There are several studies that investigate the kind of effect that infertility and its treatment may have on the psychology and wellbeing of the mother. Infertility is a tremendous stressor in any person’s life. In many ways, it is as stressful as the death of a loved one or a divorce. And it has been proved that to most women, even those who undergo IVF, it is a lifelong crisis.
There is psychological evidence that when a woman learns that she cannot have a child in a conventional way either because her husband or she is infertile, she experiences an identity crisis. A study revealed that of all the couples who underwent IVF, 50% women and 20% of the men claim that it is the most upsetting development of their lives. Yet another study in Australia found that stress levels in women undergoing IVF are as high as those diagnosed with critical illnesses do.
IVF treatment and the influx of additional hormones in the woman’s body also impact her relationship with her partner and loved ones. Stress and anxiety regarding whether IVF can resolve the crisis lead to a loss of libido. She isolates herself from her family and friends and begins to question the meaning of life. She slowly sinks into a state of passivity, sensitivity and even clinical depression.
A 1994 study revealed that women who are infertile and are in the first and last cycles of IVF are four times more depressed than fertile women are. The highest levels of emotional strain coincide with the third year of infertility treatment because now she begins to wonder if she might ever have a child biologically. There are also studies that compare the reactions of both women and men to failed IVF efforts. Women show greater degrees of stress, depression and helplessness than their male partners do. The study also revealed that women during IVF treatment are less confident and positive about their relationship with their partner than when they eventually become pregnant.
A few things you can do to ease depression:
There are a few simple practices that you can incorporate in your daily routine to combat depression resulting from IVF.
• Eat healthy - lots of green vegetables, fishes that contain omega 3 fatty acids, fruits and nuts and a little dark chocolate. Avoid junk food.
• Get a good night’s sleep.
• Exercise regularly so that your body can produce the feel-good hormone endorphin.
• Take up a new hobby, learning something new can take your mind off depressing thoughts.
• Read for at least an hour, which has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels by 68 %.
• Open up to a loved one whom you trust.
• Practise yoga and meditation.
• If none of the above helps, seek therapy.
IVF ushers in dramatic changes in a woman’s life and hence is followed by emotional turmoil which she can tide over with a few lifestyle changes, support and if needed therapy.