“Fertility treatment can help you with your mental health, but it’s important to take care of it.”

Research is divided on whether mental health can affect the success of fertility treatments, but some studies suggest that the combination of all these stressors could lower pregnancy success rates.

“Let’s take a closer look at what you might feel while going through fertility treatments and how to maintain your mental health during this time.”

According to a 2021 study, fertility concerns can create a tremendous amount of emotional turmoil for a couple.

It is not surprising that you are dealing with psychological stress and anxiety related to an unknown future, relationships with partners, family, and colleagues, and the financial costs.

A mixture of emotions can be caused by stress. It is natural to have feelings of depression, anxiety, and to feel very upset. You may experience some emotions during fertility treatment.

Depression

Depression is more than just feeling sad.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is a mental health condition in which you experience a persistent and severe low mood. When you’re caught in the ups and downs of fertility treatment, you may have a higher chance of developing depression.

Anxiety

A feeling of anxiety is overwhelming. It can be difficult to control your worry. You may worry more than seems justified, or you may expect the worst even when there is no reason for concern.

Less than half of the procedures in the IVF process are actually in the body.

According to a 2018 review, the further into infertility treatment you get, the more often you may display symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers found that people with one infertility treatment failure had significantly higher levels of anxiety. People with two failures experienced more depression when compared with those without a history of treatment.

Irritability

You may find yourself angry and upset during fertility treatment. Medical procedures can leave you vulnerable and helpless. These feelings may make you angry.

Jealousy

You may feel that life is unfair. You may be overwhelmed by the feelings when you see others reach a milestone.

jealousy is a signal that points out what you value most. Managing difficult feelings is done by acknowledging the feelings and understanding the underlying issues.

Grief

“Fertility treatments can involve loss and mourning. You may experience a loss of a baby. If donor egg, sperm, or embryos are used, you may mourn the loss of your family. This may add to your grief because these losses aren’t always visible.”

Isolation

Depression, anxiety, feelings, jealousy, and grief can all come together to make you feel isolated and alone during fertility treatments.

While you’re receiving fertility treatment, you may feel that the intense feelings you have are here to stay. Research shows your feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability aren’t only psychological symptoms.

Depression, anxiety, and irritability can be caused by medications used to treat infertility.

In a 2012 study, which grouped participants into female and male categories, researchers reported that, although infertility care focuses more on women than men, both groups desire to have children with similar intensities.

The study found that 62 percent of men wanted to have children with their partner, and 8 percent wanted to have children with them.

It is not surprising that both men and women are affected by fertility treatment in the same way.

  • Depression. In a 2016 California study with 352 participants identified as women and 274 participants identified as men all undergoing fertility treatment, 56.5 percent of the women and 32.1 percent of the men reported symptoms of depression.
  • Anxiety. That same study diagnosed 75.9 percent of women and 60.6 percent of men in the study with symptoms of anxiety.

Both partners can experience the same feelings of jealousy, grief, and isolation.

Researchers are still divided over whether psychological intervention for people undergoing fertility treatment can improve pregnancy rates.

However, a 2016 study shows evidence that psychological intervention does improve your chances on your journey to parenthood.

What can you do to maintain your mental health when you are facing fertility concerns?

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that emphasizes the important role of thinking. CBT teaches you that thoughts can affect how you feel and what you do.

A therapist teaches you to challenge automatic thought patterns such as “I will never have a baby” or “the infertility is all my fault.”

You learn how to replace these thoughts with thoughts that can nurture you by learning how to challenge them.

Relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques significantly reduce anxiety scores in women undergoing infertility treatment. There is a range of relaxation techniques available. Try the techniques in the list below to find the one that is most effective for you.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is described as the process of paying attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental way.

The use of meditation is becoming more popular. It teaches you to first become aware of the sensations in your body, and then expand on this awareness to regulate your emotions and thoughts.

Mindfulness can help you cope with the stress of fertility treatments. Research from 2020 claims that mindfulness shows better outcomes than other therapies for fertility stress because it touches on a wider spectrum of psychological problems.

Yoga

Yoga has been used for healing purposes for thousands of years. It combines physical postures and breathing exercises to create a meditative and relaxing experience.

Guided imagery

Think of this as a type of daydream. A therapist or recording can help you through a relaxation exercise that is full of imagery. The imagery may be about breathing in a specific color or being in a calm place.

Unlike mindfulness, there is little research to back the success rates of yoga and guided imagery.

Expressive writing

A 2017 clinical trial of male-female couples undergoing IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment explored the benefit of expressive writing.

The writing included exercises for writing and gratitude. People who participated in the writing group had a reduced symptoms of depression.

When it comes to maintaining your mental health during fertility treatments, a 2012 study found that men prefer oral to written treatment information. They also prefer to receive emotional support from infertility clinicians rather than from mental health professionals, self-help support groups, or friends.

Organizations that can help you find a mental health resource

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: The SAMHSA National Helpline (800-662-4357) provides 24/7 information about mental heal professionals and support groups in your area.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine: The NAMI HelpLine (800-950-6264) provides 24/7 information and referrals for mental health professionals, treatment facilities, and support groups in your area.
  • The Mental Health Professional Group: The Mental Health Professional Group provides lists of resources you can search by your city, state, or the name of a therapist.
  • RESOLVE – The National Infertility Awareness Association: RESOLVE (866-668-2566) offers support groups, professionals, a help line, and an online support community to help you maintain mental health on your journey to build a family.
  • Black Mental Health Alliance The Black Mental Health Alliance provides referrals to people looking for licensed, culturally competent clinicians for behavioral and mental health treatment.
  • Asian Counseling and Referral Service: The Asian Counseling and Referral Service is based in Washington state and provides Asian American and Pacific Islander communities with mental health services and support.
  • The Línea Nacional de Ayuda de SAMHSA: Línea Nacional de Ayuda de SAMHSA is a national, free, confidential, and 24/7 treatment referral and information service in Spanish that provides resources for individuals and families facing mental health issues and substance use disorders.
  • The LGBT National Hotline: The LGBT National Hotline (888-843-4564) provides one-to-one peer support and a confidential, safe space for anyone to discuss issues with coming out, gender or sexual identity, relationship concerns, bullying, and self-harm.

A 2008 study found that Black women had significantly higher chances of infertility than white women. However, additional and newer research is needed regarding this important topic.

Black women may face an uphill battle in the US when they reach out for help with infertility. There are some reasons for this.

  • In the Black community, infertility is a taboo topic.
  • White women have long been the focus of infertility services.
  • Black women may not have insurance that covers fertility services.
  • There is no black sperm or egg donors.
  • Black women may face prejudice.

For these reasons, Black women are less likely than white women to seek fertility treatment, and they wait twice as long to seek treatment after experiencing infertility.

If you are a black woman with fertility concerns, you have resources. Consider reaching out to these organizations to help you on your journey to parenthood.

You may feel a variety of emotions while undergoing fertility treatments. Whatever you are feeling is okay. There are a number of things you can do to relieve stress, such as meditating, journaling, and participating in activities that bring you joy.

If you are facing depression, anxiety, or other difficult emotions, help is available. Sharing your feelings with others can help.

“You don’t have to be alone.”