Women's Resources

FAQs About the Psychological Component of Infertility

What impact does infertility have on psychological well being?

Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. The long term inability to conceive a child can evoke significant feelings of loss. Coping with the multitude of medical decisions and the uncertainties that infertility brings can create great emotional upheaval for most couples. If you find yourself feeling anxious, depressed, out of control, or isolated, you are not alone.

How do I know if I could benefit from psychological counseling?

Everyone has feelings and emotional ups and downs as they pursue infertility treatment. Feeling overwhelmed at times is a perfectly normal response. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms over a prolonged period of time, you may benefit a great deal from working with a mental health professional:

• loss of interest in usual activities
• depression that doesn’t lift
• strained interpersonal relationships (with partner, family, friends and/or colleagues)
• difficulty thinking of anything other than your infertility
• high levels of anxiety
• diminished ability to accomplish tasks
• difficulty with concentration
• change in your sleep patterns (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, early morning awakening, sleeping more than usual for you)
• change in your appetite or weight (increase or decrease)
• increased use of drugs or alcohol
• thoughts about death or suicide
• social isolation
• persistent feelings of pessimism, guilt, or worthlessness
• persistent feelings of bitterness or anger

In addition, there are certain points during infertility treatment when discussion with a mental health professional of various options and exploration of your feelings about these options can help facilitate clarification of your thinking and help with your decision making. For example, consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful to you and your partner if you are:

• at a treatment crossroad
• deciding between alternative treatment possibilities
• exploring other family building options
• considering third party assistance (gamete donation, surrogacy)
• having difficulty communicating or if you have different ideas about what direction to take

Quick Facts About Infertility

• Infertility is NOT an inconvenience; it is a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body’s ability to perform the basic function of reproduction.

• Impaired fecundity (the inability have a child) affects 6.7 million women in the U.S. — about 11% of the reproductive-age population (Source: National Survey of Family Growth, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2006-2010).

• In a survey of married women, the CDC found that 1.5 million women in the US (6%) are infertile (Source: National Survey of Family Growth, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] 2006-2010).

• Infertility affects men and women equally.

• Twenty-five percent of infertile couples have more than one factor that contributes to their infertility.

• In approximately 40 percent of infertile couples, the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing cause of infertility.

• Irregular or abnormal ovulation accounts for approximately 25 percent of all female infertility problems.

• Most infertility cases — 85% to 90% — are treated with conventional medical therapies such as medication or surgery.

• While vital for some patients, in vitro fertilization and similar treatments account for less than 3% of infertility services, and about (or approximately) seven hundredths of one percent (0.07%) of U.S. health care costs.

• Twelve percent of all infertility cases are a result of the woman either weighing too little or too much.

• It is possible for women with body weight disorders to reverse their infertility by attaining and maintaining a healthy weight.

• Men and Women who smoke have decreased fertility.

• The risk of miscarriage is higher for pregnant women who smoke.

• Up to 13 percent of female infertility is caused by cigarette smoking.

• Chlamydia causes about 4 to 5 million infections annually in the United States. If left untreated, chlamydia can cause infertility.

Reproductive Health and Mental Health

Hormones can affect a woman’s emotions and moods in different ways throughout her lifetime. Sometimes the impact on mood can affect a woman’s quality of life. This is true for most women. But women with a mental health condition may have other symptoms related to their menstrual cycles or menopause. Throughout all these stages, you can learn ways to help your mental and reproductive health.

American Society for Reproductive Medicine

ASRM Mission Statement

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is dedicated to the advancement of the science and practice of reproductive medicine. The Society accomplishes its mission through the pursuit of excellence in evidence-based life-long education and learning, through the advancement and support of innovative research, through the development and dissemination of the highest ethical and quality standards in patient care, and through advocacy on behalf of physicians and affiliated health care providers, and their patients.

Values of the ASRM

At the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) we value:

• Learning, including life-long education, scholarship, and the open sharing of information and knowledge.
• Discovery, including advancing the care of patients world-wide through innovative research and invention.
• Advocacy, including prioritizing patients’ reproductive care and emotional well-being, access to care, reducing disparities, and the fundamental right to family building.
• Integrity, including honesty, trustworthiness, inclusivity, transparency, and ethics in all our interactions and initiatives.
• Collaboration, including collegiality, teamwork, and cooperation to achieve our mission and global vision.
• Excellence, including distinction and quality in all our endeavors.

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