Coping With Infertility During the Holiday Season

By Alice Domar, PhD
Executive Director
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF

One of our physicians was recently scheduled to be interviewed for a morning television program in Maine ~ and in addition to speaking on the medical aspects of infertility treatment, he was told prior to the interview that they would like him to also speak about the emotional impact during the holiday season.

He quickly emailed our chief social worker and I to ask what the main issues are and we were both delighted to fill him in, since this time of year can in fact be a tough time for our patients.  Here in a nutshell is what we told him and he discussed each and every issue in depth and with sensitivity.

First of all, many people who are experiencing infertility use Christmas as a marker of time, so that you might be feeling, “here is yet another Christmas and we don’t have a baby” or  “that makes X number of years we have been going through this”.

The season also has lost a lot of its emphasis on the religious aspect and focuses more on the toys than on the spiritual. So now you are being flooded with commercials featuring kids getting gifts on Christmas morning, seeing ads in papers and the web about toy sales, etc.

Many church services focus on children, and may also focus on the miracle of the conception and birth of Jesus.  This can be a common issue with Christmas Eve and Christmas morning services. So going to your place of worship instead of being a place of shelter and comfort can sometimes be a source of pain.

Finally, you are probably getting countless holiday cards which feature pictures of babies and children from your friends and family. Which means that opening the mail can be a daily source of distress.

It can be a very lonely and isolating time for our patients.

I try to support them during this time by suggesting that they try to find meaning in their faith, by perhaps volunteering to help those less fortunate, and maybe even making new traditions of their family of two. So if your families make you crazy on Christmas, you can either suddenly come down with a stomach bug so to miss your nieces and nephews tearing open their presents, or head off for a couples cruise or B&B stay.

You need to remember that if you are feeling sad or anxious during this season, it is completely normal and don’t let anyone tell you that it is bad or weird for you to feel upset when you see yet another spot on the news of adorable babies sitting on Santa’s lap.

Think about what you need, make those needs known to your loved ones, and figure out what will make this season as tolerable or even enjoyable as you can.

ABOUT ALICE DOMAR, PhD

Alice D. Domar, PhD is a pioneer in the application of mind/body medicine to men’s and women’s health issues. She not only established the first Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health, but also conducts ongoing ground-breaking research in the field. Her research focuses on the relationship between stress and different women’s health conditions, and creating innovative programs to help women decrease physical and psychological symptoms.

Dr. Domar received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Health Psychology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Ferkauf School of Professional Psychology of Yeshiva University. Her post-doctoral training was at Beth Israel Hospital, Deaconess Hospital, and Children’s Hospital, all in Boston.

She has conducted research on infertility, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms, ovarian cancer, and premenstrual syndrome. Dr. Domar has earned an international reputation as one of the country’s top women’s health experts.

She is currently the Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. She is an assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and a senior staff psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Domar has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments as a best-selling author, media authority and sought-after public speaker. She is the author of numerous books, on the advisory board for Parents Magazine, Health Magazine, Conceive Magazine, and Resolve, and on the Board of Experts for LLuminari. Two of her books have been finalists for the Books for a Better Life Award. She was also the Series Editor for a series of mind/body books by Harvard Medical Publications/Simon and Schuster. She is the narrator of the DVD’s “Stress and Relaxation Explained” and “Infertility Explained”, both of which won silver Telly Awards.  Dr. Domar has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline NBC, CNN, PBS, and the CBS and NBC Evening News, to name a few. She presents lectures and conducts workshops throughout the US and around the world and went on tour with Oprah in the spring of 2004 and 2005 with the LLuminari team. Dr. Domar was named to the prestigious list of 15 “Women to Watch in 2004″ by Lifetime TV. Her newest book is “Be Happy Without Being Perfect” (Three Rivers Press, March, 2009) and she is currently working on a new book, co-authored with Dr. Susan Love, called “Live a Little” (Crown, December, 2009). She is also a featured expert on the new online social health network BeWell.com.