Fertility Treatments and Stress

In a previous article, “The Psychological Impact of Infertility,” we discussed the reasons why undergoing fertility treatment can cause someone stress.  In short, the synthetic estrogen prescribed to help boost ovulation has side effects that include anxiety, sleeplessness, mood swings, and irritability.  Additionally, the expense of infertility treatments, which run $8000 and up, are often not covered by health insurance.  Finally, waiting for the treatment to take hold, and dealing with the knowledge that the treatment did not take hold, are both anxiety producing.

There have been many studies in the medical community linking stress to infertility.  Therefore, doctors would like to mitigate stress in patients undergoing infertility treatment as much as possible.  Doctors on medicinenet.com offer the following tips to help these individuals manage their stress:

1)      Do not try to downplay or deny that you are going through a time of heightened stress.  While you are undergoing infertility treatment, you life may not be business as usual.  Consider cutting out nonessential activities to give yourself some time to decompress.

2)      Do not try to handle the stress on your own.  Find a trusted friend or family member who you can talk to about your feelings.  You can also check with your fertility clinic to see if they offer a support group for their patients.  Understand that your partner is likely going through his/her own stress regarding the situation, and therefore might not be able to provide you with all of the emotional support you need.

3)      Empower yourself with knowledge.  Make sure to read up on and understand the treatment you are experiencing, and do not be afraid to ask questions of the doctor when you need clarification.

4)      Discuss the possibility of treatment breaks with your doctor.  It may be viable for you to undergo treatment every other cycle if you feel breaks in between would be beneficial to your mental health.

Most of all, you should understand that you are not alone.  Feelings of sadness, depression, and frustration are common among women undergoing infertility treatment.  Do not hesitate during this time to make your physical and emotional needs top priority. If you are still thinking about taking fertility treatments and have not made up your mind as to what route to take, Lady-Comp Baby is a great natural alternative before going through the stress and turmoil fertility treatments can take you through.  The Lady-Comp and Lady-Comp Baby can pinpoint a woman’s fertile window to help her plan when to focus on intercourse. And if necessary, the Lady-Comp can give her detailed information about her cycle that her doctor may use if she still has difficulty conceiving and may negate the need for costly and stressful fertility treatments.

The Psychological Impact of Infertility

Each year, roughly 1.3 million patients in the United States receive medical advice and/or treatment for infertility.  While it is common to discuss the physiological issues behind infertility, the psychological impact of being diagnosed with infertility is often neglected.

According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, both men and women suffer emotional impact.  They cite several studies as evidence:

  • One study of 200 couples seen consecutively at a fertility clinic found that 50% of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives.
  • A study of 488 American women who filled out a standard psychological questionnaire before undergoing a stress reduction program concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.
  • Another study found that men’s reactions may depend on who in the relationship has been diagnosed with infertility.   Men do not report being as distressed as the women do when their partner has been given the diagnosis.  But when men learn that they are the ones who are infertile, they experience the same levels of low self esteem, stigma, and depression as infertile women.

Fertility treatments themselves can cause a strain on a patient’s relationships with those around them.  For example, the synthetic estrogen clomiphene citrate,  which is a frequently prescribed because it improves ovulation, may cause female patients anxiety, sleep interruptions, mood swings, and irritability.  Other infertility medications may cause depression and mania.   Add to this the monetary expense of fertility treatments, which are often not covered by health insurance.  The average cost for an IVF cycle using fresh embryos is $8,158, with an additional $3,000 to $5,000 per cycle for fertility drugs.  Finally, anxiety mounts in all involved when a treatment fails to take hold.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, or you feel that infertility issues are impacting the strength of your marriage, it is highly recommended you ask your doctor for a referral for counseling.  In an ideal world, you should begin counseling before you start infertility treatment, as some studies suggest that addressing psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, and stress may help increase your chances of giving birth to a child.