8 Ways Infertility Affects Your Mental Health

person holding baby's toe with yellow petaled flower in between
Photo by Manuel Schinner

Infertility can sometimes be emotionally draining for people who have it. Depressive disorder is highly common in those who suffer from infertility. To make matters worse, these people find it hard to seek help from friends and family, due to the shame and guilt they are feeling.

It’s not surprising that a woman will get disappointed if she’s unable to conceive. Even if she is going through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or other fertility treatment, she can still feel guilty, if someone has the audacity to ask her why she is not conceiving naturally. If you are not able to have a baby, or not able to carry through the entire pregnancy, is that really a crime? No, for sure.

Over time, there has been a debate on what can be facilitating infertility, whether it’s brought on by psychological or physiological cause.  Let us be very clear about this – stress does not cause infertility. Yet, infertility most definitely causes stress.

To better understand the psychological effects of infertility, we compiled a list of common behaviors to watch out for:

  • Combat Any Feelings Of Guilt, Worthlessness, Or Shame—Some people will feel this way, if they are unable to conceive, or if they are waiting to conceive. Getting pregnant is a choice that a person must make. But infertility is out of our control; and a person should not feel any guilt or shame if they are unable to conceive.

Though it is okay and even normal to feel this way sometimes, if you have chosen to undergo IVF, you know what you are doing. Feel pride in your decision to bring a baby into this world, into a good, prepared home.

  • Persistent Feelings Of Sadness—Sadness can be common in infertility patients, now and then. However, if sadness is prolonged, affecting the sufferer daily, that is a clear sign of depression.

If you do occasionally feel sad, try to reach out to a friend or your partner for support. Some women even make a message for their baby in the future. But if the feelings persist for more than two weeks, do seek support.

  • Social Isolation—It is not a crime if you avoid pregnant women, baby showers, or those with young children. You may feel that those are good ways to cope with infertility, and that is definitely okay. Though, you may want to communicate this to your friends and family, so that they can better understand what you’re going through.

If you truly find yourself disliking any child-themed activities, make sure you still go out to a few new or existing social activities, because the support, socialization and companionship they provide you with are imperative for mental health and good mood  at any stage of life.

  • Loss Of Interest In Activities — Sadness over infertility can cause you to lose interest in hobbies and activities that you used to love doing. You want to have pleasure in these activities again, but it can be hard. It is okay to take a break from these activities, but don’t rob yourself of their joy. If you think you are going to become busy, it is fine to quit some activities, but it’s important to keep up hobbies that you enjoy.
  • Frequent Anxiety/Panic Attacks — “Infertility causes people to act with anxiety, whether it’s waiting for fertility test results, or worrying about what people will think of them. Even worse, everyday triggers are common, and can cause debilitating panic attacks,” said Amy Greenwood, health writer at Academized and Writing Services. Infertility-related anxiety is something to be taken seriously, since it can interfere with daily life.

If you experience this frequently, to the extent that it interferes with your quality of life, please seek professional help. But anxiety in infertility is still a relatively uncommon thing to develop.

  • Nutrition and Diet — If you are eating too much or too little, these changes could possibly be emotional signs of depression. In fact, emotional eating is common in infertility. Consulting with a nutritionist can help since significant changes in weight—gain or loss – can affect fertility.

But bear in mind that there are many nutritionally important and delicious foods that promote fertility in women to consider adding to your diet – the well-known imperative folic acid supplement, sunflower seeds and sunflower butter, sweet grapefruit juice and orange juice, luxuries like mature cheese, full-fat yogurt and full-fat ice cream, and even unusual foods like cow liver and raw oysters.

Please be aware, grapefruit increases the effects of many medications by a dangerous amount, so drink it in moderation, and only after medical advice, if for fertility.

  • Amount of Sleep — If you are not getting enough sleep, or sleeping during the wrong hours, it can be problematic. Keep in mind that some fertility drugs can even interfere with your sleep patterns. Be sure to talk to your doctor about sleep problems if you experience any; whether it’s from depression, anxiety, or a side effect from medication.

“You are likely already aware of this, but screen-related blue light exposure in the evenings – even if you’re researching fertility on your phone – makes it significantly more difficult for you to fall asleep. Sleep is certainly an important factor in conception,” explains health writer at  Boomessays and Academadvisor, Monica Adams.

One study said that women who slept 7-8 hours a night had a quarter higher chance of conceiving than women who slept longer, but this could be attributed to something else – these women could have then skipped breakfast or something like that.

In general, a regular sleep schedule could regulate your cycles, increasing chances of conception.

Conclusion

Infertility may seem like a social stigma, but having this is never your fault. It’s common, happening to  one in eight couples trying to conceive. If you ever feel lost, or don’t know who to turn to, don’t be afraid to reach out to loved ones and seek counselling – GENESIS offers the services of a clinical psychologist on site, who offers counseling and support while patients are navigating their fertility journey. But it is a beautiful journey, to be proud of.

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