Studies have shown that infertility patients experience similar levels of depression as cancer patients. This suggests that struggling to get pregnant can be as emotionally demanding as dealing with a life threatening illness. So if you are having problems trying to conceive (TTC) it is important to know that feeling depressed as a result of this is a normal response. However, just because it is a normal response does not mean that there is nothing that you can do about it.
In her book ‘Conquering Infertility’ the psychologist Dr Alice Domer explains how recent research has shown that a particular type of talking therapy known as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT has been shown to not only resolve depression in individuals experiencing infertility but also makes it more likely that they will become pregnant.
The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy programme used in the research study combines relaxation techniques with Cognitive Restructuring, a process by which the thoughts that trigger negative emotions like depression and anxiety are identified, evaluated for accuracy and helpfulness and replaced with more appropriate alternatives. An example of replacing a depressing and anxiety provoking thought with a more accurate and helpful alternative is as follows:
Replace – ‘I will never get pregnant, I am going to be childless forever’
With – ‘If I follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, cut down on caffeine, alcohol, don’t smoke and have regular unprotected sex I am maximising my chancing of conceiving. I will find a way of becoming a mother’.
Dr Domar also found good results with group therapy in the form of in person support groups, where members shared developments and talked about relationships.
Dealing with infertility is hard enough without also having to deal with depression and other related mental health problems. Symptoms are often not what you think and include not being able to think about anything else but trying to get pregnant, disrupted sleeping and eating patterns and struggling to complete day to day tasks. Therapy has clearly been shown to help so make your TTC easier, please contact The British CBT & Counselling for more help and advice.