress during treatment:

  • Express yourself. Reach out to others rather than repressing guilt or anger.
  • Stay in touch with loved ones. Talking to your partner, family and friends can be very beneficial. The best support often comes from loved ones and those closest to you.
  • Reduce stress. Some studies have shown that couples experiencing psychological stress had poorer results with infertility treatment. Try to reduce stress in your life before trying to become pregnant.
  • Exercise and eat a healthy diet. Keeping up a moderate exercise routine and a healthy diet can improve your outlook and keep you focused on living your life.

Managing emotional effects of the outcome

You'll face the possibility of psychological challenges no matter your results:

  • Not achieving pregnancy, or having a miscarriage. The emotional stress of not being able to have a baby can be devastating even on the most loving and affectionate relationships.
  • Success. Even if fertility treatment is successful, it's common to experience stress and fear of failure during pregnancy. If you have a history of depression or anxiety disorder, you're at increased risk of these problems recurring in the months after your child's birth.
  • Multiple births. A successful pregnancy that results in multiple births introduces medical complexities and the likelihood of significant emotional stress both during pregnancy and after delivery.

Seek professional help if the emotional impact of the outcome of your fertility treatments becomes too heavy for you or your partner.

Prevention

Some types of infertility aren't preventable. But several strategies may increase your chances of pregnancy.

Couples

Have regular intercourse several times around the time of ovulation for the highest pregnancy rate. Having intercourse beginning at least 5 days before and until a day after ovulation improves your chances of getting pregnant. Ovulation usually occurs at the middle of the cycle — halfway between menstrual periods — for most women with menstrual cycles about 28 days apart.

Men

For men, although most types of infertility aren't preventable, these strategies may help:

  • Avoid drug and tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption, which may contribute to male infertility.
  • Avoid high temperatures, as this can affect sperm production and motility. Although this effect is usually temporary, avoid hot tubs and steam baths.
  • Avoid exposure to industrial or environmental toxins, which can impact sperm production.
  • Limit medications that may impact fertility, both prescription and nonprescription drugs. Talk with your doctor about any medications you take regularly, but don't stop taking prescription medications without medical advice.
  • Exercise moderately. Regular exercise may improve sperm quality and increase the chances for achieving a pregnancy.

Women

For women, a number of strategies may increase the chances of becoming pregnant:

  • Quit smoking. Tobacco has multiple negative effects on fertility, not to mention your general health and the health of a fetus. If you smoke and are considering pregnancy, quit now.
  • Avoid alcohol and street drugs. These substances may impair your ability to conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. Don't drink alcohol or use recreational drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine.
  • Limit caffeine. Women trying to get pregnant may want to limit caffeine intake. Ask your doctor for guidance on the safe use of caffeine.
  • Exercise moderately. Regular exercise is important, but exercising so intensely that your periods are infrequent or absent can affect fertility.
  • Avoid weight extremes. Being overweight or underweight can affect your hormone production and cause infertility.