What Is Infertility Really Like? Inside The Struggle To Conceive

It's rude to ask "What is infertility like?" when a couple is struggling to conceive, but it's something we should all know more about.

Most of us grow up believing that we'll be able to start a family when we're ready. So the extreme disappointment and sorrow that come with trying to get pregnant without success is a huge blow to the majority of couples. Most of us are too afraid (and polite!) to ask a struggling couple "What is infertility like?," but it's something we should all learn a lot more about.

"People who are ready to have children are usually at a good place in their lives. Most people assume they are fertile and are excited to take the next step in their relationship, so when they have trouble conceiving, it takes them from a very high place to a very low place," says Mindy R. Schiffman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City who often works with couples struggling with infertility.

Coping with the Stress of Infertility

Why infertility is stressful, and what you can do about it.

Infertility is a medical condition that can touch every aspect of your life -- from the way you feel about yourself, to your relationship with your partner, to your overall perspective on living. It can also be particularly stressful in that it creates a great deal of uncertainty and emotional upheaval in a couple's day-to-day world. If you've been struggling with infertility, you're probably no stranger to stress. But as overwhelming as your situation may seem at times, there are ways to reduce your anxiety. Here are 12 steps to focus attention on your mind and body -- and bring a calmer perspective to your life.

1. Acknowledge your feelings. The first step in reducing stress is to understand that what you're feeling is completely normal. Going through infertility tests and procedures month after month can be emotionally, physically, and financially draining. And feeling as if you have no control over your body -- or the ultimate outcome of your treatments -- can be stressful and debilitating as well. For many couples, wanting a biological child has been a lifelong dream. But through infertility, that dream has been shattered, or at least temporarily put on hold.

Secondary Infertility Facts

Even if you've successfully conceived before, you might have fertility issues later in life.

Are you or is someone you know facing secondary infertility? These facts can help you begin to understand the condition.

What is secondary infertility?
Secondary infertility refers to a couple's inability to conceive a baby, even though they've had at least one child in the past, either together or with a previous partner. Couples who experience this condition may confront a range of physical and emotional frustrations, despite the fact that they've been able to successfully reproduce in the past.

Infertility in Men

If you've been struggling to get pregnant, you've probably got lots of questions. Here, find out what causes infertility in men, how your partner can reduce his risk of infertility, when to see a doctor for infertility, how your partner may be treated for infertility, and more.

What is infertility?

Infertility is a medical condition in which a couple is unable to conceive a baby. Experts don't consider a couple to have fertility problems until they've been actively trying to get pregnant for at least one year, or if the woman is older than 35, for more than six months. Some couples who experience recurrent miscarriages may also be considered infertile and should seek help from their doctor or a fertility expert.

Experiencing infertility, though, doesn't mean you won't ever have a baby. For some couples, it just takes longer; for others, it may require drugs, surgery or high-tech help. Take heart in the following stats from the Mayo Clinic:

After 12 months of unprotected sex, about 85 percent of couples will get pregnant.
Of the remaining 15 percent, about half will get pregnant over the next three years, using methods like medications, surgery, assisted reproductive technology, or even naturally.
According to other research, about two-thirds of all couples who seek treatment for fertility problems are able to have a baby eventually.

Infertility in Women

If you've been struggling to get pregnant, you've probably got lots of questions. Here, find out what causes infertility, how to reduce your risk, when to see a doctor, potential infertility treatments, and more.

What is infertility?

Infertility is a medical condition in which a couple is unable to conceive a baby. Experts don't consider a couple to have fertility problems until they've been actively trying to get pregnant for at least one year, or if the woman is older than 35, for more than six months. Some couples who experience recurrent miscarriages may also be considered infertile and should seek help from their doctor or a fertility expert.

7 Myths About Infertility

What's the truth, and what are just old wives' tales?

Infertility is a complex and often misunderstood condition, which is why there's so much confusion surrounding it. Here are seven common myths to watch out for -- and help dispel.

Myth 1: It's easy for most women to get pregnant.
While it's true that many woman conceive without difficulty, more than five million people of childbearing age in the United States -- or one in every 10 couples -- have problems with infertility. Certain health conditions and factors, such as age, can affect a woman's ability to conceive. For instance, a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month; while by age 40, her chances drop to about 5 percent a month. But infertility can affect women of any age, and from any background.

Pregnant At 53: Older Pregnancy Happened To Me

I met my pediatrician husband four years ago on an Internet dating site. He liked my profile, but he said that he was really hoping to have more children. He was 50 and I was a 49-year-old mother of three grown children -- not to mention that I'd already become a grandmother! I thought a new baby wasn't likely to happen, so, longing to be just a few years younger, I wished him luck. Months later, though, he e-mailed again, imploring me to give him another chance. The issue of children, he said, we would leave to God.

We dated long-distance for six months, before we married in 2010 and I moved from New York to Michigan to be with him. Three years later, God has given us an answer: Today I am 53 years old and pregnant with twins.

Does being older make my pregnancy high-risk?

I'm 37 and pregnant with my first baby. I'm healthy, but does my age make my pregnancy high-risk?

More and more women are becoming moms later in life these days. While being 35 or older does increase your chances for developing certain high-risk conditions during pregnancy, age alone doesn't mean your pregnancy's doomed to health problems.
Some of the more common conditions that may be affected by age include miscarriage, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, diabetes, placenta previa (in which the placenta covers all or part of the cervix), having a baby in the breech position (meaning the baby is feet-first instead of head-first when it's time to deliver), and possibly preterm labor. In addition, babies born to women over 35 also have a higher incidence of birth defects, having a low birth weight, and macrosomia (meaning the baby grows very large).
But before you start to panic, you should know that if you start your pregnancy in good health, get regular prenatal care and make smart lifestyle choices, there's an excellent chance that you'll experience no complications whatsoever.

Conceiving in Your 20s, 30s, and 40s

In Your 20s

When Siobhan Bennett was pregnant with her two daughters during her mid 20s, she had an easy time of it, and she figured things would be the same when she was expecting her son at age 45. "No one sat me down to say, 'Look, your body's twenty years older now,'" says Bennett of Allentown, Pennsylvania. "I was far more fatigued this last time around -- the difference was night and day."

6 Success Stories After Having Trouble Getting Pregnant

Not pregnant yet? No matter how many TTC tricks you know and practice, pregnancy might not happen right away. Relax. Be patient. It can take a while. We found six women willing to share their stories of how they stayed positive when their tests were not.

The Fosters
Got Pregnant In: 2 years

Their Story: After getting married in 2001, Ashley and James began trying to conceive. "When we first started trying, I was obsessive and bought many pregnancy tests even if I knew my period was coming," says Ashley. "We probably spent hundreds of dollars on tests. We viewed making love as work, and it took the pleasure and enjoyment out of it." Eventually they went to a specialist and discovered that James had a low sperm count, so the couple faced the possibility that they may never have children. "I was at the point that I didn't even want to get out of bed some days. I was so depressed," she says.

The Positive: Ashley had a moment of clarity. "I just kept telling myself that when the time was right we would get pregnant," she says. "It's hard, and you often think that there's something wrong with you, and there really wasn't." Much to the couple's surprise, they got pregnant a few months after resigning themselves to the idea of being childless. Daughter Natalie was born in September 2003. They recently received another surprise: twins due in August, conceived without the couple even trying.

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