If you are struggling with depression or finding it difficult to cope with infertility, there’s no need to feel alienated and lonely. Infertility takes a deep psychological toll on people and researchers even suggest that the psychological impact of the infertility experience can be close to that of patients coping with HIV or cancer. Not only is the disease mentally distressing in itself but getting through therapy and medical treatment is often equally stressful and agonizing. Infertility is a multi-faceted phenomenon that not only affects one’s body but also one’s mental health, sense of self-worth, confidence, and emotional well-being.
Patients suffering from infertility often experience feelings of shame, inadequacy, frustration, and anxiety due to the stigma that is usually associated with this condition. They can start judging themselves for being unable to conceive or consider themselves inferior to other women or men. This is further aggravated by the culture of taboo and silence that prevails in society around infertility. Infertile couples or individuals often go through a sense of loss when they see their dream of raising children slipping away. The physical and hormonal effects of fertility treatment coupled with doubts and anxiety about the outcome lead to emotional upheaval. It’s very important for both men and women struggling with reproductive problems to pay extra attention to their mental well-being so that they can tide over this period in a healthy manner and not develop long-term problems like chronic depression.
There’s no need to lose hope and give up on your chances to have a child and lead a fulfilling future. Here are 8 effective ways that you can look after your mental health while coping with your infertility issues:
- Identify your emotions and thoughts:
Infertility alone does not cause negative feelings and stress. Often it is also the result of personal, familial, and societal expectations as well as the thought processes that we put ourselves through. Identifying these emotions and thoughts not only makes you more aware of what you are going through and whether you need help, but also allows you to probe deeper into why you are feeling that way. Infertility patients often experience feelings of failure, shame, inadequacy, isolation, guilt, and loss. They feel judged by others or fear rejection from their partner or loved ones. Trying to understand what triggers these feelings and whether they are valid or a result of personal insecurities and preconceived notions can help you deal with them better.
- Stop blaming yourself or your partner:
This is more common than you might expect. Consciously or unknowingly, partners often start blaming each other or themselves for not being able to conceive. Though it’s understandable that you might feel like you have failed yourself and your family, you have to understand that infertility is an illness which is caused by a number of factors that you don’t have control over. Regret or blame is harmful to you and your partner since infertility is never a choice that one consciously makes. This is a very difficult time for any couple and can truly test the relationship. Instead of finding faults, your focus should be on supporting and taking care of yourself and your partner. Emotional support is one of the most important necessities during this period.
- Talk about your problems and emotions and share your story:
There is still a lot of stigma and taboo around infertility in our society which prevents most men and women from talking about it and sharing their experiences with others, often even with their family. However, discussing what you are going through with your partner, family, or close friends can serve as an important emotional outlet as well as let them understand, respond and even help you more effectively. Talking out your problems can not only help process what you are going through, but you can find helpful advice and information from others. It establishes healthy communication as well. If you are still uncomfortable with talking to people personally, you can start by participating in online forums, discussions, and infertility communities anonymously.
- Relax and de-stress:
Stress is often more harmful to our psychological as well as sexual well-being than we realize. In fact, stress is one of the major factors that can lead to depression, sexual dysfunction, sluggishness, unproductivity, and anxiety. Coping with infertility involves handling not only emotional distress but also physical discomfort and hormonal changes due to medical treatments, as well as financial stress and burdens. So, you need to step back at times, take stock of your stress levels and relax as much as possible. Treating infertility can be a long process and you need to have patience. So, keep working on calming your mind and body and practice destressing habits, exercises, and methods. You can even take up meditation or yoga, or devote periods of time to pamper and take care of yourself.
- Accept your problems and feelings and prepare yourself for all possibilities:
Most of the time, we like to see things as they should be instead of accepting things as they are. Accepting your problems and the feelings that they cause can go a long way in helping you cope with infertility and support your partner. You also have to accept the fact that you can’t be perfectly calm, keep doing all your duties, be a perfect partner. Don’t impose perfection or certain standards and emotions on yourself. The more you deny what you are going through, the more it will affect you internally. Once you start exploring the options you have, prepare yourself mentally for the outcomes that may happen and the obstacles that you might face. Always remember that the most important thing is taking care of yourself.
- Find a support system:
Usually, the person who can best offer support is your spouse or partner. But you also have to keep in mind that they too are going through this difficult time with you and they can be too close to the issue to always be objective or give you the support and guidance you need. Seeking help from outside sources may help both partners. However, be careful of the people you open up to for help and support because you are psychologically vulnerable to them, At times some people who are closest to us, like parents, can be sources of negativity. Support groups may also be helpful as you can speak out amongst people who have been through the same.
- Take the help of a counsellor:
Mental health professionals who are equipped to help people dealing with infertility can make a big difference. Fertility doctors themselves often suggest short-term counseling to help with coping strategies and problem-solving techniques. Don’t hesitate to go to a counselor to understand and deal with what you are going through. Professionals can address the psychological and emotional challenges that infertility and its treatment involves. They may help you to cope with personal issues, like stress, depression, and anxiety or to deal with your spouse’s responses and approach. They can also help you with making the right choices during your treatment. Maintaining good mental health increases your chances of conception and having a complication-free, healthy baby.
- Try psychotherapy:
Psychotherapy may be a good option for you if you think you are battling some serious psychological issues and are not finding effective results from counseling. Psychotherapy can involve cognitive behavioral therapy that helps identify and break unhealthy psychological or behavioral patterns. Your therapist may also use interpersonal therapy to improve the relationship between you and your spouse or with others.
No matter what you are going through, know that you are not alone or beyond help. Don’t let the stigma surrounding infertility or mental health stop you from seeking support and professional help. Don’t invalidate your distress and take care of yourself during this journey.