The journey to parenthood is probably the most venturesome of journeys to take during your adult life. Yet for 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK, the journey to fertility is a rocky road. Experiencing fertility struggles can lead you towards an emotional rollercoaster filled with many difficult emotions, such as anger, depression, anxiety, shock, grief, and frustration.
Many people remain silent about the influence fertility struggles can have on our mental health. We’re here to open up the conversation around the psychological influences of fertility issues. Here are some of the common feelings and emotions you may feel on your infertility journey.
You could have been trying to conceive for some time before you consider visiting your fertility specialist. The process of accepting that your hope to become a parent is further out of reach than expected and that you need help can be incredibly distressing.
Letting someone into intimate details of your life can lead to understandable feelings of anxiety. The wait time between consultations and test results could also lead to anxious feelings and thoughts.
Each person experiences anxiety in different ways and has different triggers, so it is helpful to identify where yours may come from. Stress management classes & meditation can be some useful techniques to help keep anxiety in check. If you feel like your anxiety is getting out of control, it’s best to visit a fertility counsellor for advice.
It’s not uncommon to feel a profound sense of guilt as you experience fertility struggles. You may over scrutinize your lifestyle while trying to find an answer, which can amount to heightened feelings of guilt and stress.
Consultations can be tough and a diagnosis can result in the feelings of failure as both a partner and a parent. Guilt can be a powerful and damaging force on your mental state. You must understand that your fertility struggles are not your fault and although feeling guilty may be natural, it is something you should discuss with your partner or therapist.
Your infertility journey may seem like a lonely road, where each step appears to distance you further from loved ones. It’s common for couples to want to socially isolate themselves from triggering situations where they could find themself surrounded by “happy families”.
But social isolation can be particularly difficult in today’s social media age, as simply scrolling through your feed can turn into a minefield of baby envy.
Conversations riddled with intrusive questions about your journey or uncalled for advice can be difficult to navigate. You may even find yourself wanting to isolate from your partner because you feel like they aren’t as involved.
Although this is understandable and these feelings are normal, it can also exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety.
Low self-esteem and fertility struggles seem to go hand in hand. Those who have encountered fertility setbacks describe feelings of inadequacy, of being “not good enough”. Comparing your journey to someone else may also influence your self-esteem. Always remember that we are all different, although their issues may be similar to yours, the way each individual responds to treatment will be different.
The cocktail of emotion that comes as part of the fertility struggles package can leave nerves frayed and relationships fragile. Feelings of guilt can lead to a communication breakdown for couples or loved ones. Always remember to have a safe space for an open conversation about your feelings. Try and make sure you are all on the same page regarding treatment.
As well as being an emotional journey, infertility can also significantly impact your finances. It is easy to get swayed by emotions during treatment, so it is important to keep your budget in check.
The despair of not knowing why you’re struggling to conceive, or the wonder of whether you ever will, can lead to a state of depression. Depression can be triggered by the emotional challenges and physical side effects from fertility treatment such as hormonal therapy, treatment failure, pregnancy loss, financial or relationship stress.
You can try journaling to keep track of your emotions. Remember to look out for signs like emotional outbursts and loss of appetite.
One positive to take is that the stigma of mental health around fertility problems is finally being addressed. There are now multiple campaigns and social media platforms to voice your struggles and journey. Some clinics now routinely offer sessions with fertility counsellors who can help you focus on the emotional aspects of your journey.
Always remember, you are not alone. The infertility community is one of the most beautiful and supportive networks, representing all of those who are fertility warriors. Although it is a club you may have joined without choice, we hope you will leave with an encouraging tribe.
If you are struggling to conceive and would like to know more about how your fertility impacts your mental health, we can help. At Hertility, we don’t just give you results, we give you the what’s up and the what’s next. Our team of experts include fertility specialists and counsellors, who can help to guide you through your journey.