Fertility and Body Image: How Infertility Can Affect Self-Esteem and Body Confidence

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system that impairs a person's ability to reproduce. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 9% of men and 11% of women in America experience infertility during their reproductive years, and the prevalence of the disorder is becoming more common as time goes on. But regardless of the rise in the incidence and increased awareness of infertility, there remains a stigma that surrounds the disorder. In addition, infertility commonly impacts a person’s body image and self-esteem.  

Infertility and Self-Esteem

The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that infertility diagnoses often accompany psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, shame, and strained relationships. It’s common for people to feel a sense of failure at not having lived up to their family-of-origin traditions and long-term goals of starting a family.

After receiving a diagnosis of infertility, many people report feeling anxious and sad. They often feel hopeless, like they won't be able to have a family, and their self-esteem can be affected. Research shows that infertility is also known to change a person’s body image, causing some to feel broken, insecure, and less physically and sexually attractive.

Negative self-talk related to infertility is common. Infertility often leads to the belief of false messages, such as not viewing oneself as a “real” man or woman when unable to conceive. Various modes of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help people with infertility challenge the misinformation they hear from others and communicate to themselves through positive self-talk. 

Infertility Counseling

Infertility counseling is becoming much more widespread over the past decade. New treatment modalities are being implemented to help people with infertility navigate the emotional issues linked with being unable to naturally conceive. Therapy modalities such as CBT, stress reduction, and relaxation techniques are becoming increasingly popular.

Choices for People with Infertility

Assisted reproduction treatment (ART), such as egg donation, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), and surrogacy, are options for many people with infertility. Fertility therapists/counselors have specialized training to learn about the various ART options so they can support their clients in making informed decisions. In addition to providing counseling, infertility therapists often play a crucial role in helping people make family planning choices. There are several factors that impact available choices, such as:

  • Insurance coverage,
  • Affordability (the ability to pay for or procure financing for ART) 
  • The nature of infertility (e.g., males who are infertile may opt for a sperm donor)
  • The individual or couple’s circumstances (for example, male LGBTQ+ couples may consider an egg donor and gestational surrogate; women with infertility may consider an egg donor)

Preparing clients in advance to cope with unsuccessful attempts at ART, such as failed IVF, is another vital role in treating a person with infertility. Without adequate support or treatment, low self-esteem, or poor body image, sufferers are at high risk of sinking back into depression following an ART failure, which may occur, particularly during the first IVF cycle. 

Seek Help Today

If you need help due to low body image or self-esteem issues that stem from infertility, particularly if you are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression (e.g., persistent depressed mood, loss of interest in socialization and/or activities, loss of appetite or increased appetite, trouble sleeping, and hopelessness or helplessness), it’s important to reach out to a mental health professional as soon as possible. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 988 to access the Suicide and Crisis hotline right away.

To learn more about your family planning options, contact Fertility Source Companies today. While we don’t give mental health advice, our experienced, caring professionals can help you understand your ART options and provide resources to enable you to plan a course of action in your family planning journey.