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Psychotherapy and psychological support in infertility treatments

Psychotherapy and psychological support in infertility treatments

February 21, 2024

The difficulty of 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. In addition, it is usual that going to an assisted reproduction center involves high levels of emotional suffering, along with the appearance of feelings of anguish, loss and frustration.

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

  • Related article: "Perinatal psychology: what is it and what functions does it perform?"

Objectives of psychological support in infertility treatments

Regardless of the theoretical framework within which accompaniment or intervention is carried out, the ultimate goal of such psychological accompaniment is help the patient, or patients, to achieve a better 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 being a couple treatment, go with them.

The goal of any psychological accompaniment is to ensure that patients understand the scope of their treatment options, receive enough emotional support and be able to face the consequences of the experience of an infertility treatment.

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

  • Facilitate the expression of emotions.
  • Identify the cause of the emotional difficulty.
  • Educate the person or the couple in infertility , making sure they have enough information to make a decision about the treatment.
  • Intervene to minimize the effects of stress and help patients to correctly manage coping strategies.

Who is the psychological support for?

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

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

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

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Most common problems and treatment

Among the most common conditions in the population with infertility problems are included adaptive disorder, anxiety states, depressive moods , the couple's problems, the refusal to go to psychotherapy for infertility, and the coping of the results or the end of the 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 loss of a job, financial problems, etc.

The symptoms manifest as follows:

  • Upset in response to the stressor.
  • Significant deterioration of social activity , family, work or academic.

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

The psychological intervention in infertile patients will be carried out according to the symptomatology that these present. Likewise, difficulties in the couple relationship will also be addressed independently.

2. States of anxiety

The cognitive and behavioral techniques of anxiety management and self-control are very useful for patients who are in the process, as well as for later confrontations of stressful situations.

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

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

  • Progressive muscle relaxation techniques .
  • Training in social skills and assertive behavior techniques.
  • Couple therapy.
  • Sex therapy .
  • Programming rewarding activities.

3. Depressive mood

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

The first step is to normalize and legitimize the feelings and emotions that seize the couple, making them understand that most people who are in their situation feel the same as them.

Therapy focused on solutions It has been established as an affective therapy when it comes to working with the negative emotions associated with these processes, both individually and as a couple.

4. Couple problems

During the first contacts with patients, it is necessary that the professional values ​​the levels of communication and the strategies for the solution of conflicts that couples have. Likewise, it must explore what type of defense mechanism each one is using to deal with the situation, and thus identify the dysfunctional aspects of said mechanisms.

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

Communication within the couple can be affected during treatment. Often one's feelings do not reach the other, keeping emotions with the possible intention of protecting the couple. However, this lack of communication can increase feelings of anguish and guilt , and generate a greater tension in the couple's relationship.

5. Patients who reject psychological intervention

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

The role of the psychologist in these cases will be to raise awareness of patients about the psychological effects that assisted reproduction therapies have on the person and the relationship.

6. Coping with the results or the end of the treatment

For some patients the failure of infertility treatments can lead to an existential crisis with strong emotional reactions. These patients, especially those with a sterility without cause, they come to believe that their sterility has a psychological origin .

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

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

As a solution they will have to discuss their priorities as a couple for the future, and remember the current reasons to continue working 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.

Treatment Options for Infertility (February 2024).

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