The Journey of Infertility
It is no secret that the journey to motherhood is hard. But what happens if you can’t get pregnant in the first place? Those who struggle with infertility must face this reality. Infertility is defined by the World Health organization (WHO) as not being able to become pregnant after 12 or more months of trying without using birth control.
Infertility sets you on a new journey. There is grief and sadness over not being able to get pregnant, and failed IVF treatments. There is frustration that you have been trying for many months. Anger that you are getting advice from others who do not know or understand. There is stress and anxiety over the doctor’s appointments, figuring out your options, and making lots of hard decisions. Fear about insurance coverage and out of pocket costs for treatments. There is constant worry about doing all you can to increase your chance of pregnancy. There is pain seeing friends and family become pregnant. And guilt over that pain. There are also sprinkles of joy and hope in each new cycle as you wait for the results of your most recent test. When you are experiencing all these emotions at once, it feels like too much to handle.
The infertility journey can take a toll on a woman’s mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression are common for women struggling with infertility. And these struggles are often faced alone. One survey found that 61% of infertility patients don’t tell friends and family that they are trying to get pregnant. Over 50% shared that it was easier to tell people they did not want to have kids.
With infertility impacting 1 in 8 couples, it is important to know that you are not alone. You can find support.
So, how can you support your mental health?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help with anxiety and depression. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Ask for support from someone you trust. Find a friend to listen to your story. Or ask for help going to and from appointments or to help around the house on tough days.
- Identify your unhelpful thoughts. This is an important tool in CBT. Use the STEPP Model to help identify unhelpful thoughts that lead to negative feelings. This will help you find ways to get unstuck in the future.
- Try relaxation techniques. Relaxation tools reduce infertility-related stress. Try Progressive Muscle Relaxation or use other strategies to help de-stress and lower anxiety.
- Consider fertility counseling or CBT for anxiety, stress, or depression. You don’t need to face it alone. Know that infertility is hard for everyone. You deserve help along the way.
If you are facing the challenges of infertility and mental health, you are not alone. There are tools and support to help you through this difficult time.