Many women are not strangers to the ups and downs in mood that occur during the monthly cycle, but the intensity and all-encompassing nature of fertility concerns can amplify these emotions. Obviously, each individual’s experience is different, but there are many feelings that can come up at each stage of fertility treatment. The beginning of treatment can be marked by (renewed) hope as the month/cycle begins. Though, this also may be a time with many medical appointments and “interventions,” all of which can be taxing emotionally and physically. The next stage can be filled with anxiety and/or anticipation as one endures the “two-week wait.” During this time, it can be challenging to concentrate on work or other aspects of life due to being hyper-focused on “signs” that the treatment has been successful or unsuccessful. At the end of the two-week wait, the arrival of a period can be devastating for many women. The grief one experiences at not being pregnant that cycle can be profound. At this point, many women engage in self-blame and worry whether future treatment will work, further contributing to feelings of anxiety and sadness. This can also be compounded by financial concerns or questions of what to do next, namely whether to continue to utilize fertility treatments to become pregnant, to look at other options to build a family.
Along those lines, disenfranchised grief occurs when these feelings are not openly acknowledged or socially sanctioned. In some cases, women undergoing fertility treatments have not disclosed this to their extended support system or others in their life. Therefore they may not be able to discuss their feelings as they arise throughout the monthly cycle. Similarly, other individuals who have not experienced the acute disappointment and grief associated with infertility may not completely understand the emotions involved, and minimize them (often unintentionally). It is also sometimes hard for individuals to understand how one can grieve for the absence of something (pregnancy), as much as when someone/something is present and then lost. Yet, perhaps the most important message is to recognize that any emotions one feels, and especially grief, are valid and important to acknowledge. Paying attention to self-care and finding the support you need, whether from an online or anonymous community, or in person, is essential.