Infertility & Mental Health
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 6.7 million women 15-44 have trouble becoming pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy (Infertility, 2015). For many women the stress around the inability to conceive a child can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, depression and anxiety.
Research has shown that 30-50 percent of infertile women report depressive symptoms. Infertile women also report equivalent levels of anxiety and depression as women with cancer, HIV status or heart disease (Domar, 2004, p 28). Many women have described shame around their body’s inability to do what it was made to do, guilt that they are depriving their partner of a child, depression because they are experiencing overwhelming sadness and anxiety around what the outcome will be. These emotions often times affect their relationships with their partner, create isolation from friends and an inability to focus at work.
If you are struggling with infertility related stress, anxiety and/or depression, what can you do? With today’s society being preoccupied with pregnancy, baby showers and mom’s groups, reminders of your own infertility may be hard to avoid.
* Talk to someone you trust. Let them know how this is affecting you and how they can be supportive of your journey
* Join a support group. RESOLVE has many peer and/or professional led support groups in your area
* Meet with a therapist to express your emotions and learn healthy coping skills
* Practice good self-care. Yoga, walking, meditation, healthful eating and skipping that baby shower are all examples of positive ways to care for your mental health
Although infertility rates are rising, emotional support and understanding for infertile women and men is still lacking. If you know someone who is experiencing infertility, here are some ways you can support them.
* Ask them how they are feeling but be respectful if they don’t want to talk about it
* Refrain from saying things like “just adopt” or “just relax” and it will happen. Infertility is a REAL medical issue with reproductive functioning and comments like this can further trigger a shame response that they are doing something wrong by stressing out too much
* If you are pregnant, don’t complain about your own pregnancy
* Invite them to baby showers and events with families but let them know you understand if they choose not to attend
The more we can begin to understand the emotions surrounding infertility, the more we can create a space for those struggling to have the courage to speak out.
Written by Marie Thompson, MA
Domar, A. D. (2004). Conquering infertility: Dr. Alice Domar’s mind/body guide to enhancing fertility and coping with infertility. London, UK: Penguin Books.
Infertility (2015). Retrieved July 29, 2016 from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/infertility.htm