Clinics offer new hope in assisting pregnanciesThe number of women suffering from infertility now amounts to 15 percent of married women, up from 10 percent a few years ago, according to doctors at obstetrics and gynecology clinics. They say this is because women are marrying later, and environmental pollution and endometrial cancers that can hinder pregnancy have increased.
At the same time, however, the possibility for seemingly sterile women to succeed in getting pregnant has increased. Solutions to infertility, such as in-vitro fertilization, have been developed and improved, so that almost nine out of every 10 infertile women can succeed in becoming pregnant, said Yang Kwang-moon, a doctor at the obstetrics and gynecology clinic at Cheil General Hospital & Women’s Healthcare Center. But the mental and physical sufferings these women go through is hard to imagine.
Kim Mi-yeon, 43, a dentist in Yangcheon district, western Seoul, was unable to conceive for 18 years after marriage until she finally gave birth to a daughter two years ago. Prior to that, she translated and published Dr. Alice Domar’s book “Conquering Infertility,” which deals with the mental pain of infertile women. Dr. Domar is a senior staff psychologist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, and the founder of the Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health.
“I had an operation for endometrial cancer a few months before I became pregnant. In addition to that, I believe I became more mentally stable while translating the book, and that helped me get pregnant,” said Dr. Kim.
Infertile women usually become very sensitive with anxiety, frustration, depression and even feelings of being victimized. Some confessed that they feel anger when seeing a pregnant woman. That’s why some obstetrics and gynecology clinics separate their infertility and fertility clinics. Infertile women often feel psychologically weak. “I felt so miserable, as if I were a failure in life,” Dr. Kim recalled.
Many women who have difficulty conceiving say that they become frustrated when meeting friends who have children. They don’t like to attend gatherings of family or friends, and they want to avoid the topic of marriage and children.
Particularly women who undergo in-vitro fertilization and implantation feel extreme uneasiness until they know whether the operation was successful or not. The more attempts a couple makes, the more severe mental instability can become. Some even feel guilt if they subsequently miscarry.
Most women who fail to conceive suffer chronic stress, according to Dr. Yang. “Quitting a job doesn’t help an infertile women become pregnant.”
“If pregnancy becomes the center of one’s life, it’s more unlikely to happen, because the stress affects a woman’s bio-rhythms badly,” he added. He also suggests that women not stop exercising, but rather work out as usual, while avoiding excessive alcohol and smoking.
Difficulties with ovulation and endometrium problems should be treated. Dr. Yang said that about 40 percent of infertile women have difficulty in ovulating. Losing weight also can help women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome to become pregnant.
A calm mind and less stress can also aid in becoming pregnant. The longer one is depressed or stressed, the lower the possibility of becoming pregnant. According to a report by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine last year, a research team at the Copenhagen University in Denmark studied 330 infertile couples for a year and they found that infertility-related stress, such as obsession with pregnancy, contributed more to the infertility than work, social or personal stressors.
The relationships between such women and their spouses and families are also very important. “It’s important to express support and empathy to women who are having difficulty conceiving. In contrast, criticism does nothing but decrease their confidence,” said Seo Ho-seok, a psychiatrist at Kangnam CHA Hospital. Dr. Seo added that listening to such women’s situations also helps. As infertile women can get depressed at hearing of another family member’s pregnancy, how best to convey the news is also important.
by Park Tae-kyun