Caring for Your Mental Health During Fertility Testing and Treatments
Written By: Dr. Karine Matevossian and Dr. May-Tal Sauerbrun-Cutle on May 6, 2022
Couples seeking fertility treatment often grapple with infertility, pregnancy loss, and other complex medical diagnoses. All of this can all take a psychological toll and infertility can significantly affect patients’ mental health. Research shows patients undergoing infertility treatment have an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder. A recent study of 352 women and 274 men seeking treatment for infertility found that a majority had significant symptoms of anxiety and depression.
In addition to the stress of figuring out a diagnosis and seeking treatment, external pressures can affect mental health throughout the fertility journey. Often patients, particularly women, feel familial, cultural, and societal pressures to have children. Patients can also feel that there is a stigma associated with infertility. This may make it more difficult for couples to confide in their usual support system. A Swedish study of patients undergoing in vitro fertilization showed that almost 50% of men and 15% of women did not discuss their infertility treatment with their friends or family.
Patients can also feel that infertility takes away some of their control and that their body is letting them down. However, taking care of your mental health is one way that couples can take back some control. Therapy can be extremely helpful for couples to navigate the fertility journey and process their feelings. There are also online resources and phone applications that provide different coping strategies. For example, Resolve: The National Infertility Association, can be a great resource for patients. They offer a helpline as well as support groups that bring together people going through similar experiences. Phone applications can be a convenient and easily accessible resource, one example is Ferticalm which provides coping options for different scenarios.
It is also important for patients to practice self-care and prioritize their needs. For each person, this can mean something different but often includes exercise, meditation, yoga, being outdoors, or spending time with friends and family. Recharging and taking time for yourself is essential as a treatment for infertility is often a marathon and not a sprint.
Though it may seem that everyone around you has no issues having children, in fact, infertility affects 10-15% of couples. You are not alone, and infertility is not your fault. Contact us to learn more about how our team can help support you as we help you build your family.
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