For some, a clear link exists between depression and fertility. After all, when a couple faces conception challenges, they often experience symptoms of depression such as sadness or hopelessness.
However, this connection is just scratching the surface when it comes to both depression and fertility. Dig a little deeper to unfold the unique emotional and mental health dynamics surrounding family building.
As you may have guessed, fertility problems can lead to depression. And, although depression doesn't necessarily cause fertility problems, it can certainly exacerbate current physical issues.
It is vital to understand this distinct relationship and safeguard both your mental and physical health when undertaking the journey of addressing infertility.
Identifying Fertility-Related Depression
When you fail to see a + on a pregnancy test or receive negative news regarding fertility treatment, it's only natural to feel sad. You and your partner, if you have one, may even experience this type of heavy sadness for several days, weeks, months, or longer.
Furthermore, other situations—baby announcements on social media, invitations to baby showers, seeing the glowing results of a family photo session, walking past the baby section at a store—may cause the same type of reaction.
This emotional response of sadness is situational, caused by environmental stimuli and compounded by fertility issues. Albeit painful, it's a natural and likely temporary experience.
Depression, however, is different.
Depression sinks down on you like a heavy fog and it doesn't lift for weeks or even months. It may begin as sadness, but it can quickly take root and greatly impact your family building experience.
How Depression Impacts Your Fertility Experience
Despite a fertility problem being a physical condition, in most cases, fertility-related depression can negatively impact your relationship, sex life, self-worth, and everyday routine.
You and/or your partner may experience:
Loss of interest
Changes in appetite
Anxiety or worry
Inability to concentrate
Family building largely depends on feelings of hope and possibility. There's an intangible umbrella of tenderness and compassion connected to any family building plans you make. Having sex, picking out baby names, or preparing a would-be nursery should be enjoyable and exciting moments for you and your partner.
Depression changes all of that.
Scheduled sex, for example, can quickly become a chore or even something dreaded, and negative emotions infiltrate those moments that should be joy-filled.
In other words, depression and fertility problems can form an unwanted union that you likely weren't prepared for. This dreadful combo has the potential to fill your fertility experience with bitterness, hopelessness, and lots of tears for both you and your partner.
As depression impacts your most intimate relationship, it may seem difficult to connect to each other or to stay positive in other areas of life. Moreover, this uneasiness may spread its icy fingers over the entire topic of fertility.
How Your Fertility Experience Impacts Depression
In life, as in your fertility experience, it's a whole lot easier to stay positive and ward off depression when things go your way. I'm sure you've tried telling your reproductive organs that a time or two, right?
Yet, when another month passes without the assurance of one day holding your sweet baby in your arms, your heart likely sinks down a bit. It gets more difficult to stay hopeful about another round of treatment or trying a new treatment method altogether.
This reality undoubtedly impacts your mental state, provoking or exacerbating feelings of depression.
And, fertility treatment protocols themselves might affect your chemical and hormone balance in your body, creating a bigger space for depression to settle in. In short, your fertility experience may compound any existing depression symptoms.
It's during these times that many couples ultimately give up the chase, per se. The frustrations of fertility problems may lead you to seek some type of a reprieve. While the desire for respite from emotional (and possibly physical) pain is certainly understandable, there is increased concern for seeking reprieve through habits that negatively impact fertility, such as few extra glasses of wine a bit too frequently, or excessive emotional eating leading to an unhealthy weight, or even giving up on fertility treatments altogether. And, while making the decision not to proceed with further family building efforts can be just as important and worthy a decision as decided to proceed, making a decision like that while in the throes of depression can result in an outcome that is rife with regret.
It can be a vicious cycle.
If left unchecked, depression and fertility problems can interplay in an unproductive pattern for months or even years.
Yet, there's always hope.
With the help of a therapist specializing in fertility and family building, you can learn to ward off or, at least, manage symptoms of depression as you navigate your reproductive journey.