The Chicken Or The Egg?
Estimates show that up to 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. And the emotional challenges of infertility are significant. The same study cited that people who struggle to get pregnant can experience similar levels of stress and depression as those who have received a cancer diagnosis. And these negative feelings can create a chicken and egg question: does stress have a negative impact on fertility, or does infertility lead to stress?
The answer is both
One study found that 56% of women and 32% of men undergoing fertility treatment have significant symptoms of depression. In the same group, 76% of women and 61% of men also scored high for symptoms of anxiety. Other research found that women who had high levels of stress enzymes took 29% longer to get pregnant than those who had less stress. So both statements are true: infertility treatments can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression, and those negative feelings can harm fertility.
How do I deal with stress?
One of the most significant factors in dealing with infertility stress and depression is a mindset shift. Instead of feeling guilty for experiencing anger, disappointment, or frustration, try to give permission to cry, be angry, or express emotions in any way. Often, couples experience or process feelings differently. Give each other permission to cope differently with the stress of infertility.
Couples going through infertility treatment need an arsenal of healthy coping techniques. Coping techniques are strategies or behaviors to help promote relaxation, motivation, or more positive feelings. Talking with a friend, journaling, meditating, exercising, or breathing exercises can all be positive coping mechanisms.
Fake it ‘til you make it
When battling depression, one of the best coping strategies is to maintain regular routines. Healthy habits, like cooking dinner at home or going out for a run, can promote better health as well as serve as a distraction from negative emotions. While motivation is scarce when a person is experiencing depression, sometimes faking positivity can lead to genuine feelings of improvement.
Connect with others
For couples who want or need more support, there are many support groups available. These groups can help couples foster connections with others and decrease feelings of loneliness. Many people also benefit from professional counseling or therapy, whether one-on-one or as a couple. Mental health therapists are experts who can provide a safe space to help people process grief, anger, or other challenging emotions. For more resource recommendations or treatment options, speak with a fertility specialist.