Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Infertility, Depression, and Help July 2, 2012

Courtesy: Microsoft Images

As if in response to my post last week about the way in which life-changing news about infertility is delivered, this article popped into my inbox a couple of days later.

I’ll admit I scoffed when I first started reading.

“Women who are stressed and anxious before in vitro fertilization (IVF) are no less likely to have a baby, new research suggests. But if the treatment fails, it may take a toll on their mental health.”

It may take a toll on their mental health. You’re kidding. It took a study to figure this out?

I was surprised to discover that two separate studies found no link between anxiety and a woman’s ability to conceive. Wish I’d had those studies on hand for every time someone told me, “Just relax!” However, the next time I hear someone doling out that advice to an infertile, I can promise I’ll be smugly piping up with this information.

The article went on:

“Of 103 women with a failed [IVF] attempt, 60 percent had symptoms of a clinical anxiety disorder – up slightly from 57 percent before their IVF cycles. And 44 percent had clinical depression, which was up from 26 percent before treatment.

It’s not surprising that many women with a failed IVF attempt would have such symptoms, according to Pasch. But there has actually been little research into how IVF outcomes may affect women’s mental health, she said.”

And here’s where I found my little nugget of hope. Up until now, the emotional and psychological effects of unresolved infertility haven’t been studied, and that which has not been studied cannot be remedied. But someone’s paying attention now.

“According to Pasch, infertility practices should do more to help women with mental health symptoms – though not because it would be expected to improve their odds of IVF success.

“Psychological interventions need to be geared toward helping women feel better, and not toward increasing their chances of pregnancy,” Pasch said.

Some larger, university-linked infertility centers have on-site services for women who want mental health counseling. But most practices do not, Pasch said.”

In my little fantasy world there will come a day when fertility clinics and Reproductive Endocrinologists, even OB/GYNs and GPs, are armed with studies such as these, as well as information and resources to guide their patients to the help and support they need.

If you could turn back time, what would you have wished for in the way of help? If you dealt with infertility, what resources would you have wanted from your doctor when you realized your options were running out? If you’re childfree by circumstance or even by choice and have struggled with coming-to-terms with that, who do you wish you could have turned to for help or guidance?

It may be too little to late for most of us here, but not for those women who will come behind us.

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14 Responses to “Infertility, Depression, and Help”

  1. Kate B Says:

    I wish my RE had in house psychological counseling. Some group therapy would probably be good – let us all know we are not along in the various aspects of our struggles.

  2. Maria Says:

    I wish my dr had a counselor on hand to tell me what I would expect to feel, provide me a handout that explained what to expect to feel, what resources were available to deal with the emotions associated with unable to conceive naturally and with inferility treatment (both within and outside the doctor’s office), when to decide when to stop and what resources were available (psych couonseling, group therapy, on-line etc) to provide support. Doctor’s have this info know but I suspect they don’t provide it because it would cause them to make less money as people may decide to stop sooner rather than later.

  3. Jenny Says:

    I wish that adoption agency representatives, REs, and IVF nurses were schooled on the trauma of infertility and required to take a yearly refresher course led by someone who has gone through it themselves. In my case I wish that someone had taken those people aside and said something like: “Look, you have to understand that this appointment may just be part of your day but for this couple – this is a life changing experience. Please keep in mind that when they leave your office, you have your next appt.but they have to deal with this bad news for the rest of their lives. Be gentle. And for gosh sakes be nice.” What really floors me is that the nurse who refused to answer my calls when I tried to schedule my IVF cycle felt that she *was* an understanding person and prided herself on being the personal friend of the author of a breakthrough book on understanding the impact of infertility (would love to write that author and tell her something about her friend). I don’t think they have any idea of how they respond and react towards us. I’m inclined to think they don’t much care either but that is just me being snippy…

  4. Angela Says:

    I would have liked a Resolve group that didn’t include all the diehard – do everything till you go broke or die – group of women in my area. I found it suffocating and eventually realized that NOT going was more thereautic for me. I’m still searching to find my own tribe. One that believes that Life will be okay without children. That my Life will still have meaning. I’m thankful I get that support here but still wish we had a secret sign to identify us in a crowd.

    • Jenny Says:

      I withdrew from an online support group for the same reason; and when I decided not to continue with IVF I struggled with feeling guilty because I wasn’t one of the “diehards”. Really I think the decision to stop is a brave one and I wish that it was offered and respected more often as a positive alternative than a last resort.

      • Maria Says:

        I hear you. I recently posted on Whiny Wednesday how hurt I was when a friend accused me of not trying hard enough because I wasn’t a diehard. I felt so lucky to have the people on this blog provide their comments because they were the only ones who undertstood how I felt.

      • Amel Says:

        I think it’s wise to know when to stop. I was nicely surprised when a friend told me this (she’s got hysterectomy at a young age and is now a mother to an adopted child). I think everybody has different paths and not trying every means possible to have a child doesn’t mean you don’t want the child so badly. I don’t understand that kind of logic, because each of us is different with different situations/different financial means/ages/different risks we’re willing to take and more often than not, the decision also depends on our spouse and we also want to respect his wishes (how far he wants to go or not go).

      • Brenda Says:

        My sister said the same thing to me a few months ago – that if it was her, she would do whatever it takes; take out loans, go through every procedure….etc. etc. etc… Totally came right out and said I didn’t want children bad enough if I wasn’t going to exhaust all options… Problem is – I am exhausted. And now feeling guilty too………..

      • Jenny Says:

        “if it was her….” but it isn’t her and it is so easy to speculate when you’ve never been in that situation. At one point I thought I wouldn’t stop either until I had exhausted all of my resources but I had no idea the toll it would take on my emotions, my marriage, and myself. I came to the point of realizing I could keep going and yeah *maybe* had a child but what would have been left of me? And what would I have had left to give to that child or to my husband? It was a tough decision, and I’ll never forget the night I made it but it was the right thing to do. One thing that helped me was to quit thinking “I’ve decided not to have children” and think instead “I’m living my life and taking it as it comes children or no.” Don’t feel guilty. This is tough stuff and one has to be incredibly strong to go through it.

  5. Leticia Says:

    I agree with the other comments…more support in house while going through treatments. The awful part is, for those of us in which treatments didn’t work, or we had just had enough, you are just turned loose. So, you leave without getting pregnant after months or years of emotional highs and lows, and who do you have to talk to? I am thankful that I finally found a good therapist who could help restore my marriage, and give me the support I needed to move on. Also, its imperative to figure out how to fit in with friends and family members that are popping the babies out, without being bitter, which I was for a few years. I’m on the healing end now, and in the last year I have been the happiest I have been for many years, but it was a lot of work.

  6. Mali Says:

    Leticia is absolutely right. My fertility clinic had a counsellor in house, and a visit was compulsory before our first IVF. It was a waste of time. I also saw her independently when I had my second ectopic (first pregnancy with the clinic), and yes, she said a few things that sort of helped. But when my second IVF cycle was cancelled – yes over the phone – if I recall correctly the nurse said she would get the counsellor to ring me. Never happened. We had one final visit with the RE, in which he advised that it would be pointless to continue with IVF. I think he said he’d get the counsellor to ring me, but I can’t quite remember. What I remember is being set free, let loose, ignored, just as Leticia said, to cope with this on my own. Looking back, I think I was depressed for a couple of years at least, and wish I’d talked to someone (other than my internet friends who helped me through).

  7. kris Says:

    Leticia & Mali, I was going to say something VERY similar. I’m personally really lucky as I’m a counsellor myself and I was able to find someone who helped hubby and I process things. That said, I felt completely abandoned by our fertility clinic, the fertility specific acupuncture/Eastern medicine clinic, and the Naturopathic doctor that I went to. Not one offered to support me, acknowledged my pain, or followed up with me. It was so obvious that they were pretty happy to see me go as I was potentially messing up their stats. I’m a year in to accepting my child free not-by-choice life and it’s tough to find people in real life who understand my on-going pain. I’d love to have a support group to meet with and talk to. This venue is amazing but I still feel really alone.

  8. loribeth Says:

    Total agreement here. If not in-house counselling, referrals, even some business cards or pamphlets from recommended independent counsellors or local support groups would have been nice. I did find a good counsellor on my own, thankfully. @Kris, I never returned to my clinic either, and nobody called to follow up with me or find out why either. :p

  9. Amanda Says:

    We all feel alone in this. My friends dint want to hear me complain… Of course they don’t understand. I hate letting my husband see how it affects me and I don’t want my family to worry. So like so many I keep it to myself. Yesterday I started a blogg I guess so I would have a place to put my thoughts and feelings… A place to vent I guess. But we all need that kind of place. http://www.dailyinfertility.com please join me in regaining control of my life.


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