23 Feb Infertility and Mental Health: What is the Link?
Studies have shown that infertile couples encounter substantial anxiety and emotional distress — some even experience deep feelings of grief and loss.
Infertility affects millions of individuals and couples — and takes a significant toll on one’s mental health. About 9 percent of men and just over 10 percent of women of reproductive age have experienced fertility problems in the United States.
“For some women and couples, there can be this expectation, a dream or plan that they had about having children, and they feel robbed of that dream,” stated Dr. Eynav Accortt, clinical psychologist and director of the Reproductive Psychology Program at Cedars-Sinai.
Studies Regarding Infertility and Mental Health
Rigorous research has concluded that — for the most part — rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders are more significant in infertility patients than in the general population.
One study of 200 couples at a fertility clinic found that 50 percent of the women and 15 percent of the men stated that infertility was the most distressing experience of their lives. Men tend to report experiencing less distress than women — however, one study found that men’s responses may depend on whether they or their partners are diagnosed with the cause of their infertility.
Another study of nearly 500 American women who filled out a standard psychological questionnaire before undergoing a stress reduction program concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.
And in another study in Taiwan, a structured diagnostic interview with a psychiatrist examined just over 100 women seeking assisted reproductive treatment. Levels of anxiety and depression were higher than those found in other populations. Investigators diagnosed anxiety in 23 percent of the women in the study, compared with 11 percent noted in a separate study of outpatients seeking general medical care. The study also diagnosed significant depression in 17 percent of the women seeking infertility treatment, compared with 6 percent in the other patients.
Fertility Clinic and Mental Health Resources
There are multiple ways to seek support for those experiencing infertility and struggling with their mental health.
At Fertility Specialists Medical Group (FSMG), doctors review the patients’ histories, medical records, test results, surgical reports, and have a detailed discussion with patients about their situation and desires.
The goal of the evaluation plan is to help identify any issues contributing to infertility or that could impact the outcome of treatments — with the goal of a healthy baby. Our clinical team works diligently to make the best use of mental health resources, as researchers have shown that many different techniques can help reduce anxiety and/or depression.