Coping With Infertility-Related Depression
In Nigeria, 25% of couples struggle with infertility each year. Here's how to cope if you're one of them.
When you’re dealing with infertility, it can feel like you and your partner are alone in a sea of happy new families. That’s both understandable and untrue. The truth is that despite Nigeria's high fertility rate, about a quarter of the populace is dealing with infertility. And for this reason, infertility depression is real. It is depression that's borne of infertility. So then, how to deal with infertility depression?
Popular culture often portrays the woman as more likely to struggle with issues of infertility. But reproductive problems are fairly equally spread between women and men. And silence about the issue hampers understanding. Let's start by highlighting the symptoms of this illness.
Do you feel like your entire life centres around your inability to get pregnant? Do you go to sleep and wake up thinking about getting pregnant? You may be experiencing infertility-related depression or anxiety. Infertility may have hijacked your life if you're experiencing any of these symptoms:
- Thoughts of Infertility All Day Long
- Feelings of shame and worthlessness
- Lots of Guilt
- Persistent feelings of sadness
- Feelings of social isolation
- You No Longer Enjoy Activities You Once Did
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Easily frustrated and angry
- Trouble concentrating or remembering things
- Poor sexual performance
- Your relationship is suffering
Maybe you think marital counseling is for couples fighting over money issues, or breaking up over an affair. But therapy is really beneficial when you are struggling to get pregnant. And there are plenty of psychologists who specialize in the topic of infertility. Therapy may actually bring the two of you closer together. And then give you a neutral space to express your sadness, anger, guilt, or whatever else is on your mind.
Take three months off before you try again. Give yourself a chance to get out from under all that pressure and the expectation every month of, Did it work? Just going back to living your normal life can be a huge mood boost.
Reshape your routine so that you are engaging in positive activities, especially ones that focus on improving someone else’s circumstances. Infertility can make you feel stuck. You’ve put everything on hold until you know whether or not you can start a family. Doing things that take the focus off you and your problems can expand your universe and help you gain a different perspective.
It’s easy to let infertility stress take over. So much so, in fact, that you forget what you used to do for fun. Don’t let go of who you were and what you loved to do before conceiving became an issue. Don’t let infertility define you. Get back on that bike of yours or try attending that dance class you’ve always been interested in. You’ll be glad you did.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Health Education found dancing reduces stress and increases life satisfaction. So crank up your favorite jam and dance like nobody’s watching.
Stress results in increased cortisol levels, which causes food cravings. For women, that typically means carbs and sweets. Unfortunately, eating these foods during times of stress leads to a slower metabolism — and potentially weight gain. Stick to “calming” food instead, such as berries, cashews, chamomile or green tea. There's also dark chocolate, grass-fed beef, oatmeal, oranges, and walnuts.
Through deep breathing, muscle relaxation techniques, meditation or yoga, you can learn to let go of stress for a brief period of time.
This one, especially, applies to the men and women dealing with infertility. The trial-and-error process of conceiving is stressful for both and can leave a lot to be desired in other aspects of the relationship.
So, try a little tenderness toward each other. A special meal, an after-dinner stroll, or a simple hug can make a world of difference on the toughest of days.
From weekly doctor appointments to countless blood tests to daily injections. Being treated for infertility can feel like a full-time job. And a job well done deserves a pat on the back. Whether it’s a with a massage or that pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing, be sure to treat yourself.
Struggling with infertility can make you feel like you’ve lost all control. So what better way to gain back a sense of control than to create something from nothing? Try taking a pottery class or a group painting class. Let go and create.
When you’re surrounded by an abundance of new mummies, it can be hard to find someone to vent to. If that’s the case, write it down. Try keeping a journal or starting a blog. Having a place to record your thoughts is a great outlet for the stress and anxiety that accompanies infertility. Best of all, a journal is never too busy or unwilling to listen (even at 3 a.m., when you wouldn’t dare wake a friend).
This is the era of Facebook pregnancy announcements and baby photoshoots. Being online can take you from bad to worse. Sometimes, the best way to cope is to unplug and getaway. Take a few days away from social media and get out. Go somewhere new and exciting. Taking a trip somewhere not only helps you stay off of social media. It also is a great way to escape your day-to-day problems for a bit.
Also read: It's Not Depression. You May Be Bipolar.