Why A Therapist is an Essential Member of Your Fertility Tribe
“You should probably speak to someone.” Therapy has become more and more widely accepted in recent years – but these words can still be jarring to hear. And despite the toll that a difficult fertility journey takes on everyone, many hopeful parents are surprised when their fertility team recommends seeing a mental health expert.
The Donor Concierge team has been in this business for two decades – and we know firsthand how valuable mental health support can be for hopeful parents. A complicated fertility journey can affect all areas of your life: your physical health, your finances, your relationships, your plans for the future, and so much more. Working with a therapist who specializes in assisted reproduction can help you feel as prepared and calm as possible as you navigate your fertility journey.
So why exactly should you go see a mental health professional?
Your fertility clinic knows therapy is important
Your clinic will probably recommend that you see someone, (in gestational surrogacy cycles, it’s a requirement) and they might even call it a "psychological evaluation" or a "psychological assessment." This can rub some people the wrong way, especially considering that “traditional” parents don’t have to get checked out by a psychologist as they get pregnant. It can be easy to think of this as an unnecessary hoop you have to jump through – but the fertility team at your clinic simply wants to ensure you have the support you need. In the words of Rhonda Levy, Founder & CEO of Empowered IVF, “the actual purpose of the meeting is to help you, educate you, and to advocate for your unborn child.”
It will help you with difficult feelings like grief and anger
Infertility can be traumatic. We don’t need to tell you that. From the physical toll it can take on your body to the mental stress it brings, fertility struggles can be a huge burden. And as hopeful parents make the decision to pursue third-party fertility, it’s natural to grieve and to have confusing feelings, even anger, about moving on to a donor egg cycle or the surrogacy process. A mental health professional specializing in reproductive medicine and family building knows this and can give you the tools you need to cope with feelings of loss, uncertainty, anxiety, or stress. Hopeful parents know they are ready for a baby. A mental health professional will make sure that you feel ready.
It’s best for your child
Mental health professionals who specialize in family building and reproductive medicine are trained to act as an advocate for the unborn child. They have extensive knowledge of the feelings and outcomes of children conceived through donor conception. While you meet with them, they will share their knowledge with you to ensure you have a healthy, supportive and loving relationship with your child.
While the meeting is not a true “assessment” or “test,” mental health professionals are trained to spot any psychopathology in parents. As they advise parents and act as an advocate for the unborn child, they will note any serious issues like substance abuse or spousal abuse. Luckily, the instances of this are rare. As therapist Carole LieberWilkins says, “Most of the time, patients are as qualified to parent as anyone... Only now, because they have been required to see a professional, they are much better educated about certain aspects of family-building and parenting.”
You’ll be ready for tough questions
A mental health professional will help you work through more than just the third party fertility process. They will help you consider how you will address the special circumstances of parenting a donor-conceived child and/or a child born from gestational surrogacy. That means rather than dreading having the “where did I come from” conversation with your child, looking forward to explaining your child’s special backstory and guiding him or her to understand how your unique family was created.
Even the most cool, calm and collected hopeful parents can benefit from mental health support during this process. You may feel like you don’t “need” it, but meeting with a mental health professional specializing in assisted reproduction can help answer questions you never knew you had. There are many benefits to seeing a specialized therapist, so we give the same advice when our clients ask us for our opinion: ““You should probably speak to someone!”
For a list of mental health therapists in your area, ask your Donor Concierge case manager for a referral, or check out our preferred list on our resources page.