Psychological Impact of Infertility
Motherhood has long been emphasised to be one of the most prominent milestones for a woman in the societal structure around the globe. Therefore, inability to conceive over a long period of time can cause profound feelings of grief and loss. Due to the solitary nature of the infertility struggle, it’s effect on one’s mental health is far less acknowledged and talked about.
What are some of the psychological challenges related to infertility?
- Grief and sense of loss –Women upon learning that they are infertile often experience distressing emotions. Some of the common reactions include shock, grief, anger and low self-esteem.
- Social Isolation –Couples dealing with infertility might face social isolation either due to profound stigma or their willingness to avoid social interactions with friends and family members who have children.
- A repeating cycle –Due to the nature of the infertility struggle, the associated psychological impact also follows a pattern. Couples attempt to conceive during the fertility window each month and wait anxiously for weeks before finding out if they are having a baby or not. With each negative pregnancy test, the associated grief becomes profound and negatively impacts emotional health.
- Medical intervention – Few of the drugs used to treat infertility may cause a multitude of psychological side effects. Hence, it becomes imperative to address specific mental health issues for women undergoing treatment for infertility.
When should one consider seeking help?
It’s common for women pursuing infertility treatment to go through emotional ups and downs. Feeling distressed or overwhelmed is perfectly normal. However, if these symptoms are experienced over a significant period of time, consulting a mental health professional can be really beneficial.
- Loss of interest in usual activities.
- Strained interpersonal relationships (with partner, family, friends and/or colleagues).
- High levels of anxiety.
- Difficulty thinking of anything other than your infertility.
- Difficulty with concentration.
- Change in your sleep patterns.
- Change in your appetite or weight.
- Social isolation.
- Persistent feelings of pessimism, guilt, or worthlessness.
What are the avenues available to cope with the mental struggle?
Therapists with Infertility Experience
A therapist who has experience with infertility issues can help tremendously. They can play a major role in providing guidance to cope with grief and loss. Tools like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), relaxation techniques, positive coping skills training can be instrumental in reducing the negative symptoms associated with stress, depression, and anxiety.
Medical intervention in the form of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications might be required moderate to severe cases. However, a great deal of precaution is administered by the concerned health professional to ensure that it doesn’t interfere or negatively impacts the woman’s infertility ongoing infertility treatment, if any.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the issue, infertility has been associated with shame and secrecy. This makes it difficult for the patient to ask for help from friends and family members which leads to further social isolation. Many women find comfort in communicating with others who are also dealing with infertility as they can share their struggle with no judgement and profound understanding. There are opportunities available for both online and in-person support groups. At Proactive, we aim to build trusted communities of strong women who uplift each other every step of the way.