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Psychosocial Effects of Infertility Treatment

A diagnosis of infertility can be a devastating and life-altering event affecting many aspects of a patient's life. Infertility and its treatment can affect a patient and her spouse or partner medically, financially, socially, emotionally, and psychologically. Feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation, and helplessness are not uncommon among patients undergoing infertility treatment. Strained and stressful relations with spouses, partners and other loved ones are not uncommon as treatment gets underway and progresses.

Although it is normal to experience emotional ups and downs when pursuing infertility treatment, it is important to recognize when these feelings become severe or overwhelming. If you experience any of the following symptoms over a prolonged period of time (e.g., two weeks or longer), you may benefit from working with a mental health professional:

  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Depression that doesn't lessen
  • Strained interpersonal relationships (with partner, family, friends and/or colleagues)
  • Difficulty thinking of anything other than your infertility
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Diminished ability to accomplish tasks
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Change in your sleep patterns (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, early morning awakening, sleeping more than usual for you)
  • Change in your appetite or weight (increase or decrease)
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Thoughts about death or suicide (contact us immediately if having such thoughts)
  • Social isolation
  • Persistent feelings of pessimism, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Persistent feelings of bitterness or anger

Patient support groups are available and include RESOLVE
Phone: 888.623.0744

or

The American Fertility Association (AFA)
Phone: 888.917.3777

Is stress causing my infertility?

Probably not. Even though infertility is very stressful, there isn't any proof that stress causes infertility. Is infertility causing my stress? Maybe. Many women who are being treated for infertility have as much stress as women who have cancer or heart disease.

While the "just relax" suggestions from your family and friends may be more frustrating than helpful, learning ways to reduce stress can make the struggles of infertility more manageable.  Try the following techniques, but keep in mind that relaxation is a personal process.  You will learn what works best for you! Talk to your partner.

  • Realize you're not alone. Talk to other people who have infertility, through individual or couple counseling, or support groups
  • Read books on infertility, which will show you that your feelings are normal and can help you deal with them
  • Learn stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or acupuncture
  • Avoid taking too much caffeine or other stimulants
  • Exercise regularly to release physical and emotional tension
  • Have a medical treatment plan with which both you and your partner are comfortable
  • Learn as much as you can about the cause of your infertility and the treatment options available
  • Find out as much as you can about your insurance coverage and make financial plans regarding your fertility treatments

Source: ASRM Patient Fact Sheet Stress and Infertility