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New Delhi, July 29 – Infertility is a complex and emotionally challenging journey that affects millions of individuals and couples across the globe. As per WHO’s recent report, around 17.5 per cent of the adult population – roughly 1 in 6 worldwide – experience ‘infertility’. Within a societal framework that places significant value on childbearing and parenthood as crucial aspects of adulthood, experiencing infertility can deal a severe blow to an individual’s self-esteem. Furthermore, the accompanying social stigma discourages couples from openly discussing their struggles with friends and family, creating a path toward finding a resolution that is exceedingly isolating.
While both men and women can suffer from infertility, in a lot of these cases, the societal stereotypes and conditioning, burden the female sex with the predominant onus of it, aggravating their agony even more. The inability to conceive a child naturally can lead to significant psychological distress, affecting mental health and overall well-being. While the physical aspects of infertility are well-recognised, the impact on mental health often remains overlooked.
Infertility can evoke a myriad of emotions like grief, guilt, shame, anger, and frustration. Each unsuccessful attempt at conceiving or receiving a negative pregnancy test can exacerbate these emotions, leading to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. Infertility treatment itself can further intensify the emotional challenges. The process of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as In vitro fertilisation (IVF), involves numerous medical interventions, injections, and invasive procedures. The financial burden of treatment, coupled with the uncertainty of success, can add to the emotional strain experienced by individuals undergoing these procedures.
IVF is often viewed as a beacon of hope, a pathway to happiness for couples struggling with infertility. When a couple embarks on this journey, they carry a profound sense of belief, that this shall be the answer to their dreams of parenthood. Couples may experience excitement and optimism during the initial stages, buoyed by the possibility of success. However, as they encounter setbacks, such as failed cycles, unsuccessful embryo transfers, or pregnancy losses, feelings of despair and self-doubt can take hold. As time passes, the longing for closure intensifies, as each disappointment chips away at their hope in a positive outcome and happiness appears elusive.
Infertility can be nerve-wracking as extended periods of stress can give rise to familial discords and stress in the intra couple dynamics. Even the medicines or hormones prescribed and injected as part of the treatment can cause mood swings. According to reports, stress and fertility have been shown to have an inversely proportional relationship where stress and tension can hamper the treatment results. Thus, counseling by a medical health practitioner is very necessary for those contemplating or receiving infertility treatments to be aware of its various treatment options, success rates, and potential challenges and to help alleviate anxiety and uncertainty.
Acknowledging and validating uncomfortable emotions as they arise as well as building a robust support system is crucial for individuals undergoing infertility treatment. Friends, family, and support groups can offer understanding, empathy, and a safe space to express concerns.
Infertility treatment can strain even the strongest relationships. Open and honest communication with your partner is vital to navigating this journey together. Discussing fears, concerns, and expectations can strengthen your bond and provide mutual support. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the treatment process, maintaining a realistic outlook on the potential outcomes, and establishing achievable expectations, individuals can effectively mitigate the emotional repercussions that may arise from potential setbacks.
Keeping the complexity and intricacies of the procedure in place, it is important to compile medical intervention with compassion and psychological support. A fertility care provider can profoundly impact the lives of couples undergoing treatment by offering not only the most advanced scientific expertise but also compassionate support. It’s important to check for patient-centric care in the IVF clinics and an in-house counseling facility to provide personalized care, emotional support, and educational resources to patients.
Infertility treatment goes beyond the physical realm, deeply impacting mental health and overall well-being. Recognising, acknowledging, and addressing the psychological toll of its process is essential for healthcare providers and support systems alike. A multidisciplinary approach that combines medical expertise with mental and emotional support can significantly improve outcomes and can empower individuals to navigate this journey more effectively.
(Dr. C. Jyothi Budi, is the Medical Director, at Ferty9 Fertility Center)