Working through the emotions of infertility
The desire to have a baby is one of the most natural feelings a woman experiences during her lifetime. So it’s understandable that struggles with conception can cause deep feelings of loss and depression. The reality is infertility and depression often go hand in hand.
“It’s completely normal to feel sadness when dealing with issues surrounding conception,” according to Ross Teemant, LCSW, senior director of Behavioral Health for Texas Health Resources. “A woman may get the blues when she’s done away with the birth control only to have her period come, when a fertility test comes back unfavorably, when treatments fail or upon diagnosis of infertility. It’s also normal for a woman to feel sadness when reminded of her fertility struggles, like when she’s invited to a baby shower or her sister has her third child.”
“By the time a woman sees an infertility specialist, she has often experienced the roller coaster of emotions every month, feels that absolutely everyone in her life is pregnant or has a new baby, and if one more person tells her to ‘just relax’ it might heighten her anxiety and push her to an emotional edge,” Teemant added.
There is no one right way to deal with the depression that can come with infertility. Recognizing emotions as they come and staying in the moment can be helpful as a woman works to manage the emotions that result from the daily challenges of infertility. Teemant offers these activities as healthy ways a woman may cope with infertility:
- It can be easier to pen than to voice the emotions being experienced in the moment. Taking time to share what’s written with a loved or trusted confidant can also be healing.
- Often individuals will plant a tree or garden in memory of a loss or as a symbol of growth and renewal. There also seems to be a soothing or healing nature to digging in the earth and watching plants emerge from seed to seedling and from seedling to maturity.
- Participating in support groups or a healing circle. Meeting with others who have experienced similar emotions can provide a sense of community and belonging. It can be helpful and validating to be with others who are on the same journey and who have the same feelings. This can decrease any isolation that may exist in the depressive stage and as a woman gains a greater understanding of ‘self’ and moves past any sense of blame.
- Resurrecting a hobby. Engaging in activities that have previously been enjoyable or rewarding can be uplifting. Immersing oneself in a favorite book, a favorite sport or a creative outlet can provide a temporary reprieve from the emotional rollercoaster.
When a woman’s coping mechanisms fail to bring sufficient relief from depression and anxiety, Teemant suggests it may be time to seek additional help.
“Ultimately the time to get help is up to each individual, those close to them and their treatment providers,” Teemant said. “But a good rule of thumb is when the stress, anxiety, grief and/or depression gets to a point that it interferes with daily functioning and interest in normal activities or consumes a major portion of daily thoughts and interactions, it would be appropriate to seek help.”
Above all, the message to be gotten here is that help and hope are close to home. There are many avenues and levels of help available, from online educational resources to inpatient treatment for the most severe of symptoms. Help can be accessed through referrals from a primary care physician or from a woman’s OB/GYN. Help can be accessed through support groups and community outreach programs, or directly from behavioral health professionals who specialize in grief, depression and infertility.
Texas Health Behavioral Health welcomes referral calls to 682-236-6023 from physicians, counselors, therapists, family members and others who may be concerned about a woman’s mental and physical well-being. Patients can also self-refer by scheduling a complimentary assessment with a healthcare professional at any Texas Health Behavioral Health facility — or by simply walking through the door of a Texas Health Behavioral Health location during office hours, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.