News & Resources

Coping with Infertility Through the Holidays

November 11, 2013
By Eugenia L. Gullick, Ph.D.

The holiday season is officially upon us. Attain Fertility® Centers, one of the nation’s largest fertility center networks and one of the most trusted brands for information and support in the trying-to-conceive and infertility community, understands that the stress and pressure of this non-stop time of year is hard on everyone and is particularly challenging for the 1 in 8 couples in the United States who are dealing with infertility.*

 “We have over 13,000 Fans in our Facebook community and we asked them to talk about the holidays. One of the most common threads of conversation was about the desire to isolate and avoid gatherings altogether,” said Stephanie Himmel-Nelson, Community Manager for Attain Fertility.  

Eugenia L. Gullick, Ph.D., a Licensed Psychologist with Reproductive Endocrinology Associates of Charlotte, N.C. (REACH), an Attain Fertility Center, hears the same conversation in her sessions with individuals and couples going through fertility treatments and offers insight, ideas and techniques to help cope.

“The nature of infertility is isolating.  Holidays that are centered on family and the celebration of children tend to amplify the feeling of being “on the outside.”   People in this situation tend to feel a sense of grief, anger and the desire to pull away. While it’s important to acknowledge the feelings, it’s equally important not to give in to them to the point where a person is isolated,” she says.  To help individuals and couples find hope and more joy in the season and to keep from isolating she offers the following 6 tips:

1. Look At The Big Picture
While this may not be your best holiday ever, remember that this is not the way holidays will always be. There is a very good possibility that next week, next month, next year you will learn that you have successfully conceived. If not, remember that you have another year before holiday time is here again.

2. Think Flexibly
Instead of ignoring traditions and gatherings, see if there is a way to revisit or revise them. Perhaps this is the year to gently pass up invitations to attend holiday pageants and concerts that the children of family and friends are in. Whatever the situation, if you feel you can’t do it, decide for this year only to do it differently.

3. To Thine Own Self Be True

You are the only one who knows what will help and what will hurt. Whether it’s requesting that friends and family refrain from asking if you are pregnant, or asking for a shoulder to lean on, be clear about what you can and cannot do and communicate your preferences and requests  in a caring and confident way.

4. An Ounce of Prevention

Tell your family and friends in advance, if you think it is best for you not to participate in traditional gatherings.   This will help to avoid hurt feelings and anger.  Also, be sure to remind everyone that your decision is just for this year. Sometimes couples find relief and unexpected pleasure from going off on their own instead of being with family. Take the opportunity to make something pleasant happen so that you aren’t just avoiding the holidays but are creating healthy, fun alternative situations.

5. Stay Connected

It’s important to connect with people who are going through the same thing. Find a support group and reach out.

6. Accentuate the Positive

This is a wonderful time for couples to take stock of all that they already have, including their relationship.  Find ways to do positive things to strengthen relationships.  This is also a time to remember that even though getting pregnant seems like the only important thing in the world, work, friends, partners and health are all equally important sources of fulfillment and joy.

Dr. Gullick also has advice for friends and family members who want to be supportive. “While there is no universal recipe for doing the right thing, I always suggest that friends and family remind loved ones struggling with infertility that existing relationships are “elastic”, and can endure difficult times, as well as unusual requests.  Their requests and boundaries should be respected and they should be reminded that family and friends will continue to “be there”, even during these difficult times.  Other suggestions she has for friends include:

  1. Stay in touch: Drop a card in the mail, write an email or pick up the phone to say hello.
  2. Ask what you can do to help and ask what you shouldn’t do (or say)
  3. Understand that responses may seem odd.   Accept and support them.

In addition to Dr. Gullick’s advice, Attain Fertility offers other support services and tools including:

  • which provides helpful information aboutcoping with holiday stress.Developed with the assistance of mental health professionals who specialize in working with women and men coping with fertility issues, the site offers suggestions on how to deal with grief; how to ask for support from others; seeking help as a couple; how and when to socialize; and how to maximize and maintain self care, among other important topics.
  • A dynamic community of more than 13,000 fans on Facebook who offer support and suggestions to one another throughout their journey to becoming a parent.
  • The Attain Fertility blog addresses  issues people facing infertility are challenged with during the holidays, both from the medical and patient perspective

About IntegraMed America, Inc.

IntegraMed is a leader in developing, marketing and managing specialty outpatient healthcare facilities, with a current focus on the fertility and vein care markets.  IntegraMed supports its provider networks with clinical and business information systems, marketing and sales, facilities and operations management, finance and accounting, human resources, legal, risk management, quality assurance, and fertility treatment financing programs. 

Attain Fertility® Centers, an IntegraMed Specialty, offers the nation’s largest fertility center network, with 14 company-managed partner centers and 24 affiliate centers, comprising over 130 locations across 32 states and the District of Columbia.  Nearly one of every four IVF procedures in the U.S. is performed in an Attain Fertility Centers network practice.

 *2002 National Survey of Family Growth

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