Infertility depression may be different to "regular" depression in that it has a definite and known cause. In some cases, this can make the treatment of infertility-related depression easier, because doctors and counselors know exactly which symptoms to look for, and how to provide you with appropriate coping mechanisms. However, despite this knowledge, it's only relatively recently that fertility clinics have been offering couples sessions with professional counselors as a matter of routine.
The Link To Infertility
Some studies have found that it's actually more difficult for a woman to get pregnant while she is feeling depressed. Her chances of getting pregnant actually increase when the depression is successfully treated. (It's important to point out that not all fertility experts would agree with these findings).
Sadness Versus Depression
So, how do we know when a woman is feeling sad and down because she's struggling to become pregnant, or when her emotions are taking her over the edge into infertility depression?
A lot of women (and men) who are affected by infertility will experience feelings of extreme sadness. In addition, they may feel anger, grief, jealousy and isolation from friends, family, and other couples who do have children. It's also very normal for couples to experience disruption and even monotony in their sex lives during fertility treatment. When the emotions caused by this experience start to overwhelm a woman to such an extent that she cannot function in her daily life, then we need to consider whether or not she may be depressed.
Symptoms of infertility depression may be similar to those of other types of depression:
- Crying all the time
- Feelings of being overwhelmed by life, and unable to cope
- Not wanting to get out of bed
Other symptoms of infertility depression are quite unique to this form of depression, such as:
- Extreme feelings of resentment towards pregnant women or other women who are mothers
- An obsession with fertility treatment and pregnancy - namely putting everything else on hold until this goal has been achieved
Professional therapy - Fertility doctors now frequently offer their patients an initial consultation with a therapist, which can be followed up with further meetings as necessary. Couples are strongly advised to attend at least one session - even if only to pick up a few "tools" for maintaining their emotional health throughout the fertility treatment process.
Alternative treatments - some women find that yoga, acupuncture, aroma therapy, etc. help them to keep a handle on their emotions.
Talking it out - support from friends and family, a spouse or even support groups of women who have been through, or who are going through, the same experience can be invaluable. But they can only help when a woman reaches out to them and communicates her feelings.
As with all types of depression, medication for the treatment of infertility depression should be used only as a last resort, after other treatment methods have failed. Anti-depressants can be harmful during pregnancy, so if they are prescribed to a woman, she may be advised to take a break from her fertility treatment while she recovers from her depression, and continue her efforts to become pregnant after she has stopped taking the medication.