15 Signs Infertility Has Hijacked Your Life

1
Symptoms and Signs of Infertility-Related Depression and Anxiety

Woman in sweater holding her head, feeling depressed and anxious due to infertility
Infertility can cause tremendous stress. Sometimes, it can lead to depression and anxiety. Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Do you feel like your entire life is focused on infertility? 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.

Infertility is emotionally and physically exhausting. Studies have found that the emotional stresses women with infertility face are similar to cancer and cardiac patients. The fertility challenged are also more likely to experience depression.

But just becomes the emotional struggle of infertility is common doesn’t mean you should ignore it.

It doesn’t mean there isn’t another way or that you should just resign yourself to feeling this way.

What follows is a list of 15 signs of infertility-related depression or anxiety.

It is based on the American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s list of signs you could benefit from counseling.

(If these 15 signs apply to you, yes, I hope you will seriously consider counseling.)

As you flip through, consider whether these are struggles you have. You may want to jot down notes to share with your doctor.

At the end of the list, I offer advice on how to win your life back from infertility.

Because you can win it back. I believe you will.  

2
You Think About Infertility All Day Long

Woman looking anxious, thinking about infertility
You may struggle to think about anything else besides your fertility struggles. JGI/Jamie Grill / Blend Images / Getty Images

You’re probably thinking, “How can I not think of infertility all the time?”

Especially in the midst of treatments or testing, it’s normal to have infertility at the front of your mind.

If you’re charting your basal body temperature, you’re obviously going to have fertility on the brain when you wake up.

If you’re giving yourself injections and going in for ultrasounds, again, it’s no surprise that your thoughts will frequently be focused on treatment.

However, that is different than feeling like infertility is the only thing you can think about… even when you’re not in the middle of an intense treatment cycle.  

When you are out with friends, do you find your thoughts drifting back to your fertility?

Are you struggling to find things to talk about with your partner (or friends) besides infertility?

When you try to concentrate or enjoy other parts of your life, do you feel like infertility always manages to sneak in and break your concentration?

That’s a problem. 

3
You Are Racked With Guilt

Woman covering her face, hands have red finger nail polish, metaphor for guilt
You must stop blaming yourself for your infertility. Volanthevist / Moment / Getty Images

Let’s be clear: guilt is an emotion that should be limited to those who have knowingly done something wrong.

Criminals, for example. They are guilty of a crime.

Guilt shouldn’t go along with a medical disease.

You may feel guilty…

You may feel guilty because you contracted a sexually transmitted infection that led to your current fertility problems.

You may feel guilty – but you shouldn’t.

Guilt implies you knew and understood that your actions were wrong, that you knew what the consequences would be, and you did it anyway.

I’m willing to bet that’s not true.

There are few situations where a choice is wrong when it comes to fertility. Waiting to have kids isn’t wrong. It isn’t a crime.

If you find yourself feeling intensely guilty or blaming yourself, you may benefit from counseling.

4
You Feel Worthless or Ashamed

Man sitting on floor with his head on his hands
Infertility can lead some people to feel like they are not as worthy of love and belonging as others. PeopleImages.com / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Do you worry that people will love you less (or not at all) if they knew you were infertile?

Do you worry your partner is going to leave you because of your fertility problems?

Do you see yourself as broken? Defective?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you are struggling with feelings of worthless and shame.

You’re allowing infertility to define you as a person.

But you are so much more than your infertility. Counseling can help you see that.

5
You Have Persistent Feelings of Sadness

Close up of a tear falling down a woman's face
If you feel sad more often than not, you may be dealing with depression. Yuichiro Chino / Moment / Getty Images

Sadness is a normal reaction to unfortunate events. If you find yourself in tears when a treatment fails, a fertility test comes back with bad results, or a pregnancy test is negative, that’s normal.

However, if…

  • your sadness seems to rarely lift
  • you find your days are more grey than sunshine
  • you’ve felt sad for weeks and weeks

…you may be dealing with depression.

Research shows that infertile couples are more likely to struggle with depression.

Depression is loosely defined as sadness that you can’t shake, lasts for extended periods of time, and interferes with your daily life.

If you feel sad most of the time – even when you don’t really understand why you’re feeling sad – you may be dealing with more than normal sadness.

6
You Feel Socially Isolated

Silhouette of a person behind foggy glass, metaphor for isolation felt during infertility
Infertility and depression can cause you to feel like you're alone, even when you're not truly alone. Fang Zhou / Cultura / Getty Images

Avoiding pregnant women, baby showers, or those with young children is 100% normal when coping with infertility.

Avoiding these situations can even be a form of good self-care.

But, if you’re…

  • feeling extra lonely most of the time
  • avoiding friends and family in most instances
  • staying home and away from social get-togethers that you once enjoyed
  • feeling alone even when you’re with others

…you may be suffering from feelings of isolation.

This can be an outcome of depression and/or shame.  

7
You No Longer Enjoy Activities You Once Did

Woman looking out window
Depression and infertility can cause you to lose interest in things you once enjoyed. Cultura/Twinpix / Cultura Exclusive / Getty Images

Are there activities you once loved that you now don’t find pleasure in?

This isn’t the same as just choosing a new hobby, of course.

However, if there are hobbies, friends, or places that you once loved, and you just can’t get yourself to enjoy them anymore (though you wish you could), sadness over infertility may be coloring your perception of life.

8
You Frequently Feel Anxious or Experience Panic Attacks

Close up of hands, nervousness and anxiety
If nervousness and anxiety interferes with your ability to get through your day, you may benefit from counseling. Russell Johnson / EyeEm / Getty Images

Infertility can generate a good deal of nervousness. Some of that is to be expected.

Being nervous about upcoming fertility tests (especially invasive ones), waiting for results, and worrying about treatment side effects and results can all get your nerves shaky.

However, if you find...

  • worrying gets in the way of your daily life
  • the nervousness doesn’t seem to let up after periods of tension
  • you find yourself feeling anxious for no particular reason
  • you find yourself experiencing panic attacks

…you may be dealing with something more than normal nervousness. You may have infertility-related anxiety. 

9
You Easily Become Frustrated or Angry

Woman looking angry
Anger is a common reaction to the stress of infertility. Be careful it doesn't take over your life. John Rensten / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Both anxiety and depression can lead to getting frustrated more than normal, as well as losing your patience more easily.

Anger and frustration over infertility can also be misdirected at those around you. You may find yourself snapping at coworkers or family members over small things, not because what they did was so bad, but because you’re feeling angry and frustrated inside.

You may find yourself feeling angry at random pregnant women or those with small babies. Maybe even people you don’t know.

My therapist once told me that anger is the opposite coin of sadness. Wherever there is anger, there is sadness lurking on the other side.

Counseling can help you process feelings of anger, so your co-workers and loved ones don’t become innocent targets.

10
You Have Trouble Concentrating or Remembering Things

Man at his desk having difficulty thinking about something besides infertility
The stress of infertility may make it difficult for you to concentrate on your work or remember important things. Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images

Some fertility drugs can cause concentration problems.

However, if you’re finding that…

  • you are "spacey" most of the time
  • you are unable to concentrate on your work
  • you can’t even concentrate on enjoyable activities, like reading a book

… you may want to consider counseling.

Depression and anxiety can also make concentration difficult, as can thinking about infertility 24/7. 

11
Your Relationship Is Suffering

Couple on sofa arguing about infertility disagreements
Making big treatment decisions and dealing with the financial strain of infertility are two possible causes of relationship stress during infertility. Blend Images - Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

Infertility places tremendous pressure on a couple. Some couples come closer, while others feel they are drifting apart.

The financial stress of infertility can also come between couples.

  • Do you find yourself arguing about fertility treatment decisions?
  • Do you worry that your partner is going to leave you because of the infertility?
  • Have you forgotten how to have fun together?

If you feel your relationship is suffering, seeing a counselor together may be a good option.

12
You’re Struggling With Sexual Performance or Pleasure

Man sitting at bottom of bed with head in his hands, erectile dysfunction due to trying to conceive stress
Timed intercourse can lead to trouble with sexual performance and enjoyment. annebaek / E+ / Getty Images

When you’re trying to get pregnant, you often need to have sex when you don’t feel like it.

This can alter the way a couple approaches sex even when they aren’t “required” to have it.

Also, infertility shame can lead to seeing your sex life as a “broken baby-making machine.” You may forget that sex is much more than for making babies.

This can seriously impact your sex life.

Problems some couples may experience include...

  • A decrease in sexual desire
  • Performance anxiety or erectile dysfunction
  • Decreased enjoyment of sex

Depression and anxiety can also worsen your sexual health.

Also, some hormonal imbalances (that cause infertility) can also impact your sex life. Sex may be painful due to reproductive diseases, like endometriosis. This can, in turn, harm your sex life.

If you’re experiencing sexual difficulties, it’s important that you not only consider counseling but also let your fertility doctor know. 

13
You’re Turning to Drugs or Alcohol More Frequently

Woman with a bottle of win looking depressed
Drinking to numb your emotions is a sign that you may have a problem. Peter Dazeley / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

You know you shouldn’t be drinking when you’re trying to get pregnant.

But maybe the stress has gotten to you, and you find yourself having a drink to relax a night.

One glass of wine from time to time isn’t a problem.

But, if...

  • you find yourself drinking in order to numb your emotions
  • you’re hiding your drinking from your partner
  • drinking is interfering with your daily life

...it’s time to reach out for help. 

14
You Want to Eat All the Time or Not at All

Woman eating food out of the refrigerator
The difference between enjoying a treat and emotional eating is the enjoyment. You feel worse, not better, after an emotional eating binge. Kactus / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Food can be a drug.

Do you find yourself eating to numb your emotions? Do you binge and then feel guilty for eating so much?

There’s nothing wrong with having a treat once in awhile. The difference between emotional eating and enjoying a treat is the enjoyment factor.

Often, when someone is eating to numb difficult feelings, the person feels worse – and not better – after indulging.

Alternatively, some people lose their appetites during times of extreme stress.

Changes in your eating patterns, as well as changes in your weight, can be signs of depression. 

15
You’re Struggling With Sleep

Woman looking at cell phone in the night unable to sleep
Infertility stress can make it difficult to sleep well at night. Adam Hester / Blend Images / Getty Images

Depression and anxiety can interfere with sleep.

Do you...

  • Find yourself sleeping too much?
  • Have trouble falling asleep at night?
  • Have difficulty staying asleep?
  • Find yourself sleeping at all the wrong hours?

These can be signs of depression or anxiety.

Keep in mind that some fertility drugs can interfere with your sleep patterns. Talk to your doctor if your sleep troubles start when taking a particular medication or fertility drug. 

16
You Find Your Thoughts Turning to Death or Suicide

Woman on phone calling for help, having suicidal thoughts
If you're having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. Call a friend, a suicide hotline, or 911. Luis Pedrosa / E+ / Getty Images

If you find yourself thinking that you’d be better off dead, or fantasizing about suicide, it’s extremely important that you seek counseling.

Suicidal thoughts are a sign of intense depression. The sooner you find help, the sooner you’ll be able to feel better about your life again.

Are you struggling with suicidal thoughts right now? Are you afraid you might hurt yourself?

Please call a suicide helpline or get yourself to the nearest emergency room.

Suicide is a permanent decision based on temporary feelings. Please reach out for help.

17
You Don’t Have to Feel This Way...

Woman sitting with a counselor talking about infertility
Counseling can help you cope better with the stress of infertility and help you feel less alone. Chris Schmidt / E+ / Getty Images

Infertility can be heartbreaking. Going through testing and treatment can be tiring. It is certainly normal to experience sadness and even anger at times.

But infertility does not have to take over your life.

While it may be common for those with infertility experience depression or anxiety, that doesn’t mean it is inevitable.

You don’t have to suffer. There’s help out there.

Sources:

Arthur L. Greil,1 Kathleen Slauson-Blevins,2 and Julia McQuillan2. “The experience of infertility: A review of recent literature.” Sociol Health Illn. 2010 Jan; 32(1): 140–162. Published online 2009 Dec 9. doi:  10.1111/j.1467-9566.2009.01213.x http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3383794/

Infertility Counseling and Support: When and Where To Find It. American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed October 26, 2015. https://www.asrm.org/FACTSHEET_Infertility_Counseling_and_Support/

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