Infertility means not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying (or after trying for 6 months if a woman is 35 or older). Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be infertile. Infertility affects 10-15 percent of couples.
Women who want a child but have not yet conceived often experience the following:
- Marital problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Social isolation
- Low self-esteem
Researchers are not sure if mental health can affect fertility, although it is clear that infertility can affect mental health. It’s possible, though, that high levels of depression, anxiety, and stress can affect the hormones that regulate ovulation. This could make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant.
Couples with infertility have many treatments available to help them conceive. Most of these treatments cost a lot of money and may not be covered by health insurance. While many couples who seek infertility treatment are already stressed, the process and cost of assisted reproduction itself can also cause anxiety, depression, and stress. If you are trying fertility treatments and they are not working, you may be at risk for further depression and self-esteem problems. Try to keep a positive attitude, and be sure to talk to your doctor about getting help if you feel you need it. A number of research studies show that women who are distressed have lower pregnancy rates among women trying infertility treatments.
Talk therapy, either one-on-one or in a group, can lower stress and mood symptoms. Women who had talk therapy during their infertility treatments were more likely to get pregnant than those who did not.
Researchers are still learning whether drugs like antidepressants can help infertile women. Many women don’t want to take medications during infertility treatments because they are afraid it may affect the outcome of a pregnancy. However, there is no data that shows that commonly used antidepressants affect a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.
This article first appeared on womenshealth.gov.