We understand what people struggling with infertility are going through. Our founder and his wife went through their own fertility journey, with much hope, anxiety, and heartbreak along the way. But after two years, the result was a healthy baby boy.
So we know the ups and downs of fertility treatment: the stress, the appointments, the calls, the tests, the anxious waiting, the grief, and the hope.
If you are going through infertility, or you are close to someone who is, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease control estimates that 1 in 8 couples in the United States face fertility issues. Many people share similar experiences, and resources and support are available to you.
For LGBT patients and couples, fertility treatment raises its own concerns, from practical issues to anxieties about discrimination and acceptance. Aspire firmly believes in the rights of LGBT people to create their own families. We are proud to help them do so.
For those beginning their fertility journey, we offer some resources and advice to help you along the way. If someone you love is facing infertility issues, we offer some advice for helping them.
For Patients: What to Expect Emotionally
Knowing what to expect from fertility treatment does not prepare you for the experience. It can be hard for other people to understand what you’re going through, and easy for them to minimize it—often without meaning to. Fertility treatment can complicate your relationship with your partner and require some tough decisions. However, many people find that going through the process together brings them much closer as a couple.
Among the common, and natural, experiences patients experience during fertility treatment are:
The emotional rollercoaster: Trying to become pregnant means cycles of hope, waiting, uncertainty, and disappointment, with moments of excitement and elation. If you succeed in becoming pregnant, naturally there are new anxieties about the health of the baby. While Aspire has a strong track record of success, not every treatment is successful, and grief is a common and natural reaction.
Identity: Male factor infertility can harm a man’s sense of his self-worth, and make him feel like less of a man. Female factor infertility can have the same damaging effect on a woman’s sense of herself. It’s important to understand that infertility is medical—it has no more relevance to your manhood or womanhood than any other medical problem.
Privacy: Seeking fertility treatment means being open with medical professionals—as well as trusted family and friends—about your sex life and your fertility issues. For many people, that is not easy. At Aspire, we protect your privacy and confidentiality with the utmost care, and communicate with you warmly and sensitively.
Changes in your sex life: Having sex to conceive is very different to sex for pleasure. Many couples feel pressure to perform, or diminished pleasure, when having sex at the right times of the month for conception. If this is happening in your relationship, understand that is not at all unusual, and don’t be quick to blame yourself or your partner.
Differences of opinion about big decisions: If, as a couple, you aren’t able to have children who are genetically yours, you may wish to consider adoption, donor assisted reproduction, or surrogacy. Whether to pursue these options can be an incredibly difficult decision, one you’ll need to make together.
Mental health issues: The stresses of the fertility process can place you at greater risk of mental illnesses such as depression. Be aware of the signs of depression and don’t hesitate to seek help if you need it.
For LGBT Patients
LGBT people continue to experience discrimination in their daily lives. For LGBT couples, starting a family often raises new anxieties about prejudice—whether their families will accept a decision to start a family, whether they will receive the same standard of care from medical practitioners, and whether their child will be accepted by others.
Female same-sex couples also need to decide which member of the couple will carry the baby—potentially a difficult decision. For male same-sex couples, surrogacy raises issues of guardianship and parental rights, and issues about who will father the baby.
Aspire is committed to supporting LGBT couples through the complications and challenges of fertility. We want to help you build a family. We will do our utmost to help you create a family and support you through the process. We will also refer you to outside counsel who can help with the legal issues that apply.
For Families & Friends: What Can You Do to Help?
It’s natural to want to help friends or loved ones who are experiencing infertility. But there are many myths and misconceptions about infertility, and it’s easy to be unhelpful, or worse, cause additional stress and hurt. There are several ways in which you can help those closest to you through the process:
Take the time to understand infertility. There are many resources that can help you understand infertility. Taking the time to read about infertility will help you to learn what your loved one is going through.
Don’t judge. People have different values, beliefs and priorities about families. Sometimes people are critical of a couple for discontinuing treatment—for ‘giving up too soon’. Sometimes people feel uncomfortable about certain kinds of treatment. You will be in a better position to support a loved one if you are able to set aside your own personal opinions about different kinds of treatment.
Don’t ignore the issue. Infertility can be hard to talk about, but silence can make loved ones feel more alone, and make it harder to get the help they need.
Be a listener. One of the most productive things you can do for a friend or family member facing infertility issues is simply to listen.
Be realistic, be patient, and be there. There are good days and bad days in infertility treatment. Feelings about fertility treatment can change greatly from day to day, depending on test results, relationships, or mood. Don’t take it personally.
Be sensitive about children. Be aware that being around children can be extremely painful for infertility sufferers, especially if they have previously lost a pregnancy. If you have kids, consider making time to see your friend or family member one-on-one, without them. Be understanding if they’re reluctant to attend family events.
How Aspire Can Help
At Aspire, we want to support you emotionally as well as medically through the fertility process. We have a full-time, licensed marriage and family therapist in house, who can discuss issues that arise in treatment, whether individually, or as a couple. For more details, visit our Counseling and Wellness page. We also offer specific resources and assistance for LGBT patients.
RESOLVE: the Infertility Association of America
Reproductive Facts, run by the American Society of Reproductive Medicine