Office of Christian Care and Counseling

Infertility and Mental Health Article

By Stacey Bailey-Townsend, Intern, School of Behavioral Sciences, Liberty University, Master of Arts Pastoral Counseling

Intro of your topic

My name is Stacey Bailey-Townsend, and I am currently participating in the Pastoral Counselor Internship at Alfred Street Baptist Church. I am a Liberty University graduate student and self-published author. My desire is to speak life with heartfelt compassion and empathy about the triumphs and spiritual warfare faced with infertility. This article will focus on the emotional, mental, physical health aspects many women and couples experience amid the challenges of infertility. My personal journey with infertility was accompanied by feelings of isolation which is a common experience. Infertility is often seen as one of those sensitive “taboo” topics that some may feel uncomfortable discussing with others. Many women and couples dealing with infertility feel a desire for social support that goes unmet, leaving them feeling even more isolated in their feelings, contributing to sadness and depression (How Infertility Affects Your Mental Health, DeSantos, 2020).

Women and couples who encounter the challenges of infertility, may spend less time enjoying each other’s company and their marital relationship may suffer due to unmerited stress and the demands of infertility. Conquering Infertility, Dr. Alice Domar notes, women and men handle the burdens of infertility differently. The divergences in their emotional coping styles become apparent in their relationships. Some spouses pull away from one another not intentionally, but this is the only way they know how to respond to the stress of infertility. Many have reported finding treatment for infertility stressful and difficult to interact with their partners (American Society for Reproductive Medicine, Carter, 2011). Infertility treatment is often referred to as a roller coaster ride. The highs and lows of infertility can have a major impact on the well-being of women and men. Medical intervention has been known to take the joy out of intimacy, which has the tendency to impact emotional

Important points related to topic

Infertility refers to the biological inability of a person to achieve pregnancy after at least one year of trying to conceive. Infertility is perceived as a problem across virtually all cultures and societies, which affects an estimated 10-15% of couples of reproductive ages (Human Reproduction, Bovin, 2007). My personal experience with infertility treatment would often leave me feeling helpless because my body was unable to perform the way in which I desired. Couples experience significant anxiety and emotional distress while encountering fertility treatments, especially when the treatment is unsuccessful (Infertility and Mental Health, Accort, 2020). Women and couples can experience deep feelings of grief and loss, deeming this the most upsetting experience of their lives. The expression is significantly higher when diagnosed with infertility than those who can conceive without medical intervention. The symptoms of depression, moodiness, loss of interest in favorite activities, change in appetite, sleep problems, energy loss, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, difficulty thinking or concentrating, and even recurrent thoughts of death or suicide can really put pressure on women and couples (Conquering Infertility, Domar, 2002).

The non-profit group called Resolve National Infertility Association provided compelling research documentation supporting the fact that infertility is linked to mental health struggles. For example, one large study of 352 women and 274 men with infertility found that 56% of women and 32% of men had significant depression symptoms and 6% of women and 61% of men had significant anxiety symptoms and experiences can vary widely (Resolve National Infertility Association, 2023). The silent pain and sadness many women and couples encounter through infertility treatment is often accompanied by the stress of doctor appointments, treatments, and side effects to include all the uncertainty involved. The emotional impact of infertility has a tangible impact on a woman and couple’s mental health.

Mental wellness tools and tips

The mental wellness strategies and tools to be used to help individuals cope with the stressors of infertility. Consist of relaxation techniques such as journaling, going for a mindless walk, yoga intervention. Which is an excellent coping mechanism tool to increase the quality of life and decreases negative feelings and thoughts associated with infertility. Mediation, deep breathing, guided imagery are all tools to help women and couples cope with the emotional and mental wellness challenges of infertility. In addition, participating in an infertility support group session can help ensure that a person is not alone. Also, find a pastoral counselor, or therapist who specializes in supporting couples with infertility issues providing a safe space free from judgement to help move through the women and couple through the pain of infertility and mental health.

Scripture References (for encouragement)

As women and couples experience the various stages of infertility treatment, they often endure emotional challenges at the deepest levels. Infertility challenges may be in the form of multiple miscarriages, stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy or being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), blocked fallopian tubes. When the dream of having a child is affected by excessive physical, psychological, relational, and emotional stress, this can be life changing. The emotional and mental health challenges associated with infertility can be overwhelming. But God is faithful. Having a relationship with Christ through prayer and salvation is vital. His word says, count it all joy when faced with various trials, for the testing of our faith produces patience and character (James 1:2-4). God can do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). While waiting on the promises of God, His desire for believers is to trust Him with all our heart in all our ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct our path (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).

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