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Infertility May Call for New Coping Strategies


a blog by Ellen Glazer, November 4, 2010

“I need some new coping strategies.”

These were the opening words of a new client who came to see me recently. Then she added, “I have coping strategies that work in most situations, but they don’t work with infertility.”

Out with the Old

My client went on to explain to me that her preferred coping strategy in most instances is to “seize hope.” She reminds herself that things will get better, and she identifies something she can confidently look forward to. “But it doesn’t work with infertility,” she said, “I don’t know what I can look forward to and when.”

This is but one example that illustrates an all too common dilemma: People going through infertility treatment, such as IVF, find that the things that usually work for them in family and social situations, elude them now. Here is a common example…

Many women that I meet see themselves (and others see them) as open, communicative, honest people who enjoying “sharing.” They have close friendships that they work hard to nurture and maintain, and they see open communication as one of the essential ingredients of these friendships. Then along comes infertility and with it, feelings about privacy, the hurtful things people say inadvertently and the growing recognition that although infertility may be on your mind all of the time, you need to limit how much you talk about it.

In with the New Strategies

When coping by talking and sharing and communicating doesn’t work, you need to find new strategies for friendships. I encourage people to “stay one step ahead of the conversation,” figuring out what you want to say to your friends and family and when and how you want to say it. You may also need to instruct them regarding what to say to you — what questions to ask, when to bring up infertility and when not to.

None of this is easy. For most of us, coping strategies are not something we intentionally design. They are adaptive skills that we develop “automatically” or unconsciously in response to challenging situations. As my client so wisely put it, infertility calls upon us to take a more proactive role when it comes to developing, implementing and maintaining effective coping strategies.

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