Experiencing infertility is incredibly emotionally stressful. Combined with the hormones that are often used as part of fertility treatments, this stress can often lead to clinical depression. Read on to learn more about the relationship between infertility and depression, as well as coping strategies and treatment that may help resolve these trying symptoms.
Because the urge to procreate is one of the most natural human drives, feelings of sadness and anxiety are natural when you find that you’re unable to conceive. In addition to the longing for a child, infertility often results in marital stress, financial woes and the anxiety of uncertain outcomes, all of which contribute to emotional stress. However, these sad feelings may have developed into depression if you are crying frequently, have lost interest in friends and normal activities, feel angry or irritable, have difficulty sleeping, or are experiencing changes in appetite. If you feel that your sadness about infertility is affecting your ability to enjoy your life, seeking treatment can help.
Not only is treating depression necessary to improve your quality of life, research shows that women who have depression have a lower chance of conceiving a child. However, while antidepressant medication is effective in resolving these symptoms, these drugs are not always safe to take during pregnancy, and their effects on fertility have not been studied. Further complicating matters is the fact that some antidepressants interact negatively with certain drugs prescribed to treat infertility.
For that reason, most experts recommend cognitive behavioral therapy for treatment of infertility-related depression. In cognitive behavioral therapy, a trained therapist will work with you to help recognize distorted thought patterns that lead to depression, such as “I don’t deserve to have a baby,” and replace them with positive self-talk, such as “Infertility is not my fault.” According to one clinical study, infertile women who received cognitive behavioral therapy for their depression experienced a 79 percent decline in symptoms, compared with just a 50 percent decline for those being treated with medication alone.
If you’re being treated for infertility and are experiencing symptoms of depression, talk with your doctor. He or she can refer you to a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy as well as a psychiatrist who can assist if necessary. For many couples, short-term counseling is effective in helping to resolve feelings of depression, particularly when combined with self-care strategies such as relaxation techniques to remove unnecessary stress, meditation and exercise. Give yourself permission to grieve, don’t feel guilty about avoiding baby focused events and keep in mind that for most people, infertility is a temporary crisis.