If you have experienced fertility issues, it might not surprise you to hear that there is a link between infertility and mental health. Ninety percent of men and women struggling with fertility, surveyed by Fertility Network UK, felt depressed, and 42% even had suicidal thoughts. So perhaps it’s time to give more attention to the mental health of those battling fertility problems.
Fertility problems aren’t all about conception
Whilst the Fertility Network UK survey focused on couples trying to conceive, a separate study from Imperial College London looked at women who had experienced pregnancy loss in the form of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Of the 650 women studied, 29% suffered post-traumatic stress one month after losing their pregnancy, 24% had anxiety and 12% had depression. After nine months, those figures had fallen slightly to 18% experiencing post-traumatic stress, 17% moderate to severe anxiety, and 6% moderate to severe depression.
How can you protect your mental health throughout fertility treatment and pregnancy?
There’s no escaping the fact that pregnancy loss will affect you emotionally, and whilst you and your medical team will of course do everything to prevent that loss from happening, it is unfortunately a risk of every pregnancy.
However, by protecting your mental health throughout the conception process and pregnancy, you may be able to avoid suffering long-term damage.
Some of the best ways you can support your mental health during fertility treatment are to:
- Keep talking – to yourself, in terms of acknowledging your pain, but also to your partner, and maybe to a counsellor. Being open about the emotions you are experiencing can help to prevent them from overwhelming you.
- Find a support group – in these unusual times, an in-person support group might be difficult to find, but there are hundreds of groups online, full of people who will be going through very similar things to you.
- Practise self care – whether that’s by allowing yourself the odd treat, by ensuring you get eight hours’ sleep a night, or by pushing yourself to go out for a jog every day – whatever makes you feel healthier, calmer and happier.
And the great news is that if you’re undergoing fertility treatment, then reducing your stress levels and looking after yourself can only improve your chances of conception.
If infertility is already impacting your mental health
Seek help now. Let your GP or fertility specialist know that you are struggling and they will be able to refer you for counselling or point you towards a support group.
Know that you are not alone, and that you will get through this. Talk things through with your partner, too, if you have one. Chances are, they are probably feeling much the same way as you, so talking things through together might help you both feel better.