Infertility And Depression: What You Need to Know
Infertility and depression are commonly interlinked. Couples struggling to conceive over time may experience frustration and a sense of lowered self-worth, leading to stress and, ultimately, depression. Depression, in turn, can also reduce the probability of pregnancy. Additionally, these negative emotional states can begin to cause problems in the relationship. Let’s discuss the effects of infertility among couples, and why considering fertility treatment may be beneficial.
The Emotional Impact of Infertility
The emotional impact of infertility is well-documented. In fact, recent studies have indicated that infertility is a severe psychological stressor among women. This stress can often cause emotional turmoil within the relationship and be detrimental to the mental health of both individuals. Negative feelings arise, such as disappointment, frustration, and—when the couple notices others reaching their pregnancy milestone—jealousy.
Fertility treatment may also cause irritability, which may be worsened by the individual’s sense of needing these medical procedures in the first place. Furthermore, miscarriages followed by failed IVF cycles may cause feelings of grief, mourning, and loss. All of these circumstances can take their toll, bringing on mental health complications and leaving couples feeling helpless and isolated.
Mental Health And Infertility: The Emotional Impacts
The physical and emotional demands of fertility treatment can take a toll on mental health in multiple ways, and it’s important to be aware of these so couples can seek out help. Some of the most prevalent conditions are:
- Depression – Infertility and depression, as stated above, are commonly experienced together. When an individual’s emotional state is affected by infertility, they have a significantly higher chance of developing depression. Since these emotional consequences can contribute to a persistent and severe low mood, they can directly cause symptoms of depression that may worsen the longer an individual is receiving fertility treatments.
- Anxiety – The uncertainty of the future and constant worry about undergoing procedures can lead to feelings of overwhelming dread. While these worrisome thoughts are surely warranted, an anxious mind may lower the chances of conception and lessen overall quality of life.
- Stress – The link between mental health and infertility is grounds for feelings of severe stress. When this unpredictable situation arises, it can cause mental and physical symptoms of stress, such as anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping, among others. These feelings then often contribute to both anxiety and depression.
Even though infertility can heavily impact one specific individual, it is often not a one-sided predicament. There are many effects of infertility among couples, which can include:
- Emotional Distress – When feelings of hopelessness and depression impact both partners, they can lead to guilt and blame, causing a strain on the relationship and impacting healthy communication.
- Low Self-Esteem – If a couple feels as if they are unable to have a child, they may experience low self-esteem and low self-worth.
- Financial Burden – Infertility treatments such as IVFs are often expensive and can cause financial distress in the relationship.
- Loss of Intimacy – When a couple distances themselves, whether as a result of guilt and blame or simply a lack of communication, it can cause them to feel less intimate with one another.
Coping Strategies For Infertility and Depression
While further research is still needed to prove that psychological intervention can improve pregnancy rates by lowering stress, therapy and other coping strategies can mitigate the negative emotional consequences of infertility.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), for instance, can help individuals identify and change specific thought patterns that cause emotional distress and feelings of hopelessness. Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and yoga can also alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety, while other strategies, such as expressive writing, can help reduce symptoms of depression.
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