Crisis Intervention: Theory and Methodology

By Donna C. Aguilera | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
The Psychological
Trauma of
Infertility

Your are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

—Kahlil Gibran

Many couples now plan their families as meticulously as they plan their education, choice of career, living situation, and other major financial investments. They measure all factors and wait for the opportune moment to start their family.

For one of every six couples of childbearing age, fertility is not a force that can be turned on at will. Infertility, the inability to achieve pregnancy after 1 year of regular sexual relations or the inability to carry pregnancy to a live birth, is experienced by 15% of the population of childbearing age. The U.S. Census Bureau (1993) states that there are now over 300 million Americans; of these, 66 million, or about 30%, are between the ages of 22 and 40 years. If the accepted rate of infertility (15%) is applied to this number, it is probable that there are more than 10 million who may, at some time, be unable to achieve or carry pregnancy. Of this number, about 40% have an infertility problem related solely to the female, another 40% have a problem related solely to the male, and the remaining 20% have a problem that either affects both members of the couple or is of unknown origin (Halpert, 1994).

Although the childless couple is more socially acceptable in modern society, there is a distinct group of infertile couples who feel what they consider to be social pressures to become parents. As a woman and her partner begin to realize that she may never bear a child, an emotional state develops that can be called the crisis of infertility (Bresnick and Taymor, 1979). Approximately 30 years ago, 40% to 50% of infertility cases were thought to be the result of emotional factors. Infertile couples were described as having typical personality traits that resulted in their inability to conceive. More recently our increased understanding of neuroendocrinology, as well as other advances in the field, has reduced emotional factors as a cause of infertility to less than 5%. Infertility itself is frequently a source of

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