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How Infertility Can Affect Your Mental Health

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Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive, carry or deliver a child naturally. And unfortunately, it is relatively common. It is more common than people think. It affects millions of individuals and couples around the globe who want to start a family. Studies have shown that today, as many as 10%-15% of couples of reproductive age have trouble getting pregnant, and the numbers are only expected to increase in the future. Couples are increasingly seeking treatment for infertility, which has raised awareness and prompted a lot of investigation into the psychological ramifications of infertility and the emotional responses that couples experience. Today, Mindwell Strategies looks closely at how infertility can affect one’s mental health.

A sad young woman with closed eyes.
Research shows that infertility can affect one’s mental health and all other aspects of life.

The psychological impact of infertility

As human beings, it is our instinctive desire to have offspring. Many men and women expect, dream, or plan on bringing a baby into this world. And when they experience infertility, they feel robbed of that dream. The consequences of this, unfortunately, are manifold.

More often than not, infertility can take a toll on one’s mental health. Non-fulfillment of a wish for a baby can lead to a whirlwind ride of painful experiences throughout one’s life, from societal repercussions to intense personal suffering.

In the initial stages of one’s struggle to conceive, one may feel lots of different emotions. Going through and even seeking available treatments can be incredibly grueling, not to mention costly. What is more, couples are required to have been attempting to conceive for one to two years before they finally get medical treatment. This means that these men and women endure one to two years of feeling hopeful for a happy ending and then feeling let down. One failure after the other and a series of unsuccessful outcomes can lead to:

· marital problems,

· sexual dysfunction,

· social isolation.

… and cause serious emotional responses including:

· frustration

· anger

· fear

· anxiety

· depression

· hopelessness

· guilt

· grief

· loss

· and pronounced feelings of worthlessness, defectiveness, and incompetence.

Fertility treatment might impact one’s mental state

Even after your diagnosis, you may go through an emotional storm. This is not surprising when you consider the psychological stress of it all, dreading every medical appointment, expense, and stress inherent in the relationship with your partner, family members, and work colleagues. Then, there’s the anxiety of not knowing what will happen next and why, of all people, this is happening to you. It’s natural to feel a mixture of emotions, such as depression, anxiety, irritability, grief, and isolation.

A doctor talking to a patient.
It is essential to speak to a specialist for a fertility evaluation and adequate treatment.

Yes, infertility can affect one’s mental health, and appointments become the focus of all your anxieties. But then, there is also there’s the therapy itself. The medications may also affect one’s mood and lead to some mental health complications, such as anxiety and depression. However, this isn’t the same for everyone. That is why it is essential to be able to rely on your doctor; trust that they will find the best option for you, weighing out the benefits and potential risks of the medication.

Fighting the stigma and shame

There is a study of two hundred couples who sought out treatment. It found that 50 percent of the women and 15 percent of the men felt dealing with fertility was the most upsetting and hurtful experience in their lives. Nowadays, men are much more involved and dedicated to the family than they used to be. And although they don’t experience the physical pain of a perinatal loss, the emotional pain men feel is very deep and real. Still, female partners generally show higher levels of distress than their male companions.

Also, women of color are 2x more likely to experience infertility and yet half as likely to seek medical care. This is because they face the stereotype of being naturally fertile, hyper-fertile even. Childbearing and being a strong mother are essential to communities of color. This brings stigma to infertile women of color and intense feelings of inadequacy and shame. They fear they will get blamed for their fertility and not get support from their families despite this being out of their control.

What’s more, they fear that they will have their valid medical concerns and emotional distress dismissed and disregarded by a doctor. For this reason, these women tend to be more silent about their infertility struggles. All of this leads to higher levels of anxiety and depression and lower self-esteem.

A woman holding a pregnancy test.
Women of color are two times more likely to experience infertility than white women.

What can you do?

Besides medical conditions, there are several other things that can lead to trouble conceiving. You’ve probably heard about the age factor, but there’s also the question of what kind of lifestyle you lead. For instance, being overweight, obese, or underweight can reduce your chances of getting pregnant. Also, smoking, alcohol, and over-the-counter and recreational drugs may reduce female and male fertility. Optimal hormonal balance is essential for efficient reproductive cycles. According to addiction treatment professionals at, substance abuse can directly affect a woman’s reproductive hormones and disrupt her menstrual cycle.

Still, whatever the cause, infertility can harm your mental health in a number of ways. That is why it is important not to ignore anxieties and other warning signs.

Instead, gather as much information as possible, and opt for psychological interventions that can help you alleviate the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression.

Now that you are aware of how infertility can affect one’s mental health, experts recommend always starting the mental conversation as early as possible. Although many do not believe in therapy, new evidence regarding the beneficial effects of stress management and coping skills training for infertility patients is emerging every day. Besides talking to specialists, it is also essential to confide in friends and family members, develop healthy and successful communication with your significant other, and generally create a support system to get you through this. Finally, remember that you have other options. There is more than one way to have a family and get your happy ending. Good luck on your journey!

Dennis Mills is a marriage and family therapist and an experienced writer and editor with expertise in romantic relationships, marital stability, and divorce prediction. He loves helping couples and families address their difficulties and adjust to challenging life changes and seeks to offer support through the process of improving mental health. Of course, as a writer and an avid book reader, Dennis has an incomplete novel in the cloud.

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