Women’s Mental Health During Fertility Treatments
April 5, 2021
mental health during fertility treatments

Written By Stacey Inal  MA, MBA,
Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and Women’s Life Coach

More women today seek education and look for work opportunities prior to other life goals.  Women and men often delay marriage and have children later in life than in the past (Dykstra, & Hagestad, 2007).  Often women may have to choose between a career and starting a family.  There also may be personal reasons involved in delaying motherhood such as finding a suitable relationship, meeting career goals and being financially secure (Schmidt, 2010).  

Delaying parenthood can lead to negative consequences such as infertility  (Ferland, & Caron, 2013).  When parenthood is postponed, there is a risk that conceiving naturally may not happen at all.  With an infertility diagnosis, men and women often deal with an array of emotions including shame, grief, depression, remorse, and anger.  Marriages and relationships often suffer  (Ferland, & Caron, 2013).  Even with infertility treatments improving in recent years, and more options being offered, the likelihood of getting pregnant through artificial means can be marginal  (Young, 2007).  ​

Often women feel guilty when they are diagnosed with infertility (Volgsten, et.al., 2010).  Lindsey and Driskell also discovered women and men have self-blame and that can continue throughout the IVF cycle such as when eggs are harvested, transplanted, and especially when no pregnancy or a miscarriage occurs.  Adding to the self-blame, Volgsten, Svanberg, and Olsson, (2010) found that when infertility treatments are unsuccessful, women’s self esteem tends to drop and they feel worthless in their lives. 

Regular every day interactions can remind women that they are incapable of having their own children.  These include baby showers, going to the grocery store and social events.  Isolation and restricting themselves from ordinary situations for any reason could adversely impact a couple’s quality of life (Johansson et al., 2009).  Family and friends may be unaware that they deem as thoughtful advice and well meaning opinions can actually cause pain to a couple dealing with infertility  (The psychological impact of infertility and its treatment, 2009).  ​

Many infertile women maintain a sense of hope that they will have success in their IVF treatment.  Around 46–80% of those who experienced failed treatment repeat the IVF treatments (Lee, 2010).  This information is helpful because it demonstrates that many women opt to continue infertility treatments even after failed attempts.  With the continuation of treatments, the cycle of depression, grief, and anxiety can continue and even increase if the IVF and fertility treatments result in failure leading to the thought that psychological support is needed (Lee, 2010; Johansson & Berg, 2005).

The author, Stacey Inal, has a psychotherapy practice specializing in family planning and fertility in the Los Angeles area.

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