Written by Haley Pollack, WHNP-BC at PREG Columbia
Perinatal Mood Disorders and Infertility:
We have all heard the words “postpartum depression and baby blues” but nobody discusses the prepartum period for mental health, especially with a vulnerable population like those affected with infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss. It’s still difficult to discuss as a community, let alone on the individual level. This is a medical diagnosis which can bring along with it anxiety, unknown conclusions and grief… all before your first appointment.
I personally suffered from perinatal and postpartum depression with my first pregnancy and anxiety with my second pregnancy. Thankfully, I was able to form a community to find support – but sometimes we are too afraid to search out those resources or don’t even know where to start. I knew I was at risk, and was able to be open with my partner about my needs, but I still had, at times, gripling affects. Can we prevent this? We question whether we should discuss it- especially when we are not even pregnant yet. The answer- yes, we need to talk about it because it’s all too common, especially for those who have issues with pregnancy.
Infertility is a risk factor for perinatal mood disorders- increases the risk significantly. Many patients suffer from depression and or anxiety preconception which is not recognized or diagnosed. Too many people think it’s just about postpartum which is untrue.
Some risk factors for perinatal mood disorders include:
-History of depression, anxiety or OCD
-Thyroid imbalance, endocrine dysfunction or diabetes
-Pregnancy complications, infertility or previous loss
Some common symptoms include:
- Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness
- Feelings of anger, rage
- Lack of interest in the baby, pregnancy or treatment
- Loss of pleasure of joy in the things you used to enjoy
- Hyperfocus on diagnosis/treatment details
If you have any of these risk factors, or symptoms you are not alone. We can help you find local and online resources. There are online support groups for those who are battling the same hurdles. They are resources available for heterosexual couples, same sex couples, single moms, military families as well as loss/grief support groups.
Those who are affected by infertility, whether it is having difficulty conceiving the first, second, third, or recurrent loss- we all deserve to be heard with our concerns, worries, and feelings. This is a stressful time for the patient and partner. For some, this is a life crisis. Stress doesn’t cause infertility, but infertility can cause stress.
RESOLVE.org is a fantastic resource for patients, especially on how to cope with their diagnosis and treatment. They suggest the following 8 coping techniques for both patients and couples:
- Learn about the normal responses to infertility- you’re not alone!
- Build a support network within family and friends. By talking about it with them, you will be able to communicate with them how they can best support you and your needs
- It’s ok to cry and be angry!
- It’s ok to cope differently than your partner. Infertility isn’t the same for any two patients- you and your partner are BOTH in this together
- Set limits on how you communicate about your journey and diagnosis. It’s hard not to obsess, but that obsession can take over your life. Allow yourself space for it, but don’t let it consume you
- Let those around you know how they can best help you. We aren’t mind readers (although that would be helpful). Transparency is a strength for you and your team.
- Collect information from reliable resources. Educate yourself on the options your provider gives you. This is not an impulse decision.
- Find support either in person or online. Infertility is isolating, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are therapists who are specialists with specific training for infertility and loss.
Infertility is a tough and potentially long road. By eliminating any shame and allowing people to talk freely we can support each other through all stages of pregnancy- pre pregnancy thru postpartum. 1 in 8 couples are affected by infertility. PREG supports patients no matter where they are in their journey. We want you to be healthy throughout the process- both physically and mentally.
Please visit the links for available resources, or reach out to your nurse or provider. We can help find the right support to fit your needs.