Monday, June 20, 2011

Infertility depression

So, to start, I'm not just discussing long-term infertility, but also the short-term, secondary, etc. While it's definitely traumatizing to be waiting years, it's also traumatizing for many women to be waiting months. After all, those who did wait years started out waiting months, too. Here, I'm also only discussing from a woman's point of view. I know men go through quite a bit as well, but lacking the personal experience, I'll leave that up to a dad to write.

During this time, all sorts of thoughts can go through your head. Feelings of inadequacy aren't uncommon and neither is depression. It starts with the trying to conceive (TTC) cycle. First, there's excitement, as we finally decide to try. We know it might not happen right away, so we first just stop any birth control measures that might have been in use and just enjoy sex au natural.

After that doesn't work, we start timing. Some people buy ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) and some watch for signs of fertility (cervical fluid, maybe mild cramping--mittelschmerz). Others start charting their temperatures and many do all at once.

We hear the stats--two healthy, fully fertile people have about a 25% of conception in any given month. Okay, so, a few months have passed, this month should be it! We're doing everything right--we know when we're ovulating, we're going at it like bunnies on a schedule (some every day, some every other day in an attempt to give the sperm a chance to build up) and we're still not getting pregnant.

Looking for something 2
Doubts, that many of us already carried, perhaps in silence, for a long time, start to surface--"Can I even get pregnant at all?" Many women, especially those who successfully use birth control for a long time, actually worry that they may not be able to have children, though they have no real reason to feel that way. Sometimes it's a real, conscious concern or fear, sometimes it's subconscious, only waking up when the reality of actually trying to conceive arrives.

Often, what follows is depression. For me, I felt disconnected from the living world. I couldn't do the most basic of life tasks--reproduce. It made me feel broken, like I was really dead inside and something was seriously wrong with me. I watched other women with their bellies ballooning, bemoaning their human fertility and it hurt. It hurt a lot.

Every time someone talked about being 'afraid' of being pregnant, I wanted to scream at them to just give me the baby. I wanted the baby, don't be afraid, don't worry, just hand it over! Of course, instead, I tried to be supportive, while inside, I hated them a little in my pain.

Now, from here, women go many different ways. Some just keep trying naturally, hoping that some day, it will just happen. Some because they don't have money for anything else (fertility treatments are expensive!), some don't believe in interfering with nature and some just really, really want it to come from them.

Others go on to schedule workups to find out what's not working--many hope that it's their husbands and not them. Some try more natural approaches with herbs or supplements. And others make the decision to stop trying to conceive entirely and move onto looking into adoption.

From there, some go on for fertility treatments and more still move onto adoption options. And across the board of the women in treatments, using natural help and just keeping on the old fashioned way, women start getting pregnant: Finally!

Now, many recover and their spirits fly at this point. They've succeeded! However, many others continue to suffer from depression into the pregnancy. For me, I was unable to believe that I was really pregnant. I tried to find causes of positive pregnancy tests outside of pregnancy. The only one that seemed to fit my symptoms was a tumor. So, while I carefully nurtured my body in case I was wrong, I inwardly braced myself to face the big C.

This manifests in other ways for other women. However, it can lead to a distinct inability to bond in many women, for many months. You might not be able to believe you're pregnant, even when you're going through all the motions of nourishing a pregnancy. The depression that came from all those months of unsuccessfully TTC can utterly spoil what was supposed to be a joyous time in your life. Something you were waiting months or years for. Something very special.

This depression can persist throughout pregnancy and a little beyond, especially if you have a highly medicalized birth. If you experienced pregnancy or birth loss in the past, it can increase the problems quite a bit. Of course, the depression and bonding difficulties don't dampen any of the feelings of loss if the pregnancy ends unexpectedly.It could even make them worse.

Most women start bonding and recovering from the depression during milestones in pregnancy. The quickening is a big one--feeling the baby move, really move around in there, can push through that infertility depression fog. Sometimes, the first time mom hears the heartbeat makes it all real and connects her to the little life growing inside. Other mothers find comfort in a routine ultrasound showing them their active little bumper is really and truly a baby. Others still find random triggers, some not even related to pregnancy, that lead to pushing through the fog. Finally, the big show--birth--may be what it takes to really chase away those issues.

This post was really written to let other moms know: you're not alone. This is a problem that affects many, many women. It's not a sign that anything is wrong with you--it's a kind of traumatic response, even a defensive mechanism. It will eventually pass. However, my friend Dionna at Code Name: Mama has some great suggestions if you're currently pregnant and going through this, that might be helfpul.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep it civil and remember that my blog is not for debate. I have friends in all walks of life, so don't assume anything from individual posts! I do enjoy hearing from you, though :)