Psychotherapy And Psychological Support In Infertility Treatments

Man and woman attending couples therapy.

The difficulty in having children, in cases where there is a clear desire to have them, is one of the most difficult situations that a couple must face. Furthermore, it is common for going to an assisted reproduction center to entail high levels of emotional suffering, along with the appearance of feelings of anguish, loss and frustration.

For all this and for the complex relationships that exist between psychological factors and fertility, the figure of the psychologist is necessary in assisted reproduction centers in order to offer a psychological support during infertility treatments

Objectives of psychological support in infertility treatments

Regardless of the theoretical framework within which the support or intervention is carried out, the final objective of said psychological support is help the patient, or patients, achieve a higher quality of life and mental health

Regardless of the type of psychological support that is finally offered to the patient, it is advisable that all patients attend the first visit with the clinician. And in the case of a couples treatment, they should go with them.

The goal of any psychological support is to ensure that patients understand the scope of their treatment options, receive sufficient emotional support and are able to deal with the consequences of the experience of infertility treatment.

The techniques used within the therapeutic intervention They focus on the following aspects:

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Who is the psychological support for?

Recent studies indicate that between 25-65% of patients who attend infertility centers present several psychological symptoms that are significant, these being mainly related to anxiety.

It is necessary to establish correct guidelines that allow detect those symptoms that indicate the need for a psychological approach and classify which patients require the support of a psychology professional during infertility treatment.

There are a number of factors that can predict poor patient adjustment to assisted reproduction treatment Among these factors are the personal characteristics of the patient, their social situation and factors related to the treatment such as the side effects that it may have on the person.

Most common problems and treatment

Among the most common conditions in the population with infertility problems include adjustment disorder, anxiety states, depressive moods relationship problems, refusal to go to psychotherapy for infertility, and coping with the results or the end of treatment.

1. Adaptive disorder

This disorder is characterized by the appearance of emotional symptoms such as anxiety or depression, behavioral symptoms such as changes in behavior or symptoms that arise in response to an external stressor such as job loss, financial problems, etc.

The symptoms manifest themselves as follows:

Although these types of disorders generate a high degree of discomfort, they do not prevent the person from continuing with their daily routines. Generally, it is the couple, social or family relationships that are most affected.

Psychological intervention in infertile patients will be carried out depending on the symptoms they present. Likewise, difficulties in the couple’s relationship will also be addressed independently.

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2. Anxiety states

Cognitive and behavioral techniques for managing anxiety and self-control are very useful both for patients who are in the process and for later coping with stressful situations.

Other somatic or psycho-physiological alterations derived from anxiety states such as eating disorders, sleep disorders or fatigue, also can be treated using techniques to control physiological activation ; as well as through relaxation techniques.

The types of intervention recommended for this type of alteration are:

3. Depressed mood

Depression seems to be the most frequent emotional problem that people suffer when they learn of their infertility, and after failed treatment attempts. These problems tend to occur more in women than in men which show a greater predisposition to present repressed anxiety problems.

The first step is to normalize and legitimize the feelings and emotions that overwhelm the couple, making them understand that the majority of people in their situation feel the same as them.

Solution focused therapy It has been established as an affective therapy when working on the negative emotions associated with these processes, both at the individual and couple level.

4. Relationship problems

During the first contacts with patients, it is necessary that the professional assesses the levels of communication and strategies for conflict resolution that couples have. Likewise, you should explore what type of defense mechanism each person is using to deal with the situation, and thus identify the dysfunctional aspects of these mechanisms.

Within the framework of therapy they will be taught to express their pain and needs, as well as to listen to and address their partner’s concerns.

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Communication within the couple may be affected during treatment. It is common for one’s feelings not to reach the other, keeping the emotions to themselves with the possible intention of protecting the partner. However, this lack of communication can increase feelings of anxiety and guilt and generate greater tension in the couple’s relationship.

5. Patients who reject psychological intervention

Due to high levels of stress, these people may refuse to go to a psychologist or accept any type of psychological help. Many of these patients do not recognize the need to go to therapy.

The psychologist’s role in these cases will be to make patients aware of the psychological effects that assisted reproduction therapies have on the person and the couple’s relationship.

6. Coping with the results or the end of treatment

For some patients, the failure of infertility treatments can represent an existential crisis with strong emotional reactions. These patients, especially those with unexplained infertility, they come to believe that their sterility has a psychological origin

The psychologist must be aware that the distress due to failed infertility treatment is difficult to overcome. And he should encourage patients to seek professional, family and social support.

Once the couple decides to finish the reproduction treatments, must build a new identity as couples without children And for this it is convenient to reevaluate the foundations of your relationship. It is possible that in this new situation, certain issues that were previously not so important may become relevant, generating new difficulties in the relationship.

As a solution, you will have to discuss your priorities as a couple for the future, and remember the current reasons for continuing to function as a couple without children. One option is to see this new situation as a possibility of having greater independence and privacy as a couple.