7 Things Only Someone Dealing With Infertility Understands


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Imagine the irony: You spend most of your young adult life trying not to get pregnant. Then when you’re ready to be in the pink or blue, month after month that stupid pregnancy test says no. That’s the reality for the 1 in 8 couples who have trouble conceiving. Yep, it’s that many. Don’t think you know anyone? Take it from someone who hid it from most of her friends—they’re just not telling you. Keep these facts in mind should they choose to confide.

1. It can be cheaper to buy a Mercedes.
Infertility medications and procedures are absurdly expensive (on average $11,000 and up per attempt for in vitro fertilization, aka IVF), and you’re in the minority if your health insurance picks up any of the tab. Only 27% of businesses with more than 500 employers cover IVF, according to the consulting firm Mercer. And just 15 states have any laws pertaining to whether health plans must offer coverage for any infertility procedures or medications (go to the National Conference of State Legislators at ncsl.org to get details for your state).

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“I stopped counting how much we spent when we reached $50,000,” says Lisa Newton, a blogger at amateurnester.com, who has attempted IVF three times. While most couples with infertility trouble don’t have to go as far as IVF to conceive, even less-complex treatments such as fertility drugs combined with intrauterine insemination (a procedure in which sperm is injected directly in the uterus, bypassing the cervix and giving it a head start to reach the egg) run a couple of thousand dollars per try.

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2. Monthly disappointment is the norm.
IVF is the most drastic—and most successful—fertility procedure. But it’s far from a guarantee. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention complies success rates from fertility centers nationwide into one massive annual report: The latest one shows that 40% of IVF attempts in women under age 35 using their own fresh embryos (as opposed to ones frozen from a previous attempt) resulted in a birth, but that happy outcome dwindles to 11% in 41- and 42-year-olds. (Never say these 6 things to someone who doesn’t have kids.)

“You hear a lot about the infertile couple who tried and tried and then adopted a child only to get pregnant naturally,” says Lindsley Lowell, who has been trying to have a baby for five years. “Those are 1 in 10,000. These stories make it impossible for people to really know how hard infertility is and that thousands of women never reach their goal."

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3. The marching orders are complicated.
Forget to take your heartburn medicine after dinner one night? Oh well. But missing a dose of fertility meds or taking them at the wrong time can be disastrous. Timing is everything because the drugs cause the release of hormones that regulate or trigger ovulation. If you botch the medication schedule your doctor gave you, your eggs might not be ready to be retrieved (in the case of IVF) or you might not have your IUI when you have the best chance of success. "I started with one injection in the morning and then added two in the evening,” says Monica Higgins, who underwent fertility treatments on and off for three years. “You’re typically given a one- to two-hour window, but I always made it a point to do it within 15 minutes of my set time. And before my egg retrieval for IVF, I have to take an injection at midnight.”

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4. Telling us to “just relax” is easy for you to say!


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While stress reduction techniques may help women struggling with infertility to cope emotionally, they’re not going to produce the elusive pregnancy bump. “It’s hard not to slap the person who says ‘Just relax and it will happen,’ ” admits Lowell. “Relaxing is not a strategy because infertility is a disease.” Better words of comfort: I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I’m here for you.

5. It’s an emotional roller coaster.
Women with infertility usually start taking medications a few days after their periods start. And that’s when the waiting begins. “For the next four weeks you get your hopes up, you dream, you wish, you tell yourself, 'It’s going to happen this month,’ and then when the stick says you’re not pregnant or the doctor tells you your embryo didn’t take, it’s soul-crushing,” says Laura Saltman, who has been doing fertility treatments for three years.

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6. Plus, it’s physically painful.


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It hurts inside and out, as the medications have major side effects. “My ovaries were so swollen from all the egg-producing follicles that it hurt to even walk,” says Higgins. “I looked three months pregnant, even though I wasn’t.” Adds Lowell: “Every day on fertility meds I feel like a dumpy, ugly sack of potatoes. Imagine the worst PMS combined with the pain you usually feel on the first day of your period.”

7. Friends’ pregnancy announcements are tough to hear.


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“You want to be truly excited for them, but deep down it makes you hurt more for yourself,” says Higgins. So don’t judge a friend if she’s not as enthusiastic as you’d hoped. “It’s far too painful to come in contact with someone else’s bliss when you’re feeling broken,” says Juli Fraga, PsyD, a San Francisco psychologist who specializes in treating women with infertility. So give your friend space, realize that she may have to sit this one out, but lavish her with attention when it’s her turn.

By Karen Cicero

This article ’7 Things Only Someone Dealing With Infertility Understands’ originally ran on Prevention.com.

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