Around 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK struggle to conceive. If you’ve discovered that you’re infertile or are having trouble getting pregnant, you’re certainly not alone! However, just because it’s a fairly common problem doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy journey. Infertility can affect many aspects of your life, including your mental health. To learn more, we’ve put together some of the most common psychological issues you may come across throughout your journey and some tips to make it easier on your mind.
Can Infertility Affect Your Mental Health?
There’s no doubt that struggling to conceive can have a negative impact on your mind, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. 60% of people who are infertile believe that it’s impacted their mental health, and that figure is a lowball. In reality, it’s likely that struggling to conceive affects a much higher percentage of individuals, and if left untreated these mental changes can have a large negative impact on your life.
How Does Infertility Affect Mental Health?
Infertility can put a strain on your mental health in a number of ways. The initial diagnosis can bring about anxiety and depression as you struggle to come to terms with what you’ve been told, particularly among women. Feelings of shame and guilt aren’t uncommon, either, and both genders can find it difficult to carry on with life as normal.
It’s also normal for infertility to put a strain on your romantic relationships. Feelings of guilt and embarrassment can make it hard to maintain a healthy relationship, as can the stress of continuing to try to conceive. You’re entering new and difficult territory as a couple, and it’s understandable that you’ll experience challenges because of this; but as your relationship struggles, your mental health can suffer too.
For women, there’s also the issue of hormonal changes during fertility treatment. Whilst IVF and other options to improve chances of conception are opted for by some to improve their chances of conception, they’re hard on the body and mind. In one study, women going through IVF presented far greater signs of depression, low self-worth, and low confidence than fertile women, showing just how tough it can be.
Dealing with Loss
One of the hardest things that infertile individuals have to deal with is loss. If you continue trying to conceive, every time it doesn’t work can be another blow. Negative pregnancy tests become a trigger for depressive periods and heightened anxiety, and Harvard Medical School discovered that, in some cases, people can even experience chronic stress and PTSD from trying to conceive.
Fighting Financial Concerns
Fertility treatments are expensive. If you’re not eligible for treatment on the NHS, you can expect to pay thousands of pounds for just one cycle of IVF. Whilst worth it for the chance of conceiving, and for some families this cost makes fertility treatment impossible! There’s plenty of evidence that shows financial worries can lead to a range of mental health problems, including depression, stress, and anxiety. As an individual and as a couple, pairing money worries with the struggle to conceive can feel like navigating a minefield.
How to Look After Your Mental Health
There’s no doubt that dealing with infertility can have a huge impact on your mental health. Fortunately, though, there are ways you can make it easier on your mind and your relationship. Here are some top tips to keep your head above water:
Speak to a Therapist
For any mental health issue, your first port of call should always be an experienced therapist. These days, you can access therapy through a number of routes, including the NHS, charities, and private sessions online. By undergoing therapy, either solo or as a couple, you give yourself an outlet to speak about your emotions, learn more about why you’re feeling the way you do, and discover coping mechanisms to relieve your symptoms.
Infertility can be stressful and leave you feeling bad about yourself. Be sure to take the time to focus on yourself, even when times are tough. By maintaining a self-care routine, you’re telling yourself that you are worth taking care of and boosting your mental resiliency. Try self-care practices such as:
- Taking a bath
- Going for a run
- Cooking healthy meals
To ensure that you’re getting the best advice and guidance, spend time finding a local fertility clinic that will provide personal support and offer expertise in all aspects of reproductive health – including your mental wellbeing – whilst on your fertility journey.
Stay in the Present
It’s easy to focus on should have’s and would have’s when you’re struggling with infertility. But this can be incredibly hard on your mental health. Rather than thinking of the past or the future, simply focus on the present. Whenever your mind starts to wander, practice noticing this, and bringing yourself back to the moment by focusing on your surroundings and reminding yourself that you’re safe and loved.
Talk to Others
Suffering in silence is never a good idea. Find yourself a supportive group, be it members of your family and friends or an online community like Mothers for Mothers. Having people you trust to talk to when you’re struggling can make such a difference to your mental health, giving you a shoulder to cry on and someone to lean on when days are tough.
Be open with your partner, too, about how you’re feeling. By speaking honestly and supportively, you can make this journey easier for both of you.
Dealing with infertility isn’t something anyone wants to go through. If you’re struggling to conceive, make sure you look after your mental health and seek out help if you need it. Remember that there are plenty of other men and women out there in communities like ours who are ready to help you. No matter what, you’re not alone!