Ever since our childhood we have seen a set pattern of the “life cycle” – Education – Work – Marriage – Children (preferably two) to be termed as a “happy family”. Firstly, if during your fertility journey you are going through anxiety, depression or are overcome with sadness it only means one thing: You are Normal.
The psychological wish for a child is principally conditioned by socio-cultural frameworks in which individuals are born and brought up. Being infertile can be a painful emotional experience particularly during the reproductive years of one’s life. As per the stress and coping paradigms of infertility, such stress revolves around many variables like severity of infertility diagnosis, success of fertility treatments, reactions of others, and psychological characteristics of couples
While infertility is not a disease, it and its treatment can affect all aspects of people’s lives, which can cause various psychological-emotional disorders or consequences including turmoil, frustration, depression, anxiety, hopelessness, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness in life.
It is said that couples facing infertility are “grieving parents”. There is no greater pain than the hope of a baby, failed IUI, failed IVF, cancelled cycle, miscarriage or loss of a baby. There is no avoiding grief. There is data which indicates that patients undergoing some sort of infertility are four times more likely to experience depressive symptoms. In a study of 200 participants from university of Pennsylvania it was concluded that over half of women and over 15% of male participants called infertility the most depressive and traumatic experience of their life.
Like everyone else, you probably are also wondering that does reducing stress and anxiety increase your chances of conceiving? There are many studies with conflicting conclusions but the scale tips more towards the belief of – Reducing stress does increases your chances of conception. Now, comes the more difficult task of how to reduce stress? It is easier said than done, the more you are told to not stress the mind wanders there. Things get worse when people around you give you unwanted advice like take up a hobby, or worse leave your job it will help reduce your stress.
In fact, during your fertility treatment or the time you are trying to conceive the best is to keep your life as normal as possible. Go for that girl’s night out dinner or a quick run in the morning. Not letting the fertility thoughts loom over your head will do you more good than harm.
How to cope with Stress and Anxiety
It is evident that infertility patients experience distress, depression, anxiety, and decreased quality of life. It is important for infertility providers and counsellors to offer assistance to these patients by way of psychological interventions and emotional support.
Psychological interventions for infertile patients can improve psychological outcomes and marital relationships as well as increase patient retention and improve pregnancy rates. Data shows that a minimum of six therapy sessions are needed to see positive outcomes in the patient’s mental health and the pregnancy outcomes.
Therapy has proved to be successful in reducing stress and increasing pregnancy rates and provides patients with skills in cognitive behaviour therapy, relaxation training, lifestyle changes, journaling, self-awareness, and social support components.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective therapy, which is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking in how we feel and what we do. Participants challenge automatic thought patterns, such as “I will never have a baby,” “the infertility is all my fault,” or “my husband is going to leave me for a fertile woman.”
Relaxation techniques have been widely shown to reduce negative emotions in a range of medical patients, more specifically, they have been shown to significantly reduce anxiety scores in women undergoing infertility treatment. Patients learn a different technique each week, including progressive muscle relaxation, hatha yoga, meditation, imagery, etc, and are encouraged to try each one and then practice the ones) which are most effective for them.
A study of both male and female infertility patients explored the benefit of expressive writing. The authors found that both partners exhibited decreased depressive symptoms. Patients should be encouraged to maintain a daily gratitude diary. Mindfulness is commonly used as a coping strategy for infertility patients and should be introduced early in the program.
Remember “Asking for help is not weak, it is a great example of how to take care of yourself” seek help at the right time it will help you reach your goal of parenthood faster and happier.
- The relationship between infertility and Stress – Kristen L. Rooney
- Mental health status of infertile couples based on treatment options
- Role of mental health practitioner in infertility clinics: A review on past, present and future directions