Most of us who want to have children believe that we will meet someone, fall in love, and have a baby and that the process will be as simple as that. For many people, it is that easy, but for others, the experience is much more complex, and sometimes traumatic, especially when it comes to getting pregnant and having a child.
When we think about infertility and its treatment, we normally just consider the physical implications, which are, of course, enormous. What we also miss is the influence it has on someone’s mental health. According to some research, the mental impact of infertility and the treatments associated with it is comparable to the stress levels experienced by cancer patients, and that depression and anxiety are common among people dealing with fertility issues.
Many of these will occur as a result of well-intentioned yet insensitive comments and questions. People expect that after you’ve established a healthy relationship, babies will follow, and when they don’t, people raise their eyebrows and ask questions. However, these questions and comments aren’t the only sources of distress. In this post, we will look at how mental health can also be affected by infertility.
The not knowing
Pregnancy can be difficult enough in terms of the uncertainty it can bring, but infertility and the treatments make it even more so. There is much more thinking ahead involved when it comes to IVF – finding a Fertility Clinic, freezing eggs, medication and preparing for the first round to potentially not work, Then, after the process, there is the two-week wait to see if there is a positive pregnancy test, and if they are fortunate enough to get one, there is the worrying as to whether it is a viable pregnancy that will go to term.
Treatment for infertility is an emotionally exhausting procedure that can wreak havoc on even the most stable of relationships. Couples may disagree about how many rounds to attempt and whether they can afford it financially. Treatment also imposes limits on physical and sexual activity, which can be frustrating, as well as the disappointment that follows if the treatment is ineffective. If it does succeed, the relationship will be subjected to all of the normal demands that pregnancy and imminent parenthood place on a relationship.
The physical effects
If someone is undergoing IVF, hormonal side effects are likely to affect their mental health. Various hormones, including estrogen and progesterone, are injected into the woman. Almost everyone will be affected by the sudden rise in these hormones, but those who are more vulnerable to hormonal changes may experience an increase in anxiety and mood swings. This, of course, affects not only the woman but also the couple’s relationship.
Unfortunately, while many couples get a happy ending, for some, there is nothing that can be done. While there may be other options to explore, they have to come to terms with not being able to get pregnant and have their own biological child. This can be something that invokes immense grief.