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Understanding infertility and your mental health

Infertility can be a wrenching life crisis, causing anxiety, shame, guilt and even depression. In fact, for some people, depression caused by infertility can be as intense as that experienced by people diagnosed with cancer. Not only can the emotional burden eat away at your quality of life, it can also make it harder for you to continue with your treatment plan—or even to maintain the everyday habits that are important to good health, like eating right, staying active and getting enough sleep.

Northwell Health Fertility can connect you with a variety of resources that can help you manage the stress of infertility—our holistic approach includes massage therapy, nutrition counseling and guided mindfulness meditation. There are also some easy steps you can take that can help you maintain your mental well-being in this difficult time. Here are some that our experts say can be particularly useful.

Practice self-care

Infertility is a constant reminder that there are some things you can’t control, including aspects of your life that really matter to you. So it can help to take positive action where you can. That can mean setting an earlier bedtime so you get enough sleep, tossing out the junk food in your cupboard or making an exercise schedule and sticking with it. Also, give yourself permission to focus on other aspects of your life beyond your reproductive health. Go ahead and do something completely unrelated: Check out a movie with friends, read a new book or take a yoga class. Not only can the distraction provide some stress relief, but engaging in other pursuits can help remind you that you are not defined by your fertility.

Share the weight 

People dealing with infertility often shut down and isolate themselves. It’s easy to think no one else could possibly understand what you’re going through—and sometimes, the people you care about really don’t understand. It’s OK to ask your loved ones to do some reading on infertility, and to give them some guidance about what you find helpful or hurtful. Talking with others who are going through similar struggles can be a relief, and may allow you to speak more freely and share without concerns about being judged. You can connect with a support group through the wellness center at Northwell Health Fertility.

Recognize your emotions

Men and women who are diagnosed with infertility may feel a tangle of difficult emotions, such as shame, jealousy, inadequacy and anger. Identifying those emotions can help you decide whether you really believe in the messages you’re sending yourself, and make it easier for you to discuss them with someone who can help, whether in a support group or in counseling with a therapist. Either way, it’s important to be patient with yourself, and to remind yourself that your infertility—or your partner’s—is not a reflection of your value, and that it’s not your fault.

Infertility can feel like an emotional roller coaster, and the ups and downs can wreak havoc with your emotional and physical health. Don’t be afraid to call on all available resources, such as support groups and interactive workshops, as well as the help your doctors can provide. Whether you eventually conceive, adopt or live a childfree life, nurturing yourself throughout this experience is the best way to move forward toward a healthy future.

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