Associate Professor, OBGYN
Harvard Medical School
Licensed Therapist & LCSW
RESOLVE Committee Member
As we'll show in this lesson, the overlap between fertility challenges and emotional challenges is incredibly common and persists across populations, cultures, genders, and more.
Globally, there’s been extensive research that shows patients with fertility challenges are more likely to suffer from psychosocial challenges than otherwise similar groups.
One example comes from Holland where Dutch investigators compared the emotional state of women beginning fertility treatment with a similarly matched "control group". As you can see below, the group starting treatment were far more likely to suffer from depressive symptoms.
While not all fertility patients exhibit depressive symptoms, a large percentage consider the fertility challenge to be deeply unnerving. One study of 200 heterosexual couples conducted at the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S. revealed half of surveyed women considered infertility “the most upsetting experience of their lives.”
As you'll see here, many of the above observations apply to patients being treated in regions like Japan and China.
For instance, a Japanese study compared the emotional states of infertility patients with pregnant women of a similar background and noted a major distinction in rates of anxiety or depression.
In China, investigators at a single clinic evaluated the quality of life (QOL) amongst fertility patients and a similarly matched control group and noted fertility patients had higher anxiety levels and their scores for self-esteem and quality of life were substantially lower.
While many of these studies focused solely on female patients, there’s good reason to believe the psychological challenges that coincide with infertility apply to men as well.
Chinese investigators assessed over 700 men with an infertility diagnosis and came to the conclusion over 40% exhibited “psychological symptoms”. Data showed a correlation between depressive symptoms and the duration of infertility as well as the number infertility diagnoses the male partner had been given.
As fertility patients, many of us feel alone on our journey which can exacerbate our feelings of grief, anxiety, and depression. For many of us, it can be comforting to know that what we're going through is common and nearly all of us struggle to manage the pain.