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December 13, 2019  
UTERINE NEWS: Feature Story

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  • When Baby Doesn’t Make Three

    When Baby Doesn't Make Three: Infertility and Mental Health

    June 27, 2005

    By: Laurie Edwards for Uterus1

    For most parents, deciding to become pregnant is a powerful period of anticipation and excitement. But for couples battling infertility, the long term struggles to conceive can cause devastating emotional issues. Instead of bonding over the mutual expectation of a coming baby, infertile couples can experience depression, isolation, feelings of loss and frustration that severely impacts their mental health and can strain the relationship.
    Take Action
    Optimize Your Fertility:

    Improve your eating habits

    Exercise in moderation

    Take time to relax

    Get plenty of rest

    Limit alcohol intake

    Stop smoking

    Decrease your intake of caffeinated beverages

    To further explore if you may be experiencing infertility or to seek support from other people with the same problem, visit
    Resolve, The National Infertility Association.

    With as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population experiencing problems with infertility, it is more important than ever to fully understand its consequences.

    According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, infertility is defined as “a disease or condition of the reproductive system often diagnosed after a couple has had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse, or if the woman has suffered from multiple miscarriages.”

    With so many physical obstacles, it is essential that people experiencing infertility recognize the toll it can take on mental health and seek the appropriate help. Luckily, there are a lot of options out there in terms of therapeutic practices aimed specifically at the nuanced problems infertility causes.

    When faced with the idea that becoming pregnant is impossible or is going to involve arduous courses of medications and procedures, of course people are going to feel angry, frustrated, sad or anxious. That is completely natural, and represents perhaps the most important distinction: Emotional upheaval by itself isn’t the problem; it’s when such feelings overwhelm the relationship that potential mental health problems should be addressed.

    When it’s time to seek help

    According to the Mental Health Professional Group, patients should consult a mental health specialist or psychotherapist if they experience the following symptoms for an extended period of time: Depression that doesn’t abate, high levels of anxiety, obsessive thoughts about being infertile at the exclusion of almost everything else, persistent changes in individual sleeping and eating patterns, social isolation, suicidal thoughts and constant feelings of guilt or inadequacy.

    Social isolation and feelings of inadequacy are pivotal here; the same feelings of isolation and desperation can often occur within the home and between the couple. When grief and loss are not handled or communicated, it can drive people apart when they need each other the most.

    The goal of seeking therapy for infertile couples is to help them sort out their responses to their partner’s reactions, distill down their own emotions and frustrations, work out ways to cope with depression and anxiety and foster communication between strained couples.

    In addition, questions about treatment options and limits are a trouble spot for infertile couples. Do both partners agree on how much treatment is enough, and what is too much? Does one advocate invasive and costly procedures while the other may want to stop at drugs and less invasive therapies? These are complex issues, and often represent a place where an outside resource can help infertile couples navigate the decision-making.

    It may seem painfully obvious, but infertility is a medical problem. Since guilt and blame are so often associated with people who find out they are infertile, it is worth emphasizing this. In fact, according to Resolve, 40 percent of infertility is caused by female medical conditions, 40 percent by male medical conditions, and the remainder is caused by problems with both partners and blame is impossible to tease out.

    While some conditions predispose people for infertility, such as endometriosis, there are other risk factors such as age, weight and smoking or drinking alcohol over which patients can have some control. Environmental hazards can also impact fertility. Experts suggest regular check-ups, thorough checking of family medical history, close attention to age and biological clock and consultation with your OB/GYN to evaluate if further testing or medication is necessary.

    Last updated: 27-Jun-05

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