National Infertility Awareness Week takes place this year on April 23-29, 2023. The Mind and Body Wellbeing Employee Resource Group (ERG) recognizes the devastating impact infertility can have on mental wellbeing for those undergoing treatment and their loved ones.
A key aspect of our mission is to raise awareness, and in the case of fertility and infertility as the topics have been taboo for too long. For most of us, without even realizing it, the awkwardness around reluctance to discuss these subjects continues to foster a culture where people are afraid to open up to others. Fertility struggles are very common, and the impact on mental wellbeing is almost universal. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 8 families go through infertility. A survey conducted with clinicians reported that they claimed 90% of their patients struggling with fertility experience depression or some other kind of symptoms, and 42% report suicidal thoughts.1
Facing infertility struggles and treatments can interfere with many aspects of life including work, family, and relationships. The stress is real, no matter what someone’s infertility journey looks like.
Mental health issues range from grief and loss, struggling to open up and talk honestly about infertility, to full blown anxiety and mood disorders. The medications often used to treat infertility can also affect mood and may contribute to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and irritability. Families may feel isolated and stigmatized and find it very difficult to be around other families with children or manage questions from family and friends about when they will start a family.2
If you are going on a fertility journey, remember you are not alone. Talking openly about things that may be considered taboo can help to lighten and share the mental load and uncover a network of support for you to tap into. If someone you know is going on a fertility journey, offer words of support and provide a safe space to simply listen.
1 The impact of infertility on your mental health: tips for coping and where to get support. Fertility Family, May 2022.
2 American Psychiatric Association. Resource Document on Psychiatric Aspects of Infertility, Feb. 2019