Going the Distance through Fertility Treatment | Psychology Today
Going the Distance through Fertility Treatment: Be Your Own Best Coach

Joann Paley Galst, Ph.D.
Aug 8, 2015

Did you ever have a really remarkable coach in softball, tennis, or soccer growing up? Someone you still think about fondly because they had such a positive impact on your life, someone who inspired you to try your best, to learn new skills, to persevere even in the face of loss?

Fertility treatment is stressful, scary, and frustrating. While experiencing infertility is sometimes a sprint, for many it is more of a long distance run. If you are your own worst enemy in this process by feeding yourself negative self-talk on a regular basis, you may be draining your energy and depleting your inner resilience making it more difficult for you to continue on this road until you decide objectively that you have finished your race.

One of the most common reasons for premature treatment termination (dropping out of the race) is the psychological burden or stress of treatment (Domar et al, 2010; Gamerio et al, 2012; Van den Broeck et al, 2009). A great coach may be what you need. While hiring such a coach may be an option for some, becoming your own fertility coach, your inner voice of encouragement and support, is probably your surest bet for an ever-available partner in this endeavor.

Here are five suggestions for being your own best fertility coach:

Don?t beat yourself up. A good coach is encouraging not shaming. Instead of focusing on an unsuccessful cycle and berating yourself for it, your good coach can help you focus on what you did right. Look for the lesson in this experience and make decisions from there. If you start to slip into your inner critic saying things to yourself such as, ?I?m a failure,? your good coach helps you focus on your positive qualities and strengths.

Ditch outdated hand-me-down talk. Let your good coach help you trace the origins of the negative messages you may have picked up in childhood (e.g., ?I can?t do anything right.?), weed them out, and replace them with corrected and updated positive self-talk.

View setbacks as stepping stones, not all-encompassing and never-ending negative experiences. If we want to persevere, we need to learn from the setback experience and get ourselves back on track to where we ultimately want to go. Your supportive inner coach can help you question a tendency to think in all-or-nothing ways (e.g., ?If it didn?t work this time, it will never work?) and recognize, instead, that failure falls on a continuum. Truly, if it didn?t kill you, there?s a chance to succeed next time. Each challenge is individual and not part of some greater never-ending negative pattern. Create your plan of attack rather than feeling overwhelmed and giving up.

Don?t personalize. If things don?t go as hoped for, don?t assume all of the fault. Instead, look at the factors that have contributed to this outcome and don?t take it personally. As your own best coach, consider that the technology failed you this time rather than you failed since you followed all directives given to you by your treating physician. If things didn?t go your way, a good coach doesn?t see this as a reflection on your ability or value as a human being.

Forgive yourself. A supportive inner coach values and respects you and hopes you will come out a winner. Even when you make mistakes, though, a good coach looks for ways to improve and move on. Forgiving yourself gives you the strength to re-build resilience and continue trying to reach your goals.

Hoping you find within yourself your own best coach to support you through this marathon.


Domar, AD, Smith, K, Conboy, L, Iannone, M, Alper, M. A prospective investigation into the reasons why insured United States patients drop out of in vitro fertilization treatment. Fertil Steril, 2010; 94(4): 1457-59.

Gameiro, S, Boivin, J, Peronace, L, Verhaak, CM. Why do patients discontinue fertility treatment? A systematic review of reasons and predictors of discontinuation in fertility treatment. Hum Reprod Update, 2012; 18: 652-69.

Van den Broeck, U, Holvoet, L, Enzlin, P, Bakelants, E, Demyttenaere, K, D?Hooghe, T. Reasons for dropout in infertility treatment. Gynecol Obstet Invest, 2009;68(1): 58-64.