While going through infertility treatments seems like it should be an exciting and hopeful experience, for so many of us- it’s almost the opposite. Depression, sadness, anxiety, guilt, frustration, isolation, loneliness… these are all some of the emotions that can go hand in hand when dealing with infertility. Luckily, many stigmas surrounding infertility, and even depression itself, and slowly dissipating. Finding help and reaching out when things get to be a little too much is encouraged. But having so many options can sometimes give us a false sense of security. Neglecting warning signs and putting off those necessary vent sessions can be a massive detriment, not only to your own health but the health of your family.
Don’t panic. A study published by Harvard Medical School found that “women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.” They also found that 15% of men admitted to infertility being “the most upsetting experience of their lives.” Infertility is something that affects everyone. But with diagnosis, there is help.
Just a diagnosis of infertility alone can seem insurmountable. Trying to contend with infertility and depression is more than anyone can handle on their own. It’s important to be aware that, during this time- depression happens. Remembering that you’re not alone through this process, acknowledging the signs of creeping depression, and engaging in healthy coping mechanisms are all excellent ways to guide yourself and your loved ones through this incredibly difficult time.
Learning the Signs of Infertility and Depression
Of course, fertility treatments and your future family are going to be on your mind. But are they on your mind all the time? Do you find yourself losing sleep over it? Feel like you’re unable to unwind? Even when you’re out with friends, or engaging in activities you love- does your mind still seems to wander right back to your infertility diagnosis? There are many signs that you or your loved ones may need a helping hand. Here is the triple F’s of infertility depression warning signs.
Fixation on infertility is a pretty big red flag that you may be becoming a bit overwhelmed. It’s important to be able to unplug from time to time. While this may seem a bit counter-intuitive, as during this time you’re probably scheduling regular doctor’s appointments, tracking ovulation cycles, recording basal body temperature, taking scheduled medication, and a number of other near-daily tasks centred around your fight with infertility.
Even though all of these heavily regimented schedules are “infertility reminders”, you need to be able to disconnect from it occasionally. If you’re having difficulty focusing on other tasks or hobbies, or find yourself feeling like there’s nothing else to talk about: there may be a problem.
Feeling of guilt, worthlessness, anger and shame are all common emotions at this time, but common doesn’t mean they’re healthy. These types of feelings suggest that there is blame to be placed, or that you have done something to cause your infertility.
While understandable, these emotions towards infertility are incredibly unfair. There are many causes of infertility, and few of them are actually wholly dependent on choices we’ve knowingly made. Infertility does not mean you are broken or defective.
Are you feeling like this was something you or your partner had control over? You might even believe your fertility problems make you less worthy of love? Do you feel afraid that your partner will leave you? If you find yourself answering “yes” to any of these questions, consider seeking counselling with your partner. Often times, your partner may be feeling the exact same way about themselves. Opening lines of communication can reveal that sometimes- there’s no one to blame. It can help both you and your partner talk openly about your fears and concerns, and create a better platform for you to support one another.
Persistent feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anger, or fatigue are all signs that something bigger may be at play. Persistent being the keyword here. Feeling sad, angry, or tired isn’t necessarily abnormal during this time. But feelings like these that last for weeks on end, or are accompanied by thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you need to get help- fast.
Consistently avoiding friends or activities that you used to enjoy, or feeling constantly frustrated with loved ones and confidants, are not indicators of everyday sadness. If you feel like you just can’t shake the moody blues, you’ve got to seek some expert advice.
The Difference Between Sadness / Depression and Infertility
In the same Harvard study that we mentioned above, researchers found out what anyone struggling with infertility already knows: sorting through genuine emotions, and the emotional side effects of fertility meds can be an incredibly difficult task.
Stress and sadness, mood swings and hot flashes, are all a part of dealing with fertility treatments. Infertility can put enormous amounts of pressure on finances, schedules, and relationships. So it’s perfectly normal to be a little stressed out and sad at times. Being able to tell the difference between normal coping mechanisms and full-on depression can be hard- even for the pros, but a few key elements to keep in mind are if you’re experiencing any of the following, it may be more than just general sadness:
- Seemingly unrelenting feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Frequent crying with no correlatable triggers
- Feeling irritated or intolerant of others, specifically people you care about or enjoy being around
- Complete and sustained lack of motivation, or the inability to focus on normal tasks
- Abnormal fluctuations in sleep cycles or eating habits
The main way in which depression seems to regularly and noticeably differ from general, everyday sadness is that it’s sustained. Unhappy, unmotivated, sad, or angry- these are all very normal, and very understandable emotions. They are emotion that you may have to deal with throughout your journey to pregnancy. However, if any of these emotions seem unshakable, or you just can’t seem to get out of your funk- seek help.
Finding counselling services, support groups, even Internet forums and blogs have helped thousands of couples better deal with the stress of infertility. Don’t be afraid to reach out, or ask for help, if you think you might need it. Someone is always there for you, even if you’re dealing with infertility and depression.