When you're growing up and learning about the birds and the bees, the general narrative is often that two people can meet, fall in love, and have a baby, and it's as easy as that. And sometimes, it can be. But for many of us, reality is a lot more complicated in all of those aspects — but especially when it comes to having a baby.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7.3 million women in the U.S. have struggled to conceive (or, at the very least, used infertility services). Studies have suggested that the emotional stress that comes with infertility can be comparable to the levels of stress that cancer patients experience, and that rates of anxiety and depression can be high amongst those who experience infertility.
Marra Ackerman, MD, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and director of reproductive psychiatry at NYU Langone Health, says that she's certainly noted mental health struggles in patients of hers who are experiencing infertility.
"I’d say probably the large majority of patients who are undergoing infertility treatments will experience mood or anxiety symptoms, but I think it’s underreported because [those] people may not seek out mental health treatment because they’re often so burdened with all the appointments of fertility treatments," she says.
"As a society, we need to consider the fact that pregnancy and getting pregnant is very complicated," Dr. Ackerman says. "I think what happens is, people ask quite insensitive questions, making assumptions about timeline or ease of getting pregnant, and project those expectations onto women. I think that’s something we all have to work harder to be more mindful of."
But well-meaning yet insensitive questions aren't the only reason that infertility is emotionally taxing. There are several reasons why your mental health can suffer if you're struggling to conceive — read on for six of them.
If you are experiencing depression or anxiety and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.