Can Infertility Cause Depression?
Yes, it can. Research has shown that people going through infertility tend to be as depressed and anxious as people diagnosed with cancer, HIV, and heart disease. That’s how serious it can be. Infertility can be emotionally and physically strenuous because it’s usually unexpected. If you’re like most women, you probably have your life planned out and have big dreams of being a mother. You desire to get married, have children, and start a family, but infertility rears its ugly head and threatens your goal. I mean, who prepares for not being able to have children. One just expects to be able to have children and when it doesn’t happen, one’s sense of worth is greatly challenged. It quickly cascades into shame and despair especially when you find out your challenge is a result of something you did in the past. You could begin to feel like you are broken or defective. You may start avoiding friends, stop attending baby showers, or be uncomfortable around pregnant women because everything seems to be part of a conspiracy to remind you of the one thing you can’t seem to do. What you feel is to be expected.
Now, there’s no need to feel like you are the only one getting the brunt of it all. Infertility affects men too but they are used to repressing their emotions because they have been conditioned to. In fact, they are expected to. The society expects men to know the answer to everything and be strong. So, not knowing what kind of help to seek and when, where, or how to seek it can affect a man’s self-image. Men need to know that they’re not breaking some sort of manly code or something when they admit that they need help and ask for it.
To make matters worse, the typical response of the society to Infertility is generally geared towards making those affected feel worthless and ashamed. Society has failed to recognise the grief people who are going through fertility issues feel. They are constantly pressured by in-laws. They trend on the family and society grapevine, constantly being mocked and mistreated because of their inability to bear children. Who can blame them for isolating themselves? They have enough to deal with without anyone else rubbing salt on their injury. They feel like people around them wouldn’t love them as much anymore, and more often than not, nothing is done to prove them wrong. Even the remaining percentage of women who are not so bent on having children still get pressured by the society.
What about doctor’s appointments? Balancing it with daily life requires the skill of a champion juggler. If you have been doing it, give yourself a pat on the back or something. You’ve earned it. Most people also tend to get nervous about fertility tests and treatments. Who wants to wake a sleeping dragon? What if I find out something I’d rather not know anything about? Living in denial ehn… and when you don’t, you wake up every day with the thought of getting pregnant. Time out with the girls is spent fixated on nothing but getting pregnant. It becomes the one thing you focus on, turning others into a blur. Cuddle time with your spouse quickly loses fun because it’s about one thing only. It is actually supposed to end in that, the problem is that you become self-conscious and problem-conscious. Now, that… is stressful.
So, how can you prevent getting overwhelmed by depression?
You can start by Owning Your Experience. You are the star of your life and experience. So, start by acknowledging that you’re in charge. Everyone else has been contracted to help you. It is easy to be overwhelmed by all the different activities and all the decisions you need to make but keep one thing in mind: you can call it all off at any time. Ask yourself hypothetical questions i.e. ‘what if’ questions. Get the answers and own your truth. The best way a ship can stay intact in a storm is to have an anchor. Owning your experience is your anchor. No two ships can be on the same spot at the same time. You can learn from other people’s experiences. Ask questions but don’t be afraid of the answers. The answers are also contractors, they are given to help you. You know things about yourself that no one else knows. You know your needs, your passion, your strengths, even your weaknesses. Put them all into consideration and own your decision.
This is possible and will be easy to enforce if it is a result of Healthy Communication with Your Spouse. It is more important at this phase to be in agreement with your spouse. You are a team and, now more than ever, need to act as one. Your way of dealing with things may differ from the way your spouse does but it doesn’t nullify nor detract from the intensity of what either of you is going through. The catch is to go through it together. Acknowledge each other’s feelings, peculiar challenges, and needs. Help each other. Prepare your spouse for challenges. Give them information that will help them to be more effective at helping you. Praise each other’s small efforts at normalcy. Be kind to each other in all you do because within your nucleus, both of you are all you’ve got. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Ask for and Accept Help. Thank God that variety is the spice of life. It will be naive to say that there aren’t people who may deliberately or ignorantly make life miserable for some time. There are also people who will go out of their way to be kind to you because of what you’re going through or because they are just kindhearted. Don’t hesitate to accept help when they offer it. Don’t be shy to ask for help either. People are bonded these days by shared experiences, values, interests, and goals. You may find out that they turn out to be the family you need.
If you need to, please See a Psychologist. You know… someone with knowledge and skill to help you navigate the rugged emotional landscape of infertility. Someone who is interested, objective, trained to discern things you may not even take note of, and skillful enough to offer professional advice and guidance that is tailored to your specific circumstance.
Another step you could take is to Join a Support Group. Support groups generally are non-profit and exist to support women and couples going through infertility. They comprise of experienced people who have walked the path and can truly say that they understand what you’re going through. They also comprise people who may not have any fertility challenge but are empathetic enough to want to hold your hand and let you know that they stand with you in this. There are online support groups like https://thefertilechickonline.com/ , and https://www.beibeihaven.org that you can be a part of. You really are not alone.
You may probably need to Change your medication. But speak to your doctor first. It could be that the medication prescribed to you is triggering some hormonal imbalance and causing mood swings. No, you’re not crazy.
It may also be that you need to Watch What goes into your Mouth. Your diet is important. Sometimes, what you drink and eat may trigger or escalate depression e.g. Alcohol worsens your depression, and caffeine can make you anxious.
Adopting a pet is also a good idea when going through fertility issues. You have something to alleviate the loneliness, to pour all your affection on, and distract you from the pressure of getting a child.
And when you come in contact with children, love on them. Think of it as rehearsal for when your little angel comes.