Fertility struggles: the impact on mental health

Fertility struggles: the impact on mental health

Did you know that about 1 in 6 couples have trouble getting pregnant? It can be tough both physically and mentally. For many, the journey to conceive isn't always fast and easy. Sometimes it can make you feel disappointed, frustrated, and grief-stricken. The emotional impact of infertility is often minimized and can cause significant problems in your relationships and how you feel about yourself.

Even though there are treatments to help couples have babies, it is nevertheless important to recognize the profound impact that infertility can have on one's mental well-being. In this article, we'll talk about the various ways in which fertility issues can affect your mental health and provide reliable recommendations for coping strategies and ways to support your mental wellness.

The Relationship Between Stress & Infertility

A study published in the Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience Journal found that people dealing with infertility often feel really stressed, anxious, and depressed because having a baby is hard for them. These negative feelings can seriously affect their overall well-being, especially if they last for a long time.

Stress can disrupt the reproductive system through various mechanisms, including hormonal imbalances and interference with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. However, a complete understanding of how stress precisely impacts fertility remains somewhat elusive.

Infertility itself can be a core source of psychological distress, and going through infertility treatments can make these mental health issues even worse. Coping with infertility brings a heavy toll on patients, and the uncertainties, money problems, and strain on relationships can all contribute to exacerbated levels of anxiety and depression.

The Psychological Impact of Infertility

The emotional effects of infertility can be deep-seated and extensive. The inability to conceive can shake one's self-esteem and sense of identity. Infertility is often regarded as a major crisis in life, bringing up a lot of negative feelings that affect your mental health overall.

On top of that, the protracted and frequently invasive character of infertility treatments can intensify these emotional struggles. People dealing with fertility problems should actively seek support to stay mentally healthy during this tough journey.


Depression is a common mental health issue that impacts people dealing with fertility problems. It's estimated that about 20-30% of infertile women and men feel depressed at some point.

Common symptoms of depression may include persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy, changes in eating or sleeping habits, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.

Depression related to infertility also hurts relationships because it can make talking to each other harder, make you feel like you're all alone, and even make it tough to be close physically.


Anxiety is another prominent concern for people dealing with infertility. Many people might feel really worried, restless, annoyed, or even feel physical symptoms like their heart racing or having trouble breathing.

All that anxiety can make dealing with infertility even harder. It ramps up the stress and pressure during treatments as well as makes it tough to make decisions and navigate all the emotions that come with trying to have a baby.


Irritability can easily arise when undergoing fertility treatment. People going through these treatments may more easily become irritable and angry due to the array of associated challenges.

Medical interventions such as injections, hormone therapy, and invasive procedures, can make you feel vulnerable and exposed. These emotions can give rise to increased irritability and frustration. Dealing with the emotional stress of fertility treatment, along with the physical discomfort and side effects of the medications, usually creates the ideal conditions for irritability to manifest.


Jealousy is a painful emotion that can surface in people struggling with infertility. Watching others becoming parents, can make you feel frustrated, sad, and inadequate. But dealing with jealousy healthily means understanding and accepting those feelings.

When you admit you're jealous, it helps you see that it's okay to feel that way and that others are going through similar struggles. Feeling envious does not make you a bad person or less deserving of happiness. Rather, it's a normal reaction to a very difficult situation. Figuring out why you feel jealous can help you handle it better. Maybe certain things, like baby showers or pregnancy announcements, set off those feelings. Finding ways to cope with these triggers can make dealing with jealousy easier.


Going through infertility is really tough emotionally, especially when you realize you can't have a baby of your own. The grief can extend beyond the inability to conceive to the losses encountered throughout the journey – failed infertility treatments, recurrent miscarriages, or unsuccessful IVF cycles.  Dealing with infertility grief is complicated because you're mourning not just the idea of having a family, but also the loss of a biological connection.

What makes it even harder is that these losses aren't always obvious to others. People dealing with infertility often suffer in silence, feeling the absence of the child they had hoped for.


The lonely journey of fertility treatment can wear people down emotionally. Dealing with infertility often brings on feelings of depression and anxiety because you're longing for a child, but things aren't working out like you hoped.

It's not just tough for individuals, though. It can also put a lot of stress on relationships. Couples might have trouble talking about their feelings and might start avoiding social situations because of it. This self-isolation can deepen the sense of despair and intensifies these feelings of loneliness.

Preserving Mental Well-Being During Infertility and Fertility Treatment

Maintaining positive mental health is essential when facing infertility and fertility treatment. Because fertility issues can be emotionally devastating, it's necessary to take proactive measures to safeguard and promote mental well-being.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Counseling

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and counseling are effective psychological interventions for individuals and couples dealing with infertility. CBT helps you challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.

Fertility counseling, along with CBT, gives you a supportive space to talk about your feelings and handle the emotional struggles of infertility. This type of therapy is beneficial for understanding and managing the psychological distress that commonly occurs with these matters.

CBT and counseling can work wonders for people struggling with infertility, giving them the power to transform their thoughts and cope effectively. They offer guidance and support to help you through the ups and downs of treatment.

Methods for Achieving Relaxation 

Relaxation techniques are valuable tools for maintaining and improving mental health. Research shows that practicing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and yoga have positive effects on psychological well-being.


Mindfulness is a therapeutic technique used to pay attention to the present moment without judgment. It allows you to observe your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations with acceptance and compassion. Techniques like body awareness, emotion regulation, and thought awareness can help you promote mindfulness in your daily life.


Yoga is a beneficial addition to a fertility journey. The poses used in fertility yoga are meant to boost blood flow to your reproductive organs and balance your hormones. They can also reduce stress, enhance relaxation, and promote wellness. 

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is another wonderful relaxation technique where participants visualize calming scenes in their mind's eye. You can do it with a therapist's help or by listening to recordings. When you picture calming colors or beautiful landscapes, it helps you relax and take a break from the stress of fertility problems. This technique is useful during the fertility journey because it gives you a mental retreat and solace amidst challenges.

Expressive Writing

In a study from 2017, people who wrote about their thoughts and kept a daily gratitude journal experienced a big reduction in feelings of depression. Expressive writing involves putting thoughts and feelings into words, giving space for you to process your emotions more effectively. This practice helps people deal with tough feelings and keep a more positive mindset during their reproductive health journey. Through continued expression of your deepest notions, you gain clarity, release pent-up emotions, and find new perspectives on your situation.

To conclude, fertility issues can greatly affect your mental well-being.  Whether you're facing infertility or going through treatments to help you conceive, it's important to take care of your mental health.

Remember that you're not alone in this struggle. Reach out to your friends, family, a counselor, or online groups for support. Make sure to take care of yourself, practice self-compassion, and allow yourself to experience the full range of emotions that accompany fertility challenges. And always keep in mind that although your path may be unique, there is always hope for a brighter future.

Author’s Byline: Nellia Melnyk is a researcher, and content creator who has a keen interest in neuroscience and psychology. She has developed an impressive collection of articles and blog posts focused on improving cognitive function, overcoming mental health issues, and enhancing overall brain health. Nellia is committed to helping individuals harness the power of their brains and live their best lives.

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