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Psychosocial Aspects of Fertility Treatments

Infertility is a medical condition not unlike other medical conditions; it can affect many aspects of your life.

It can create one of the most stressful life crises that an individual or couple ever experience. It can also affect your relationship with others, your perspective on life, as well as how you feel about yourself.

In this important podcast, Dr. Alan Martinez discusses the psychosocial aspects of fertility treatments, and when to seek help for individuals and couples, to cope with the physical and emotional changes associated with infertility, as well as with the medical treatments that can be painful and intrusive.
Psychosocial Aspects of Fertility Treatments
Featured Speaker:
Alan Martinez, MD
Dr. Alan Martinez is a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. He was drawn to this specialty because it is an ever-evolving field of medicine that allows him to partner with patients and provide personalized treatment plans. He also appreciates that the field is filled with the latest laboratory technology, which continues to advance success rates.

After graduating with distinction with a B.S in biology and B.A. in psychology from San Diego State University, Dr. Martinez received his medical degree from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He completed his obstetrics and gynecology residency training at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, an affiliate teaching institution with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. He completed his fellowship training at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Learn more about Dr. Alan Martinez

Melanie Cole (Host): Infertility is a medical and social condition that can cause considerable emotional and psychological distress to the couple that’s going through fertility treatments. Here to discuss the psychosocial effects and aspects of fertility treatments, is Dr. Alan Martinez. He’s a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey. Welcome to the show Dr. Martinez. So, can stress levels influence the outcome of fertility treatments as well as contribute to the patient’s decision to keep continuing treatment?

Dr. Alan Martinez (Guest): Thank you for having me today, Melanie. I appreciate coming on and having an opportunity to talk. Yes, absolutely, we believe that stress does have a component with overall health as well as fertility treatments and outcomes. We encourage our patients as they go through an evaluation to make sure that they have a good social structure, to make sure that they are understanding things from a medical perspective as well as a personal perspective and to consider all their options, so that they absolutely feel comfortable with any treatment options that we present to them. And this is very important to remind our patients that staying calm, staying positive throughout any sort of medical treatment can have potential benefits.

Melanie: Well it’s certainly an emotional type of treatment, I mean you are trying to have a baby, so the ups and downs plus there might be hormones involved. So, what do you first tell them about what to expect as far as the people in their lives and those emotional roller coasters that could come from successful or unsuccessful treatments?

Dr. Martinez: When I have the patients in the office and I will sit down with both a single patient, with same sex couples, heterosexual couples and you can really tell the strength of a relationships oftentimes when you first have your initial conversation with them. So, I think that’s important to assess what kind of a social network and support network they have. I encourage patients who are considering fertility treatments especially if they’re going outside of their significant other as far as like maybe they might use donor eggs or donor sperm in some situations or even those who have been through multiple miscarriages to consider speaking with somebody who is a kind of a third party who specializes in this and by that I mean there are fertility counselors that we use and utilize, recommend these individuals, sit down and talk with them and they can often provide a very unique perspective and a form of social support with our patients. And lastly, oftentimes you will have family members and friends that are so interested and want my patient to be so successful with their fertility treatments that they will actually almost be too encroaching on the play by play, each visit, the treatment outcomes whether it be a insemination, IVF and oftentimes many of our couples and patients may initially invite those people in to the lives of how they are being treated, but then ultimately they kind of back off and keep things more private because they find that that may be easier to go through the fertility treatments and not have individuals that really have a good – that really care and love the patient, but they are so interested in every little step along the way that it actually becomes a source of stress for the patient.

Melanie: Well that makes so much sense Dr. Martinez and also with the hope that comes along with fertility treatments, your well-meaning relatives and coworkers and people that you have let into this information, they get hopeful as well. So, if it doesn’t work, then it is like you’re letting other people down too. What do you tell them about letting those people in and that hope that goes around that can actually affect the patient?

Dr. Martinez: So, I really sit down, and I ask them okay, who are you close with. Who do you talk to on a personal level? Is it a close friend, childhood friend, high school friend, whatever, adult friend? Is it the mother-in-law, the mother? And you really need to assess their reaction to that relationship, because some of them see it as an absolute source of strength. Others see it as yes oh I need to kind of keep this information because it is going to in other words, stress me out in some instances. So, it’s really important just to have those honest conversations with my patient and I think that’s always helpful and I let them know that they have to believe in the science, believe and establish the trust with their provider and with our practice and as they proceed, believe that they are utilizing the medical technology and any assistance. It’s not their fault. It’s not anything that they necessarily did. They are going to follow the rules. They are going to come to their appointments, but at the end of the day, if they have faith in that, if they believe in it, that alleviates so much of their personal stress knowing that they have an advocate from a medical perspective and then if they have people in their lives that they can use for a support network, that’s great, if not we can direct them to the licensed clinical social workers in our area that specialize in fertility counseling. And sometimes that’s very beneficial, not only for the female patient but for the male partner or same sex partners.

Melanie: So, what a good point and if they are going to let people in or if they are not; then what do you say to them about that feeling because I would imagine there’s a big feeling of social isolation when you are going through that and you look around at the parks and places and people with babies and I mean we have seen that in the media and it can cause great depression, correct, so who do you guide them to?

Dr. Martinez: So, assessing their own personal connections if they have friends, family members like I mentioned before, that is a great asset, if they believe in it and if they think they can reach out to those individuals. I ask them do you have any friends that have been through any fertility treatments? Because the people who have been through it are the ones who are going to be a huge source of strength for these individuals. If they don’t have that, then we have, and this is anywhere throughout the country and the world, there are plenty of counselors out there. Most of them are psychologists, licensed clinical social workers that really have an interest in helping couples, patients navigate these sorts of situations and talking to somebody who is an independent party as a couple, as an individual patient can be such an amount of strength for these individuals. So, we have a list of local providers in the area that we know that they can be very beneficial in alleviating some of that stress and really mentally preparing the patient to undergo any sort of fertility treatment that we agree to in the office.

Melanie: That’s great advice. So, wrap it up for us Dr. Martinez, the psychosocial aspects, the feelings of depression and hope, the social isolation and yet maybe sometimes overinclusion of all these loved ones and well-meaning relatives that ask you about it all the time and how’s it going. What do you want listeners to know about when they are entering into fertility treatments about that whole social network and the psychosocial aspects that can really help their fertility treatments along?

Dr. Martinez: I always tell my patients when they first sit down, that we are going to go through a battery of tests, we are going to find out about your body, about your hormones reproductive wise, we are going to illicit details that should ultimately remove the stress from your life. Because people are frustrated when they come to see us. So, I say it’s going to be a logical progression of tests, that we are going to get information, we are going to summarize that for them. We are going to work as a team with them. We are going to be advocates for the patient from a medical perspective as well as a personal perspective to a certain degree and that they are not alone and that nothing that they did contributed to their current state of needing help and there are a lot of couples out there, a lot of individuals that need the same kind of help and it is very standard of care. People may not talk about it, but when you actually open up to those around you, they can be a great source of strength and if not, within your own intricate circle; then there are always resources that are available to you and so I don’t want my patients – we don’t want our patients to handle anything alone but we want them to draw upon their support network and if not, we help them navigate and find the right individuals to speak with.

Melanie: That’s such important information and what a great topic to discuss for all these couples going through fertility treatments. Thank you, Dr. Martinez, for being with us today. This is Fertility Talk with RSCNJ, the Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey. For more information, please visit that’s . This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.