Perhaps one of the most important benefits of participating in a support group is a decreased sense of the isolation so many people feel when they are experiencing infertility. In a support group environment, feelings of anger, depression, guilt and anxiety can be expressed, validated by others and accepted as a normal response to the infertility crisis.
Support group members often realize how their experiences in the group have created a special bond and identity between group members. By sharing feelings, accomplishments, losses, and humor known only to those who experience infertility, members can develop strong emotional ties to one another.
The freedom to express negative feelings and to identify with one another helps participants realize that they are not alone in their struggle with infertility. They can experience a sense of emotional relief from the support of others. Members who may already have a highly supportive network of family and friends can find that a group provides a place to continue to share feelings without overburdening loved ones.
By offering a safe place to express and explore the feelings generated by the infertility experience, support groups help participants move toward a positive resolution of this difficult life crisis.
Support group participants learn to regain previous levels of coping or to develop more effective coping skills. Members find assistance in coming to terms with difficult emotions and stresses inherent in the infertility experience, such as the effects on one's personal relationships, self-image, and sexuality. By sharing information and resources, learning how others have coped with similar problems, and witnessing the coping styles of others, members can improve their own problem-solving abilities. Groups offer members realistic feedback as they try out new coping strategies, learn to be more assertive with health care professionals, and share their infertility with significant people in their lives.
Couples who are having difficulty communicating with each other about their infertility can gain a better understanding of their partners' reactions to infertility and learn how to support each other during times of stress.
Group members benefit from enhanced self-esteem when they improve their coping abilities. A sense of emotional strength can return as one gains a sense of perspective and control during a difficult crisis such as the infertility experience. Emotional energy can be made available to address other life issues and challenges that may have been put on hold.