Fertility Counseling & Psychology Services

Infertility is a challenging and stressful time for millions of couples each year. Although each couple handles their situation in unique ways, most will benefit from speaking to a professional about the psychosocial aspects of infertility and its treatments.

Psychology services play an important role in overall treatment for couples at University of Colorado Advanced Reproductive Medicine. Those undergoing third-party reproductive medicine, which involves assistance from others with donated eggs, donated sperm or surrogacy are required to go through counseling sessions. Although many couples are initially hesitant to do this, many find immense benefits in discussing these issues.

UCARM’s fertility counseling program has been in place over 20 years. Psychologists Lynn Blyth, Ph.D., and Joan Manheimer, Ph.D., are both available for sessions. Many fertility clinics refer patients to external counselors but CU believes it’s important to have counseling in-house in order to meet patient needs efficiently and effectively. In addition to meeting with patients, CU counselors correspond with the fertility physicians each week to go over each patient’s progress.

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When patients visit a fertility counselor, topics discussed will vary depending on the particular situation. Topics may include the decision to use donor eggs or sperm and issues that may arise when a couple is raising a child that is not genetically related to both the mother and father.

Other reasons couples may seek out fertility counseling include:

  • Failed in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles (patient may be depressed)
  • Feeling anxious about treatments
  • Couples who disagree on types of treatment (one may want IVF while the other does not).

Some couples may have tried to have children for years, decided to stop, but then changed their minds and seek help. CU fertility counselors help patients navigate these issues and verbalize them with all involved parties so everybody is on the same page and understands each others’ views and goals.

Egg and sperm donation and surrogacy

If parents are using donor eggs or donor sperm, they will need to undergo fertility counseling to discuss the complex issues. For example, will the donor eggs be from someone known by the recipients or from an anonymous donor? Many couples or individuals may use a sister or friend for donor eggs (brother or friend for donor sperm) so that the baby can remain genetically related to both partners. However, this can also open up some unique challenges down the road. For example, a close friend or relative may object to the parenting styles and this may cause animosity.

When an egg or sperm donor is identified, CU will evaluate possible donors for

  • Any potential psychological issues
  • How responsible or dependable the donor is.

Following the evaluation, the donor and all involved parties will have a counseling session to talk about how the process will unfold to ensure that everyone still believes this is the best decision. The party will also need to sign a legally binding contract once everyone has agreed to move forward.

Issues of surrogacy, in which another woman agrees to carry the pregnancy and deliver the child, also can involve difficult situations and complex relationships. In the traditional form of surrogacy, a woman is impregnated via artificial insemination, delivers the baby that has her genes and not the intended mother’s, and gives up the baby to the couple.

More often, surrogacy involves a gestational carrier. This is when the intended parents create an embryo through IVF and the embryo is implanted in the surrogate. The child she delivers for the intended parents will not have her genes but those of the father and mother (or of sperm or egg donors that may be needed).

Either of these situations presents a variety of issues, concerns and emotional complexity. These begin early on and must be thoroughly addressed from the start. Problems can even crop up many years after the birth, perhaps when a surrogate mother wants to connect with the child she delivered. Our psychological counseling is essential in these situations so everyone is as prepared as possible for potential troubling issues that may arise.

Fertility counseling for non-third party situations

Aside from third-party fertility cases, there are many other reasons that individuals or couples should seek out fertility counseling. Our sessions help counsel oncofertility patients who may be facing important fertility preservation decisions before undergoing cancer treatments. Women with congenital abnormalities such as vaginal agenesis (when the vagina does not fully develop) will face issues affecting their sexual development, as well as future fertility and pregnancies.

No matter what issue is affecting a woman’s or couple’s fertility, counseling will help them navigate all the factors and make decisions about future pregnancies or fertility treatments.

Contact CU today for more details on fertility counseling.