According to reproductivefacts.org, “Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. The long term inability to conceive a child can evoke significant feelings of loss. Coping with the multitude of medical decisions and the uncertainties that infertility brings can create great emotional upheaval for most couples.”
The Stress of It All
Kristin L. Rooney, BA and Alice D. Domar, PhD with Boston IVF wrote:
"Infertility is often a silent struggle. Patients who are struggling to conceive report feelings of depression, anxiety, isolation, and loss of control. Depression levels in patients with infertility have been compared with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.1 It is estimated that 1 in 8 couples (or 12% of married women) have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Despite the prevalence of infertility, the majority of infertile women do not share their story with family or friends, thus increasing their psychological vulnerability. The inability to reproduce naturally can cause feelings of shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. These negative feelings may lead to varying degrees of depression, anxiety, distress, and a poor quality of life.”
It’s normal to experience times of stress throughout the infertility process. However, it becomes a cause of concern when the feelings become persistent or prolonged.
According to reproductivefacts.org, if you experience the following symptoms for a prolonged of time, you may benefit from meeting with a mental health professional.
Loss of interest in usual activities
Depression that doesn't lift
Thoughts that are consumed by infertility
High levels of anxiety
Diminished ability to concentrate or accomplish tasks
Change in your sleep patterns, appetite or weight
Increased use of drugs or alcohol
Persistent feelings of pessimism, guilt, bitterness, anger or worthlessness
Thoughts about death or suicide
Help Is Out There
The following resources are dedicated to helping you improve your Reproductive Mental Health:
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association - RESOLVE provides free support groups in more than 200 communities; is the leading patient advocacy voice; and serves as the go-to organization for anyone challenged in their family building. www.resolve.org
ASRM : American Society for Reproductive Medicine - ASRM is a multidisciplinary organization dedicated to the advancement of the science and practice of reproductive medicine. The Society accomplishes its mission through the pursuit of excellence in education and research and through advocacy on behalf of patients, physicians, and affiliated health care providers. The Society is committed to facilitating and sponsoring educational activities for the lay public and continuing medical education activities for professionals who are engaged in the practice of and research in reproductive medicine. www.asrm.org
Pulling Down The Moon - Holistic care for family health and fertility should be highly personal, compassionate, and customized to meet the unique needs and complex challenges of each patient. Founded in 2002, Pulling Down the Moon recognizes the stress and emotional turmoil and fatigue that can come with infertility as well as your day to day health. www.pullingdownthemoon.com
Shine Fertility - Shine supports women through mentorship, community and education. We empower women by encouraging a proactive approach to fertility health and fertility preservation. www.shinfertility.org
Taking Care of You
It’s ok to be sad, frustrated, angry, resentful, bitter and whatever emotion you may be feeling at this very moment. You are allowed to feel all of the above and more. Sit with it. Don’t force yourself to put on a brave face when you are going through unimaginable pain.
However, when you are ready, allow yourself to work through the emotions you are experiencing.
Georgia Witkin, Ph.D with Progyny wrote:
“You may not have control over the physical effects of fertility treatment, but you can take control over many of the psychological effects. What you think and what you do shapes what you feel, so choose thoughts and behaviors that reinforce your sense of control.”