When you’re trying to get pregnant, the focus on your physical health can easily overshadow your need to care for your mental health, but finding the right emotional support is an important part of coping with infertility. Trying to conceive can quickly escalate from a fun, flirty couple’s project to an emotionally intense and overwhelming medical undertaking in just a few months. I know this firsthand: my husband Brad and I spent years trying to conceive and it was the toughest time in our relationship.
What started as something light-hearted and beautiful (“We’re going to have a baby!”) quickly deteriorated into something stressful, expensive, and completely overwhelming (“What if this never happens for us...”). We went from being a healthy, happy 30-something couple with every opportunity ahead of us to broke, hormonal infertiles who avoided parties, travel, and all the things we once loved.
While our usual support network tried to be there for us, it was really tough for anyone who hadn’t been through it firsthand to understand the intensity of the ordeal. This empathy gap and lack of understanding is why 61% of women going through infertility don’t tell anyone about this struggle (1). Not their moms. Not their friends. No one. Which is absolutely heartbreaking, because the only thing worse than going through infertility is going through it alone.
Coping with the disappointment of infertility is easier when you have support
Infertility is a complicated, emotional, messy-as-hell experience for 1 in 8 couples (2). The whole ordeal can quickly hijack your life, because when you’re dealing with fertility issues, you’re also dealing with marriage issues, medical issues, financial issues, friendship issues, and oftentimes mental health issues. And all of this as you cope with the stress, anxiety, and loss that comes with infertility. That’s a lot of issues!
The good news? Suffering in silence is completely optional. There are many ways to find new TTC (trying to conceive) friends who know what you’re going through and can support you in a real, meaningful way. In fact, there’s a whole underground world of women sharing their journeys and supporting one another right under your nose.
When you’re dealing with infertility, it can feel like no one in the world understands what you’re going through, but you’re not alone. Infertility support communities are designed to help you fight those feelings of isolation by connecting you with people that truly understand the toll that infertility can take on your life. Support groups and online forums can be valuable sources of information and empowerment, which can help relieve some of the depression, anxiety, and loneliness that often accompany infertility treatments (3).
Finding an infertility support group (or two, or more)
For many people, support groups can help fill the gap between the medical care you get from your doctor and the emotional support from other women and couples going through the same experience. So how can you find the emotional support and community you need when trying to conceive? Here are a few ways you can start connecting with other people who get it.
My own experiences with infertility inspired me to create Fruitful, a fertility mentorship matching program that pairs individuals struggling emotionally with infertility with a mentor who has experienced it firsthand and is now on the other side. This mentoring service is a great way to talk one-on-one to someone who truly understands the struggles of TTC with infertility issues. The benefit of having a mentor? It’s less competitive than going through the experience with someone else actively trying to conceive, and mentors are also able to offer the perspective, knowledge, and guidance that only comes with a bit of time and distance.
Social media communities
Facebook and Instagram are home to some pretty great specialized communities. The Instagram #TTC community is massive, and there are plenty of private Facebook communities for women dealing with infertility. Just search the hashtag #TTC or #IVF or any other fertility code word and you’ll see a bevy of women (some anonymous, some loud and proud) sharing the most intimate details of their journeys – from positive OPKs to confessionals about ditching their friend’s baby shower. It’s a great place to read other women’s stories and find “cycle buddies” who are also going through what you’re going through.
The only downside of social media TTC communities? Lots of BFP pregnancy test photos, bump pics, and ultrasound scans...so if seeing these might trigger you, this is a huge downside to consider. And, when it comes to Facebook groups, some may still be visible on your personal account, even if it’s supposed to be “private.”
In-person and online fertility support groups are another great way to find fellow #TTCSisters. Listening to someone tell their own story, and in turn, sharing your own can be incredibly powerful. There’s something about looking someone in the eye and really seeing their pain and hope that makes you feel less alone. Speaking up, or even showing up, to a support group can seem scary at first (especially for introverts), but it’s worth stepping out of your comfort zone.
Infertility can be extremely isolating, but talking to people who understand what you’re going through can help you feel less alone while you’re trying to conceive. By connecting with the right people, whether it’s through infertility support groups, social media communities, or a mentorship program, you can find the emotional support you need to get you through these challenging times. Remember, you do NOT have to go through infertility alone.
About the Author
Elyse Ash is the founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility. It took her and her husband Brad 3 years, 2 rounds of IVF, and 1 frozen embryo transfer to see their first positive pregnancy test which brought them their daughter, born in March 2018. Elyse lives in Minneapolis and loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyoncé, and pretending she’s into yoga.