Psychological seems like a big word but it simply refers to anything affecting the mind or arising in the mind. It is related to the mental and emotional state of a person.
Infertility is emotionally exhausting and it never shows up alone. It’s usually accompanied by a whole lot of buddies; effects ranging from social, mental and even financial. It can be exhausting.
A lot of people challenged with infertility struggle constantly because they don’t know what to do about it or how to do it. Some people are pretty tough and have an unbreakable spirit but for the lot who feel helpless and don’t know how to go about it, this article tries to help you understand the problem and suggests ways to deal with it.
For some people, knowing they are infertile might not necessarily affect them because children are not their interest so they take it as some sort of sign that things are aligning for them. On the flip side, it is devastating for people who have aspired to become parents or even mapped out their lives to start a family at a particular age only to realize they are infertile. To them, parenthood is a major transition in their lives and a life goal that they have failed to achieve, and this throws them completely off balance.
Although medical breakthroughs have proffered ways of achieving this goal of becoming biological parents, just knowing that they need help to conceive tears them down. They eventually become emotionally and mentally unstable as different emotions take over them and their thoughts become clouded and their activities get affected.
Depression and anxiety are not solely caused by infertility itself. The treatment process also has a hand in the emergence of depression and anxiety. For instance, the fear of the unknown. The outcome of the treatment keeps the patient anxious as there is uncertainty. You don’t know if the treatment will be successful or not but just have to hold on till the end of the cycle. The waiting process is usually not a smooth ride because of bouts of worry and anxiety.
Medications given to patients to help with infertility may in turn add to the patient’s problems by causing depression and mood swings.
What are the Psychological Impacts of Infertility?
Although Depression and Anxiety are the common effects of infertility on an individual, there are other factors that affect people challenged with infertility.
Medical interventions as helpful as it is, is a factor that affects some people faced with infertility. How?
Think about it, before this breakthrough, how did people handle infertility? Most people just dealt with their infertility using the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) because they have no hope, and for that they believe they can only be parents by adoption or a miracle and nothing more.
But now, there’s hope, why? Medical intervention. It tells you that you still have a chance all you have to do is try but there’s a cost attached to it. For those who can afford it, they are only anxious because they are scared of the outcome of the treatment, but for others who can’t even afford this treatment, they have hope once again that ends up shattered as they are financially incapacitated to get this treatment so it seems they are so close to realizing their dream but they are still far away from it. They get to relive the heartbreaking moments every time they think of it and they become even more depressed not because of their infertility issue but their lack of adequate funds to try.
Also, attached to Infertility are
Low Self Esteem: The thought of not being able to conceive or distribute sperm could be rather tough on the parties involved and cause low self-esteem leaving one feeling less than they are and could even affect their personalities and social behavior. They may be unable to share their thoughts with others with kids as they may feel like they don’t measure up to standard on issues involving kids. They may even feel flawed.
Feeling of Failure: Reproduction is natural process and the thought of not being able to contribute to the process is rather heartbreaking and could make one feel less than he/she is, and a failure and blame themselves for not being able to succeed at anything so much that even nature hasn’t seemed them fit to succeed in parenting.
Fear of Loneliness: Most women fear that if they are unable to have children and make their husbands proud fathers they may end up old, sad and lonely in no time. They believe that the husbands may leave them to search for an alternative out of their matrimonial homes and cause then to be alone with no spouse nor child to grow with.
Depression: Infertility has been known to cause depression especially in women as reproduction is practically what most women aspire to achieve in marriage and for those who don’t view it as their sole aim are pressured into having these thoughts by either their parents, the society, even the media. There’s constant thought and no result to show and at such depressing thoughts cloud their minds and joy or happiness becomes a thing of the past.
Guilt: Some people may even begin to feel guilty, blaming their infertility on some decisions or activities from the past and can’t seem to forgive themselves and let go. Some may even feel guilty of being loved by their spouse as they begin to feel undeserving of the affection since they are unable to contribute in the reproduction process.
Jealousy: It’s quite common and natural to feel jealous when you see people blessed with children while you’re struggling to have them. It’s even worse when these people complain about the children; probably wishing they didn’t get pregnant or they weren’t ready to have them or even worse is that they never wanted them in the first place.
Strained Relationships: Infertility could affect a person’s behavior resulting in broken or strained relationships as the communication might be affected by bottled up emotions that can’t be explained. They may begin to withdraw from family, friends, colleagues and even their spouses. This is more common when there has been a lot of trial and error with treatments and medications.
Persistent Feeling of Bitterness or Anger: This is very common as they are extremely frustrated with not being able to reproduce and keep all the emotions bottled up resulting in frequent outbursts of anger at the slightest provocations.
Social Isolation: As we know, social functions tend to remind people of their achievements as well as their predicaments which they try not to think of it at all times. But in a function or gathering people tend to talk about it and even suggest alternatives on a bid to help without realizing the many emotions at play. The thought of the bothersome people at these functions makes them resolve to social isolation as it seems to take care of wagging tongues to an extent, but in reality, keeps them from the activities around them.
For men, they may even feel sad, confused, vulnerable and angry and this could even affect their sense of masculinity and sexuality.
How can I deal with it better?
Some may find a way to cope on their own without any external help. A whole lot of others seek support from friends, family, or infertility support groups either online or in person.
There are still some who need additional help and these should give the help needed;
Counseling: This helps a great deal especially to increase coping strategies, or to provide help with decision making. For people experiencing prolonged mood swings or change in sleep patterns or who have relationship problems should seek a more comprehensive evaluation, as these may be signs of anxiety or depression. Counseling should begin before patients start infertility treatment, as some studies suggest that addressing psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, and stress may help increase the chances of giving birth to a child. Clinicians working with these patients can provide them with information on how to manage fatigue, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve communication with others.
Psychotherapy: This is also Talk-Therapy; it is known to help people deal with emotional difficulties. This is done in three phases of treatment; assessment, therapy, and closure. Likely areas for assessment include the individual spouse, the marital relationship, and the familial and social network. The primary goal of this is to help individuals and couples learn how to cope with the physical and emotional changes and challenges associated with infertility, as well as with the medical treatments that can be painful and intrusive. A good therapist can help sort out feelings, strengthen already present coping skills and develop new ones, and help couples maintain a positive and communicative relationship.
There are specific types of therapy that may also be useful such as;
Inter-personal therapy which focuses on improving relationships or resolving conflicts with others and Cognitive Behavioral therapy which identifies and tries to change unhealthy patterns of thought or behavior can give relief to infertile patients suffering from mild to moderate depression.
Relaxation techniques: It is obvious that infertility and its treatment often cause considerable stress, experts recommend various relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, yoga, meditation and guided imagery can help you transition to a relaxation response state. These techniques can help you deal with any type of stress including that related to infertility.
Medications: For severe cases of depression and anxiety, anti-anxiety or antidepressants are used. Although, medications are not a cure, they are of great help in treating symptoms, so if one stops taking them, the symptoms may return. Although with medications it takes a longer time to get better, it surely helps a great deal. Medications such as antidepressants help reduce feelings such as sadness or depressed mood and anxiety as well as suicidal thoughts. They do not, however, make people “happy” or change their personalities.