Undergoing fertility care, regardless of the reasons why, can be stressful, depressing, and frustrating for everybody involved. The long wait times, the undesirable test results, the numerous failures, and the cost-heavy procedures; all add up over time and can become overwhelming if not well managed.
These frustrations, if left unchecked, can have a myriad of negative effects on your chances of success. Another area could include mental well-being, odds of postpartum and prenatal comorbidities, and physical health. With that in mind, we thought it would be appropriate to explore the consequences of improper and proper mental health management during the fertility journey on; the patient’s mental health, physical wellness, and the couple’s health and the positive impacts of proper mental health care can have on these same things.
Impact on the Patient’s Mental Health
As one can imagine, frequent and constant exposure to stress and failure can have devastating consequences on mental health ranging from impaired cognitive abilities all the way to depression. The harshness of fertility treatments, paired with higher rates of depression amongst infertile women  means that patients who start fertility treatment could already be in a bad mental health position only to embark on a rough unpredictable journey. Sadly, this combination of depression and failure does seem to lead to higher rates of suicide amongst infertile women undergoing IVF treatments  as numerous studies already seem to be found. Besides the previous elements, the impact of mismanaged stress experienced before and during pregnancy on postpartum comorbidities isn’t yet fully understood but does seem to have a possible correlation  with higher rates of certain conditions such as postpartum depression and psychosis.
Impact on the Patient’s Physical Health
Whilst mental health is the most obvious system at risk when talking about depression and stress, the physical health of the patients can also be affected by these factors . Indeed, long-time stress exposure has been linked to increased chances of numerous cardiovascular disorders , increased likelihood of neurological disorders , and sickness-like symptoms that can be debilitating. Furthermore, unaddressed mental health problems related to stress and frustration can lead to self-destructive coping mechanisms such as binge-eating, drug abuse, alcoholism, gambling, self-harming, social isolation, and suicide attempts which all poses major risks to one’s physical well-being. Patients who are receiving fertility treatment whilst also partaking in one or more of these activities might encounter more failures than what is considered normal, further worsening the situation.
Impact on a Couple’s Health
Besides damage to the patient’s mental and physical health, unaddressed mental health difficulties experienced before and throughout the fertility journey can also negatively affect the couple’s relationship. Indeed, frustrations resulting from failures and frequent disappointments might cause friction between partners that can easily escalate to fights, insults and even violence. Furthermore, division and isolation can be created in a relationship if a partner is going through a rough time with the fertility treatment and doesn’t properly communicate with their significant other for reasons such as fear of being judged or of disappointment.
On the other hand, proper mental health care during fertility treatment can have a myriad of positive impacts on the patient’s mental, physical, and relationship health.
Positive Impact on Mental Health
Proper mental health management during the fertility journey is crucial since it is often the first mental health consultation regarding one’s infertility. This first visit can help cope with the reality of infertility and the stress that comes with it, thus preventing the afflictions mentioned above and bettering patients’ lives. Addressing infertility with a therapist can thus help with managing emotions, stress and insecurities which can result in increased quality of life for multiple reasons. Firstly, stress can often result in clouded judgment, lowered concentration, and mood swings which all lead to bad decision-making and thus lowered quality of life, lowered sense of success, and lowered self-esteem. Clearing this stress has the opposite effect since it removes this constant source of failure from one’s life. Secondly, insecurities resulting from one’s infertility can lead to isolation, reluctance to engage in certain activities, and social anxiety. Talking with a professional about these issues can result in a discovery of fertility-focused communities, a desire to help others in similar situations, and a desire to participate in social events focused on fertility. It’s well documented that socializing has numerous benefits to mental health; a therapist can help patients eliminate insecurities holding them back. Finally, talking to a therapist, even if it’s just for fertility, can help address other unidentified sources of negativity in patients’ lives that a trained professional might pick up.
Positive Impact on Physical Health
Mental health management during the fertility journey also impacts patients’ physical health positively for numerous reasons. On one hand, in the same way, coping mechanisms can lead to self-destructive behaviours, they can also lead to constructive behaviours such as dietary changes and the inclusion of sports in daily life. These changes in your routine can result in healthier lifestyles leading to noticeable changes in one’s physical health, bodily appearance, and physical capacities. On the other hand, addressing sources of stress in one’s life ultimately prevents the negative health impacts frequent exposure to it might bring on. As listed before, these range from frequent causes of discomfort such as headaches and nausea to an increased likelihood of major afflictions such as cardiovascular incidents and neurological disorders.
Positive Impact on a Couple’s Health
Talking with a therapist about infertility has a positive impact on the couple’s health in the same way it does on individuals by helping with coping, increasing socialization, incorporating healthy lifestyles, and addressing dangerous stress. It is, however, much more significant than these when it comes to the fertility journey since it impacts decisions taken during treatment. Indeed, perhaps the most crucial part needed for treatment is a healthy headspace individual-wise and couples-wise. It’s thus crucial for the partners to be on the same wavelength when beginning this journey which can be difficult when stress, anger, and fear are at play. Discussing sources of frustrations like infertility with a professional can help with the communication, understanding, and teamwork needed in a strong relationship.
Put simply, mental health management is an important part of fertility treatment since a lack of it can lead to negative effects on mental, physical, and couple health, whilst the proper implementation can lead to noticeable amelioration of quality of life by having positive consequences on these same factors. We hope this article has been useful and informative to you in your decision-making!
Fertility Friends Foundation is here to make a difference!