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Ask the doctor about coping with infertility

By Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley
coping with infertility. CHM

The miracle of new life still holds many mysteries. But we do know many things that must happen and happen just right. A mature, healthy egg must release from a woman’s ovary.

Healthy sperm must find its way to the egg. The fertilized embryo must find its way to a healthy uterine landing place and develop a connection with a mother’s blood supply in order to continue to grow. Problems at any point along the way may keep pregnancy from happening.

If you’re one of the many couples struggling to conceive, it can all seem like a cruel joke. One more month of timing “sex on demand.” One more negative pregnancy test. One more day of feeling like a failure and hating your body that won’t do what it’s “supposed” to.

Mother’s Day, baby showers, friends or siblings enjoying their children — it’s not fair that you can’t have that too! You may pull away from family gatherings or time with friends. Coping with infertility is never easy.

Stress and infertility

There’s a complicated and hard-to-define relationship between stress, mental health symptoms, and infertility.

No medical research has been able to document that stress itself will prevent pregnancy, though stress may affect a woman’s reproductive hormones that control ovulation. And many individuals will tell you that they feel very anxious and/or depressed because of their struggle to conceive.

Infertility and relationships

Infertility doesn’t just take a toll on your sense of self. It places stress on your relationship with your spouse. You may carry some personal shame over your infertility, leading you to keep part of your heart hidden from yourself, your spouse, and even others.

If your spouse has a known medical condition affecting fertility, you may struggle with feeling bitter toward them. Scheduling sex to try to get pregnant can seriously erode your sense of real intimacy. For those couples choosing to invest in infertility treatments¹, the financial stress can become significant also.

You and your spouse may struggle to agree on whether and how much money to invest. Treatment can drain the money you would like to have for other purposes.

And infertility may also impact your relationship with God. You read and claim Bible verses like Psalm 127:3, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” [NIV]

You wonder why God isn’t blessing you with a child. I’ve had many women ask me if God is punishing them for past sexual indiscretion, abortion, or another sin by preventing them from having a child.

My answer is always no—infertility is not God’s punishment. So what can you do to address the multiple stresses of infertility?

“You can grow in your ability to trust that He is good and that He is for you regardless of whether you conceive or not. That’s a journey, and your heart will need a lot of tender loving care in the process. But He is worth trusting.”

Caring for yourself both physically and mentally

You are more than your ability to conceive. As important as this part of your life is, be purposeful about caring for the other parts of yourself also. The basics of regular physical exercise, healthy nutrition, and good rhythms of rest (sleep and weekly rest) lower the physical stress response in your body and lead to a clearer mind and more emotional stability.

As a Reproductive Endocrinologist, I often told my infertility patients that it’s OK to take breaks trying to conceive. Breaks are good for you mentally and physically and also for your marriage. Find and give energy to other good things in life, such as creativity, a career, learning something new, or helping others.

That doesn’t lessen your desire for a child, but choosing to also invest in other things helps you become a more whole person the way God intended. Know that you are not alone in your infertility struggle. You can also find much encouragement through connecting with other individuals who are also struggling in this way.

Your marriage matters

Hopefully, your spouse is more than “a means to have a child.” (If you do see your spouse that way, get some help!) It’s essential to invest in each other and in the love you share together.

When your spouse is feeling down, not enough, or discouraged, don’t try to minimize their feelings or “fix” them. Choose to be with them. Listen to both their words and their heart. Come alongside as support.

When you’re the one feeling down, not enough, or discouraged, it’s OK to ask for help. Let your spouse know you’re not asking them to “fix” you, but ask them to listen, hold you, and be there as support.

Different people respond differently to the stress of infertility. Give each other some grace to respond in your own unique ways, and spend time doing things together that have nothing to do with trying to conceive.

Invest in your relationship together so that if God does bless you with a child, you will have a strong marriage to bring that child into. Spend time doing things as friends. Make intimacy and sex about the two of you whenever you can, and not primarily about getting pregnant.

God is in control

When it comes to your relationship with God, hold on and let go.

Hold on tightly to whom you know God to be. Keep bringing your desire for a child to Him. Spend time quietly in His presence and ask Him to show you how He sees you. Invite Him to speak about your situation.

Let go of the outcome. You can’t control God even if you try, not that you would really want to. You can grow in your ability to trust that He is good and that He is for you regardless of whether you conceive or not. That’s a journey, and your heart will need a lot of tender loving care in the process. But He is worth trusting.

The stress of infertility is real. Acknowledging that stress will allow you to take healthy steps in managing it along the way, regardless of what your family looks like tomorrow.

¹ Christian Healthcare Ministries members have chosen to not share the medical costs of treatment specifically for infertility or for pregnancies resulting from such treatment. Please see our Maternity Guide for further information.

Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley
Carol Peters-Tanksley, M.D., D.Min., is an author, speaker, OB-Gyn physician, ordained Doctor of Ministry, and member of Christian Healthcare Ministries board of directors. You can connect with her on her website,