Infertility has been found to be the 4th most dramatic life event in the lifespan of a woman (Lykeridou, Gourounti, Deltsidou, Loutradis, & Vaslamatzis, 2009).
Approximately 80 million people worldwide are affected by infertility. Psychotherapy is very effective when supporting men and women struggling with trying to get pregnant. While failure rate for IVF per cycle is around 75% (Chochovski, Moss & Simon, 2014) it is proven with psychotherapy and other tools, fertility rates can be improved upon. Fertility treatments lead to a great need for mental health services. This is an emerging field without a consistent mental health treatment plan to aid infertile couples.
In addition roughly twelve percent of women in the same age bracket have difficulty getting pregnant and carrying a pregnancy to term (Lykeridou, et. al., 2009). This is known as impaired fecundity. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive a pregnancy after a year or more of regular sexual relationship without contraception or the inability to carry pregnancies to a live birth. (Lindsey & Driskill, (2013). However if a woman is over the age of 35, the amount of time is reduced to six months to be considered infertile (Resolve, 2013).
Qualified professionals such as therapists, psychologists, nurses, and even support groups are necessary to counsel women and men through their grief. Clinical interventions can help depressed and grieving individuals and couples after infertility treatments prove to be unsuccessful (Domar, 2007). It has been found that there is a great need for psychological interventions after an unsuccessful fertility treatment has occurred (Burnett, 2008).
Psychological interventions and group therapy can help limit the magnitude and duration of depression and anxiety (Thompson, 2011). In recent years, there have been multiple medical and psychological peer-reviewed studies published demonstrating the need for psychological interventions after unsuccessful fertility treatments (Salakos, Roupa, Sotiropoulou & Grigoriou, 2004). These studies help normalize the experiences of individuals struggling with infertility.
If you are having symptoms of depression or anxiety, contact your physician. Ask for referrals to mental health resources. If possible, seek out therapists familiar with infertility, family planning or grief and loss.
The author, Stacey Inal, is a CA state Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and has a psychotherapy private practice specializing in family planning and fertility in the Los Angeles area.