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Effects of Fertility Treatment on Mental Health

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During fertility treatment, feelings of depression, anxiety, and jealousy can make the person to be isolated. Let us find out more about it in this article.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Khushbu

Published At March 20, 2024
Reviewed AtApril 10, 2024

Introduction:

Mental health plays an important role, especially during fertility treatment. The journey towards parenthood is very important, and maintaining proper mental health is crucial. Research has found that factors affecting mental health may influence the success rate of fertility treatments.

What Is Fertility Treatment?

Fertility treatment is the one that helps women get pregnant when they face difficulty getting pregnant. Many women and men face problems having children. This state is called infertility.

Infertility may be affected by all cultures and societies, and it is estimated that 10-15 % of couples of reproductive age experience infertility. In recent years, the number of couples has increased.

The reasons for this include,

  • Postponement of childbearing among women.

  • Development of newer techniques.

  • Increasing awareness regarding the service available.

Pregnancy occurs when the sperm from a male joins with an egg from a female. Fertility treatment is indicated in the following conditions.

  • Women of 35 years of age or younger face difficulty getting pregnant for at least a year.

  • Women with irregular periods, no periods, or if the periods are painful.

  • Women with conditions like endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, or a past miscarriage.

  • There may be a male factor present, like a history of testicular trauma and past infertility with another partner.

What Are the Problems Caused by Fertility Treatment?

Fertility treatment is helpful for those who face difficulty in getting pregnant, but it poses some problems, too.

These include

  • During fertility treatment, women may tend to get pregnant with multiples. They may give birth to more than one baby.

  • Baby born may have problems like premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects.

  • Depending on the type of fertility treatment, some of the complications, like bleeding and infection, Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). OHSS may further cause bloating and nausea. Some women may experience weight gain and shortness of breath.

What Are the Different Fertility Treatments Available?

There are many kinds of fertility treatments available. These include

  • Surgery can be done to repair the reproductive parts.

  • Controlled ovarian hyperstimulation.

  • Invitro fertilization.

  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

How Does Fertility Treatment Affect Mental Health?

Fertility treatment can influence mental health. According to a study conducted in 2021, it was found that couples with fertility concerns can have emotional turmoil. Emotional disturbances during such conditions are considered common as they are related to psychological stress and anxiety that are related to their future, stress present in relationships with partners, family, and colleagues, and financial costs related to treatment.

Psychological Impacts of Infertility:

Parenthood is considered one of the most important transitions in adult life. This may be the same for both men and women. Stress caused by infertility or the fulfillment of a child is linked to emotional disturbances like anger, depression, anxiety, marital problems, sexual dysfunction, and social isolation. Couple my experience with stigma, a sense of loss, and decreased self-esteem.

A study by Wright and Greil in 1991 and 1988 showed that female partners are affected more than male partners. Both partners exhibit a loss of identity, defectiveness, and incompetence.

Emotional feelings such as stress, anxiety, and depression are considered common consequences of infertility. Many studies have found that depression is more common among infertile couples presenting for fertility treatment when compared to fertile couples.

The prevalence of depression was estimated among infertile couples presenting for fertile treatment at 15 percent to 54 percent. Anxiety was found to occur more commonly among infertile couples when compared to the general population. 8 percent to 28 percent of infertile couples exhibited anxiety.

The causes of this may still be in debate. In a study, it was found that women with a history of depression exhibited a twofold risk for infertility. It was found that depression is directly connected to infertility and involves the physiology of a depressed state, like increased prolactin levels, a deranged hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and dysfunction of the thyroid.

A study showed that depression was linked to abnormal regulation of the luteinizing hormone. The luteinizing hormone is responsible for regulating ovulation. A study conducted in 1998 found that an alteration in immune function that is linked to stress and depression may also affect reproductive function. Stress is considered to be linked to physiological changes. This provides a clue that there is a direct link between cumulative stress and recurrent depression and anxiety, and these may be considered causative factors.

Psychological Stress During Fertility Treatment:

Many emotions are affected, even during fertility treatment.

1. Depression: It is a feeling of sadness or being down. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, depression is a mental health condition that exhibits a continuous and severe low mood. When a person experiences ups and downs during fertility treatment, they may have a higher chance of developing depression.

2. Anxiety: It is a feeling of overwhelming dread. Anxiety can make it difficult to control the worry. An anxious person may worry more than required and expect the worst even when nothing happens. In fertility treatment, less than half of the procedures in in vitro fertilization (IVF) are invasive. The person may still feel anxious and fearful about undergoing treatment. According to a study conducted in 2018, as a person moves forward into fertility treatment, they tend to exhibit more symptoms of depression and anxiety. Researchers have noticed that individuals with fertility treatment failure tend to exhibit higher levels of depression and anxiety. Another study noticed that individuals with two failures exhibited more depression when compared to normal individuals.

3. Irritability: Individuals may experience irritability and anger during the fertility treatment. Procedures during the fertility treatment may leave the person vulnerable, exposed, and helpless. These feelings may be responsible for irritability and anger.

4. Jealousy: It is when an individual observes another person reaching milestones and feels achieving those milestones to be distant from himself. In such situations, the person becomes overwhelmed by intense feelings.

5. Grief: During fertility treatments, the loss may occur in the form of miscarriage or failed IVF cycles. This may be exhibited as grief.

6. Isolation: During the fertility treatment, all feelings, such as depression, anxiety, grief, jealousy, and irritability, may appear together and make the person feel isolated and alone.

7. Medications: Some medications used for fertility treatment may result in anxiety, depression, and irritability.

A study done in 2012 reported that both males and females have a similar desire to have children. It was also found that fertility treatment similarly affected both males and females.

These include,

1. Depression: A study done in 2016 reported that 56.5 percent of women and 32.1 percent of men were found to have symptoms of depression.

2. Anxiety: The same study reported that 75.9 percent of women and 60.6 percent of men exhibited the symptoms of anxiety. Other feelings were also found to be similar among both men and women.

Conclusion:

Fertility treatment is an important phase for couples as they step into parenthood. During the treatment, they may experience many types of emotions. These may be caused by some of the changes in the body and also may be due to cumulative stress due to environmental factors and treatment procedures and their outcomes. These can be dealt with techniques like meditation, yoga, journaling, and involvement in activities that give joy. Mental health professionals should take help to deal with difficult feelings like depression, anxiety, and other difficult emotions.

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Dr. Khushbu
Dr. Khushbu

Obstetrics and Gynecology

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