Understanding Depression and Infertility

infertility

Contributed by: Susie Perks

There are many reasons why couples might seek to undergo IVF or other fertility treatments abroad, but often the main reasons for making this life changing decision are time and money. The IVF process tends to be drawn out and take considerably longer in the US. It also costs significantly more, leaving many would-be parents without the disposable income they would like to have when raising their new family.  The average price of just one in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle in the U.S. is currently $12,400[1], and very few lucky couples enjoy a positive pregnancy test after just one round of IVF. By contrast, if you choose to travel to Canada the average cost is just $5,571 per cycle.[2] But another less publicized reason for choosing to undergo fertility treatment abroad is to relieve the mental pressure, anxiety and depression that is often experienced by couples (more usually the woman) who are suffering from infertility, and that’s what we will explore.

The Stress of Being Infertile and Undergoing Fertility Treatment

Couples undergoing IVF often place themselves under considerable pressure and their stress levels are very high. A recent study has shown[3] that your stress levels will not affect your ability to conceive (whether naturally or through IVF) but if you are stressed and concerned this could increase your chances of suffering from depression, both during your IVF journey and, ultimately, depression during your pregnancy too: in fact, between 14 and 23 percent of women suffer from some form of depression during pregnancy and many women who undergo IVF are surprised to be included in this number.[4] Women who experience several rounds of failed IVF are at an increased risk of suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, although there has been very little research undertaken to investigate exactly how IVF affects a woman’s mental health. This stress, anxiety and depression focuses itself on two distinct aspects: concerns about not being able to conceive, and guilt and worries about the financial strain repeated IVF treatments place on the family purse. IVF stress may impact the marital relationship, by reducing sexual intimacy[5]. In fact, there are very few aspects of your life that won’t be affected by your decision to undergo IVF, including your relationships with your friends and family. It is a desire to keep these people at arm’s length that leads many couples to conclude that undergoing their treatment abroad is the best option for them.

Prepare Your Coping Mechanisms

If you’re suffering with infertility and are either waiting to travel abroad to start your treatment or are in between unsuccessful treatments then it’s important to pre-prepare your coping strategies, particularly during times when you are likely to feel your childlessness more keenly, such as during the holiday season or when taking a vacation day to a beach full of children. Plan in advance how you will deal with these situations and the (usually well meaning) enquiries about your own family plans, so that you don’t find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts during what could otherwise be moments of happiness. There are a wide range of coping techniques, such as taking time out without feeling guilty about it[6], that you can adopt to help you get through almost any situation.

Although it’s difficult, having a positive mental attitude and remaining upbeat can help you to cope in these circumstances. There are also certain lifestyle changes you can make that will increase your chances of a positive pregnancy test: Stop smoking. Women who smoke require almost twice as many IVF attempts to fall pregnant[7]. Take control of your weight: Women who are overweight have an increased risk of infertility as well as miscarriage, and they experience lower IVF success too. Rather than simply diet, combine a healthy diet with exercise: the feel good hormones experienced when you exercise may help to boost your mood as well as increase your chances of IVF success.

 

Sources:

[1] Resolve, The National Infertility Association, “The Costs of Infertility Treatments”, http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/insurance_coverage/the-costs-of-infertility-treatment.html

[2] Global IVF, “Comparison Costs”, http://globalivf.com/comparison-costs/

[3] Fox News, “Failed IVF Attempt Tied to Depression, Anxiety”, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/06/28/failed-ivf-attempt-tied-to-depression-anxiety/

[4] Psychguides, “Living With: Depression During Pregnancy” http://www.psychguides.com/guides/living-with-depression-during-pregnancy/

[5] American Society for Reproductive Medicine, “Preparing for IVF: Emotional Considerations” https://www.asrm.org/detail.aspx?id=1902

[6] Global IVF, “Coping with the holidays”, http://globalivf.com/2013/12/13/infertility-and-holidays/

[7] Attain Fertility, “Six IVF Success Factors”, http://attainfertility.com/article/ivf-success-factors

 
 

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