Therapy and Infertility
In last month's issue we introduced our readers to Peggy Orlin, MFT, Pacific Fertility Center's in-house therapist. This month we interviewed her about the key psychological issues affecting individuals and couples experiencing infertility. What is the most common reason why someone comes to see you at PFC? At Pacific Fertility Center everyone who uses a known or unknown egg or sperm donor or a gestational carrier is required to meet with me. This is mainly an educational session designed to help people think through and discuss the issues involved with using a third party to assist them in building a family. Each meeting is custom tailored to meet the patient'(s) particular needs.
|Use of a third party for reproduction and its impact on a relationship.
|Attachment to a non-genetically related child.
|Disclosure of third party reproduction to family, friends and the child.
|Choice of meeting or not meeting with the donor.
|Use of a family member or friend as the donor.
|Multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets) and its impact on your lives.
|Support services during and after treatment.
What are some of the other reasons people seek your help? Some patients have had a failed cycle and are having trouble coping with the losses. Other patients have experienced a miscarriage. Both of these scenarios can leave patients feeling bereft and not sure how to move forward. During a session, I can help them understand the grieving process and we can discuss ways that they might ritualize their loss in order to move forward. The stress of infertility diagnosis and treatment often brings them to me either at the center or in my private practice. It is important to understand that no two people will have exactly the same experience and that infertility can strongly impact those within a committed relationship. A recent diagnosis of infertility, as well as the stress and/or disappointments of treatment, can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Additionally, people may experience grief over the loss of fertility choices. It is not uncommon that I am the first person, other than their partner, with whom they discuss their feelings about their infertility challenges. There are those who are at a critical decision point and are seeking help thinking through their reproductive alternatives. This may include deciding whether or not to do one last IVF, move on to egg donation, select an egg donor or complete their family through adoption or childfree living. In the therapy sessions, we discuss and explore the pros and cons of a decision from the unique perspective of their life beliefs and situation. Others may need help with developing positive coping mechanisms and stress reduction techniques such as setting aside time each day to discuss infertility with their partner, rather than allowing it to be a constant topic of conversation. We may also discuss how they can reduce their isolation possibly by talking with others who are having similar experiences. We may even explore how to include moderate exercise in their schedule to reduce symptoms of depression.
What is your advice to those who are uncertain whether or not they should see a therapist? For patients at the clinic, one exploratory visit can be helpful. Their doctor can refer them to me for one free session during which we can discuss any concerns they may have and talk together about whether or not seeing a private therapist might be useful for them. They are not signing on for long-term therapy by talking with me. As with stress reduction techniques-it can't hurt and it might help.
Could you discuss the Mind/Body@PFC Workshop and who might benefit from attending? The jury is still out on the connection between stress and infertility. Recent studies indicate that there may be a stronger connection between depression and infertility than between anxiety and infertility. The Mind/Body classes not only teach people simple ways to relax, but the small group class gives them the experience of being in a safe environment with others who are all experiencing infertility and know just what it's like to be going through infertility treatment. This group experience helps to reduce stress and may be helpful to ease mild depression. (Call 888-834-3095 to register or Click here for more information)
How does your private practice differ from your practice at Pacific Fertility Center? Clients in my private practice tend to be those who are interested in more than one session. Some stay for a few sessions and some want longer-term therapy. Many are couples who are struggling with how differently they are approaching and/or moving toward resolution of their infertility journey. Sometimes clients are self-referred for infertility issues and then as we meet, they chose to move on to other issues in their relationship or their lives. Although I have a specialty with infertility patients, my private practice is with adults experiencing all types of distress.
Depression frequently accompanies infertility. When should someone seek a therapist? The experience of symptoms of depression which last more than a couple of weeks is an important reason to set up an appointment with me or a therapist of your choosing. Remember, everyone will feel some of these symptoms, some of the time. They become a problem when the number and intensity of symptoms increase and/or don't abate.
Symptoms of depression: Feelings of emptiness or extreme sadness Loss of interest and motivation to do regular activities Increased level of anxiety Decreased level of energy Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual Difficulty concentrating Abnormal weight loss or gain Obsessive thinking about your infertility Feelings of isolation from friends and family Extreme and persistent feelings of anger Persistent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts or attempts Persistent feelings of inadequacy, or worthlessness
What is the best way to make an appointment with you? PFC patients phone the front desk at (415) 834-3000 and ask to set up an appointment. Those who prefer to see me outside PFC can make an appointment for a visit at either my San Francisco or Berkeley office by calling (510) 528-2750. -- Peggy Orlin, M.S., M.F.T.