Recent research has found that undergoing the process of assisted reproduction is linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression and stress. It can also impact a person's self-esteem and confidence (especially in more collectivist countries where it is considered if a woman cannot be a mother she is a failure, and if a man cannot be a father he is less of a man). A person/couple/family may also experience grief, guilt, and despair after a failed IVF cycle – making the IVF journey often a difficult time. In this article, we have different expert opinions on mental health concerns that a couple may face during IVF treatment.
According to Richa Vashista, Chief Mental Health Expert, Atease, below are some specific concerns that a person or couples undergoing IVF may experience.
When one is going through the ups and downs of fertility treatments and IVF, they may have a higher chance of developing depression. Also, couples who have experienced recurrent IVF failure may experience chronic depression as compared to those without a history of treatment.
People can be anxious and fearful of undergoing the IVF process despite it being fairly non-invasive. The further into infertility treatment one gets, the more often they may display symptoms of depression and anxiety.
While undergoing hormonal and fertility treatments, one may find themselves becoming irritable and angry. Medical procedures can leave a person feeling vulnerable, exposed, and helpless, and that can lead to irritability and anger.
Sometimes, fertility treatments may entail loss and mourning. One may experience miscarriage or failed IVF cycles. This can cause the mourning of the loss of an imagined family. There may also be complicated and mixed emotions that come up and one may experience the loss of being related if donor egg, sperm, or embryos are used.
It can cause relationship problems between a couple (blaming one another, resentment, etc). There can be financial stress (IVF is expensive and can become a huge financial burden leading to debt and bankruptcy). There can be social isolation (in places where having children is prioritised). It can also lead to obsession (wanting to have a baby at any cost, not considering other options such as fostering or adopting, being resentful of others who have children or are able to become pregnant). Lastly, one can delve deep into self-criticism (thinking something is wrong with them, blaming themselves for past mistakes or sins, etc).
How To Deal With These Challenges
It is important to take care of your mental health as well as your relationship - find things outside of your treatment that can make you happy – friends, work, hobbies, travelling, etc. Learn to communicate better and nurture your relationship with your partner. Find social support from understanding family members, support groups, friends, etc. Try mindfulness, meditation, yoga or other calming habits. Take care of your physical health by maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. Seek professional support from a therapist.
Infertility and Mental Health Issues
Dr. Preeti Parakh, Psychiatrist & Head, Mpower-The Centre, Kolkata says, "Infertility treatment is gradually becoming quite popular in India with centres operating even in smaller cities. As per World Health Organization, the total rate of primary infertility in India is estimated to be between 3.9 and 16.8 percent. Studies have also indicated a higher proportion of infertile women at the risk of mental health problems compared to those with fertile controls. Low mood , interpersonal sensitivity, and phobic anxiety are commonly found among these groups.”
The emotional burden with regard to the same has had a debilitating effect on millions of couples waiting to conceive. According to reports, the inability to procreate can give rise to mental health problems like stress, anxiety, and depression in women and men alike. Usually, couples opting for IVF or In-Vitro Fertilisation already face issues like stress, guilt, and lack of confidence in themselves. Often they feel like failures and having to undergo a time-taking treatment as IVF adds to the burden.
- There are usually two major reasons for emotional stress during IVF. It might be due to hormonal changes and medications given during the IVF treatment, which could increase the risk of anxiety and depression for many women.
- In addition, the process is time consuming and there is a risk of failure, making IVF a mentally draining experience.
- Non-pharmacological therapies like counselling and relaxation exercises are preferred for patients who are going through IVF or are already pregnant.
- When these therapies aren't helpful, there is the option of starting medication. Yoga and meditation can also help make people feel better.
Parenting expert Mansi Zaveri, Founder and CEO, Kidsstoppress expressed her views by saying, “For some, the journey to motherhood is smooth sailing and for some, it’s a long and painful journey.
Many take the IVF route knowing it's a long and painful process. But the thought of having a baby of your own spurs them to try and try again. A one-day delay in period and your hopes are driven through the sky then a few drops of blood can bring it all crashing down. The pain from the numerous injections can be tolerated and managed. It's the emotional roller-coaster that is tough.
Be around those who help you to feel at ease, and who can help take your mind off the more challenging aspects. Surround yourself with friends and family members who help you to feel supported throughout your journey. Stay positive and stay strong and you will get through it!
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