Fertility treatments can take a significant toll on all aspects of patients’ lives, especially on their mental health. Patients often feel burdened by the time commitment, stress, lack of results, and need to balance treatments with work. Despite the fact that some individuals report infertility to be a major life crisis, infertility can still be a silent struggle, as patients have a high risk for developing depression, anxiety, isolation, and loss of control.
Some studies show that distress can even negatively impact fertility and disrupt treatment outcomes. Although infertility can be an emotionally and mentally grueling stage of your life, there are many ways you can improve your mental and spiritual wellbeing and increase your quality of life.
One possibly surprising stressor that accompanies fertility treatments is the number of hours patients must set aside for treatments. One survey shows that patients may have to invest over 50 hours into travel and clinic appointments over the course of their treatment plan. The time commitment associated with infertility treatments can be exacerbated by work and personal life demands.
In order to alleviate the strain caused by time constraints, experts recommend accounting for infertility treatments while taking on additional work or personal responsibilities so patients don’t feel overwhelmed. For example, an individual could delay a cycle of in vitro fertilization if they have a particularly busy month ahead, or decline taking on a large project at work if they are feeling stressed by their treatment commitments.
These subtle changes can help patients achieve a more stable balance between work, personal life, and treatment that can make the stress of expanding your family more manageable. However, decreasing your stress and anxiety about time commitments varies from person to person — some individuals might feel better after lessening their commitments, while others feel better while remaining busy and engaged in other aspects of their life.
The emotional toll that patients can experience is perhaps one of the most difficult parts of undergoing treatment for infertility. Studies show that half of women and 15% of men see infertility as one of the most upsetting experiences of their lives, and the anxiety and depression felt by infertility patients is similar to that of patients experiencing cancer, hypertension, and heart disease.
Treatment failures, miscarriage, and strain on relationships can all contribute to this rollercoaster of emotions caused by infertility treatments. One way many patients can relieve their emotional burden is through joining an infertility support group. In speaking with other individuals and couples who have gone through the same stressful and emotional experiences of infertility, patients can gain hope and support during one of the hardest times of their life. Patients can also relieve stress by speaking with loved ones, or manage their own stress using stress-reducing coping mechanisms such as acupuncture, medication, or journaling.
However, some patients might need additional help to get them through their stressful fertility journey. Many patients benefit from short-term counseling, which can help patients explore their coping strategies and making tough decisions that come with infertility treatments. Certain types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, can also help patients and couples minimize their feelings of anxiety and depression. A psychiatrist can also prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depression medications to some patients if they are experiencing moderate or severe symptoms.
physiological impacts of treatment
The escalating stress of infertility treatments can also be caused by changes happening to your body. Many of the drugs and hormones that might be a part of your infertility treatment regimen can have psychological side effects, such as anxiety, mood swings, depression, and irritability. Keeping in mind the biological effects of your changing hormone levels can help you and your loved ones better understand the causes of your stress or mood swings. If you suspect that your mental well-being is being affected by your infertility treatment, it is important to bring up these concerns with your doctor to figure out the next steps in your treatment.
Regardless of what is causing stress during your infertility treatment, your emotional and mental well-being are of the utmost importance. It is completely normal to feel excited, stressed, or scared during your fertility journey, but help and emotional support are always available to you through this difficult time.
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