Why Mental Health During Fertility Treatment is important?
Ways to Boost Your Mental Health During Fertility Treatment
To hear that you can't get pregnant is heartbreaking and upsetting. It can disturb your mental health and cause distress. The worst part is, it may even lead to depression and anxiety. Thus, taking care of your mental health during fertility treatment is very important. It helps to ease your path to parenthood. There are many ways to boost your mental health. But first, let us understand about infertility. Then, let us look into how that can lead to stressful situations.
“I’ve seen patients who have had suicidal thoughts after a failed IVF. Some couples even ended up separating after a failed fertility procedure. The mental toll a couple endures from infertility is tremendous. Mental health issues due to infertility are real; it is not a non-issue to be taken lightly.” Dr Navdeep Singh Pannu
People consider children as the core that completes a family. The societal pressure and stigma may affect your mental health during infertility treatment. Generally, infertility is defined as the inability to conceive. If the couple could not get pregnant after 12 months of frequent unprotected sexual intercourse, the couple may have problems related to infertility. The World Health Organization (WHO) also pointed out that 8-12% of couples worldwide experience infertility. This means about 48 million couples and 186 million individuals may experience infertility problems.
There is a common misconception surrounding infertility. Infertility is often called the women’s issue. This is because typically infertility is assumed to be mostly caused by women. In contrary, men cause up to 30% of infertility and women cause up 30% of infertility cases. Another 30 % of infertility issue are caused by both sexes and the rest is due to unknown reasons.
How to Deal with issues of mental health during infertility treatment and the challenges?
There are various reasons why many couples are more open to go for infertility treatments nowadays. Some of the reasons include planning for a late pregnancy, development of more successful infertility treatment techniques, or the increase in awareness of the available treatments. Although the success rate of infertility treatments has increased significantly, you should understand that they aren't always 100% successful. There are times things don't work out as how we planned. This may affect your mental health in various ways. You might feel lonely and struggle in silence. You might not share your problems with others because you do not want them to pity you. You may also view infertility as a wish you cannot fulfill. This can lead to depression, anxiety, isolation, and loss of control over your lives. This condition is somehow similar to those who are diagnosed with cancer.
The US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (2018, March) has shown that mental health problems range between 25% and 60% worldwide. Furthermore, a study in Malaysia showed that women are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to suffer from mental health problems than their male counterparts (Sham, et al., 2020). This is because people often associate infertility with women. They blame women as the main reason for infertility. This has been challenging for many women and it takes a huge toll on their mental health. Thus, it is important to look into the issue concerning mental health and fertility.
Common factors that cause mental health issues
Parenthood is one of the major transitions in adult life for both men and women. When you cannot get pregnant, it puts you under tremendous stress. Some of the problems in mental health during fertility treatment happen because of:
- Treatment-linked factors
- Social factors
- Personal factors
Infertility treatments is a long process. This may affect your mood and well-being. If you are mentally not healthy, it can affect your infertility rate and success chances. The mood swing during infertility treatment usually happen due to medications. During the treatment, you might have to take medications that causes hormonal imbalance. This can affect your mental health and may lead to anxiety and depression. On the other hand, some couple may resort to the habit of taking alcohol or drugs to handle their pain and frustrations. These unhealthy habits can have negative impact on not only your overall physical health, but also mental health.
We live in a society where we see many family-oriented contents in medias. It may not seem like a big impact, but it’ll indirectly cause distress. For those who are yearning for a child, it may be difficult to control your emotions when you see parents with their children in public places. Sometimes, you may remember about your infertility problems when watching family-oriented movies. This may make you sad, lower your self-esteem and can also lead to depression.
Infertility can have a great impact on your identity especially if you have always dreamt to be a mother. Many women often begin to imagine themselves as mothers long before they actually try to have children. This is influenced by cultural and societal messages that idealise motherhood. When this imagined self of a parent does not happen, it may result in the feeling of loss of control in their life.
Infertility can also lead to changes in physiological state. When you’re depressed or stressed, a system in your body controls responses to stress. It will then affect your reproductive functions. This shows how a disturbance in your mental state can have physical effects on your body and cause trouble to get pregnant.
How can you manage your Mental Health During Fertility Treatment?
I have been a fertility doctor for many years. Throughout the years, I have seen the negative impacts of stress, depression, and anxiety on a couple going through infertility. I truly feel that this issue needs to be addressed at the earliest for both men and women. There are many available options for you to choose to manage your mental health during fertility treatment. Here are a few options that you can try to manage your mental health:
Uplift – Mind/ Body Program
Uplift's Mind/Body programme is designed to help you cope up with the physical and emotional impact of infertility. The chances of a successful pregnancy are slim if you’re exhausted emotionally and mentally. This programme will help you to control your emotions. Not only that, but your physical and physiological symptoms caused by stress will also be addressed. You'll learn relaxation techniques, good lifestyle habits, and psychological techniques to challenge your negative thoughts and turn them into a positive outlook.
You can also try to take up fertility coaching if you are feeling alone, isolated and overwhelmed. Our fertility coach, Joyce Simson is ready to help you to cope with failed fertility treatments. She will help you to understand and process your emotions so that your life is less stressful. Fertility Coaching is truly a great help to get that extra mental and emotional support while you figure out ways to overcome your fertility struggles.
Hypnotherapy is another option that you can consider to manage your mental health during fertility treatment. While hypnosis may not directly help you to get pregnant, it will aid the process. Hypnotherapy can slowly reduce your anxiety level around fertility treatments. This therapy also increases positive thinking and relaxes thoughts of self-doubt and self-blame.
You Are Not Alone
My fertility team and I have put our hearts and soul into helping you get pregnant. We always give our best to help our patients. However, sometimes, things do not turn out as how we planned. When the patient failed to get pregnant, my team and I feel sad and share the same emotions as them. The feeling of loss can be overwhelming for us as well. We understand how devastating this whole journey is for you.
For those of you who are suffering from depression and anxiety due to infertility treatments, you should know that we, the fertility team, are on the same team as you. We always hope for the best for everyone who enters our clinic. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the procedures of fertility treatments, my advice is to stop and seek the help you need. Acknowledge your feelings and do not push them aside. Talk to someone and let out your frustration. You don't have to struggle alone and in silence. Always remember that you are not alone and it is important to find the necessary help you need to take care of your mental health during fertility treatments
In conversation with BFM 89.9 on Mental Health and Infertility “When trouble conceiving affects your mental health” I had the opportunity to speak on BFM recently where I shared my personal insights on the topic of “When trouble conceiving affects your mental health”.”.
You may listen to the interview here: When Trouble Conceiving Affects Your Mental Health
If you want to know more about the process or have specific questions to clarify, do list them down and call 03-80699333 (TMC Fertility & Women’s Specialist Centre, Puchong) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment to consult with Dr. Navdeep.