Women who are struggling to conceive and are undergoing fertility treatments often face a variety of stressors. Infertility can take a mental toll, including feelings of helplessness coupled with emotional, physical and financial stressors.
Continue reading to understand more about the common stressors people experience during the fertility journey and learn about healthy strategies to cope with them.
How the Fertility Journey Causes Stress
It is clear that infertility causes stress, but it remains unclear if stress impacts fertility. There is no concrete evidence that shows stress is a direct cause of infertility, but many researchers and physicians believe that stress can interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant. The lack of control is a key driver of stress and can be challenging for anyone who is trying to conceive or struggling with infertility.
Physical Stress of Fertility Treatments
Beyond emotional stress, women going through IVF treatments may feel mood swings, hot flashes, temporary weight gain or bloating, headaches, breast tenderness, and nausea caused by the drugs themselves. All these physical stressors on the body can take a toll on women and increase mental and emotional stress.
IVF Injections: Side Effects
Women receiving IVF injections can experience physical discomfort in certain areas of their bodies depending on which drugs are prescribed. Some women will feel skin irritation at the injection site.
For women going through IVF treatments, it is important to keep in mind that the body physically reacts to stress of the mind. Stress can cause individuals to experience exhaustion, insomnia, digestive problems, chest aches, high blood pressure, and other physical reactions.
Financial Stress of Fertility Treatments
Approximately 65% of Americans say that money is a significant source of stress in their life, according to a 2020 survey by APA. While nearly 2 in 3 adults already feel financial stress, the burden is exacerbated for those going through fertility treatments.
According to the Nati
onal Conference of State Legislatures (N.C.S.L), the average IVF cycle can cost from $12,000 to $17,000. With medication, the cost can increase closer to $25,000.
Some couples choose to sell their houses or take out a second mortgage, sell their cars, or even pull money from their retirement funds to pay for the costly infertility treatments. It remains clear that the high price of fertility treatments can be a major source of stress for couples navigating an already stressful situation.
Mental and Emotional Stress of Infertility Treatments
Many women describe IVF treatments as “an emotional roller coaster,” often causing infertility depression. In one study during which women were interviewed prior to their first fertility clinic visit, 40% were diagnosed as having anxiety, depression or both. Subsequent research has supported these findings.
In a large study of men and women in fertility clinics, 56% of the women and 32% of the men reported significant symptoms of depression. An additional 76% of the women and 61% of the men reported significant symptoms of anxiety.
Medication can also cause added stress. The medications used to treat infertility, including clomiphene, leuprolide, and gonadotropins, are associated with psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and irritability. It can be difficult to differentiate between the psychological impact of infertility versus the side effects of fertility medications.
How to Cope with Stress During the Fertility Journey
The fertility journey can cause stress at any phase, whether you are seeking fertility options, going through initial fertility testing, or are in the middle of an IVF treatment cycle. Many people experience stress over the lack of control and fear of the unknown, which can lead to self-blaming behavior.
However, there are real, tangible ways to combat and overcome these stressors.
How to Deal with Infertility Stressors
Self-Care Practices Include:
Maintaining a healthy diet and consistent exercise
Getting plenty of rest and take breaks, allowing your body to mentally and physically relax
Engaging in activities that bring you and your partner fulfillment and enjoyment
Implementing continuous reminders for yourself that what you are experiencing is not your fault
Fertility therapy and support groups have been helpful for some people as a safe space to talk about their experience and learn they are not alone in their fertility journey.
Join Fertility Therapy and/or Fertility Support Groups
There is a stigma around infertility and associated shame that women experience because of it. This is another reason why it can be extremely helpful for women and couples to find relatable support from others who are experiencing or have experienced infertility.
Programs such as the Mind/Body Program for infertility were developed to use cognitive behavioral therapy to help individuals and couples stay mentally and emotionally healthy during this particularly challenging time. Mind/Body therapy has been proven to successfully reduce stress and increase pregnancy rates. It provides patients with skills in cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation training, lifestyle changes, journaling, self-awareness, and social support components.
Lessen Infertility Stress with At-Home Fertility Testing from IHD
Another way to help alleviate stress during your fertility journey is to invest in at-home fertility tests from Innovative Health Diagnostics. We provide patients with simple and reliable fertility and women’s health tests so that you can have easy access to accurate information about your hormone and fertility levels - right in the comfort of your own home. Taking control of your own healthcare in the comfort of your home with the help of a trusted diagnostics provider like IHD can help lessen the burden of stress that women and couples feel throughout their fertility journey.
Staying informed and emotionally prepared about what to expect during fertility testing and treatments is an important part of managing your stress.