While the journey to conceive can be an exciting time for a person or couple, that period in your life can also be one that is filled with fear, anxiety, and uncertainty – especially if you’re having a hard time getting pregnant. As we center maternal mental health in the month of May, it is vital that we hold space for the experiences of those who may be struggling with infertility at this time or perhaps are navigating the journey to parenthood with the support of assisted reproductive technology. No matter where you are on the reproductive continuum, we recognize the mental health obstacles you may have been challenged with overcoming, and we remain committed to uplifting you however we can.
To better understand the mental health effects of the fertility process, we turned to Dr. Temeka Zore, a board-certified OB/GYN and fertility specialist at Spring Fertility. Dr. Zore’s work centers on advanced reproductive technologies, PCOS, egg freezing, and pre-implantation genetic testing. Here’s what she had to say about putting mental health supports in place for someone going through the fertility process:
How can fertility struggles have a negative impact on a person’s mental health?
Infertility and difficulty trying to conceive can cause a tremendous emotional and mental burden on a couple and has been well documented that infertility can lead to an increase in one’s stress. In addition to the mental and emotional toll, fertility treatment may also cause a financial hardship on couples, adding to the strain on their mental health.
Is there any evidence that mental health has an impact on a person’s ability to get pregnant?
Studies have been mixed on whether stress causes infertility because it is difficult to study. But there have been many studies that have demonstrated that individuals and couples with infertility have higher rates of anxiety and depression than couples without infertility. So the diagnosis of infertility can certainly lead to stress in individuals.
What are some of the first signs you notice in a patient who is struggling with their mental health while trying to become pregnant?
I think everyone is different in how they emotionally and mentally cope with struggling to conceive. But, we are always looking for signs of anxiety, depression, feelings of hopelessness, or pulling away from friends/loved ones.
What mental health supports are in place to help people navigate their fertility journeys?
We would recommend support groups or individual or couple counseling to discuss your mental health while going through infertility. Some people feel better after sharing their journeys and others may prefer to keep that to themselves. What is most important is that people know they are not alone on their journey. Other ways to support your mental health may include acupuncture, meditation, yoga, or some other activity that helps you de-stress.
What advice can you give for someone dealing with anxiety or depression in the midst of their fertility journey?
I would recommend talking to your partner, a close friend, or a family member you trust about how you are feeling and also consider joining infertility or miscarriage support groups. It is so important to know you are not alone in your fertility journey, whether you choose to share it publicly, it is still important to know you have other people who may be going through a similar struggle. I also encourage patients to share their feelings with their providers. As important as your physical health is when trying to conceive, your mental and emotional health is also important.
Are there any mental health resources you can recommend for someone dealing with infertility, or going through IVF?
There are resources through resolve.org, through Facebook, and through other social media support groups such as The Fertility Tribe, Fertility for Colored Girls, and Broken Brown Egg. It can also be helpful to speak to therapists who specialize in infertility.
Dr. Temeka Zore is a Fertility specialist and Board-certified OB/GYN, who completed a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (REI) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Dr. Zore was raised in Indiana, and graduated with honors from the University of Texas at Austin, where she also received high honors for her academic excellence as well as her athletic achievements in Track and Field. She was then awarded a full merit scholarship to medical school and returned to her home state, where she graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine. Following her fertility fellowship at UCLA, Dr. Zore worked at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Southern California in Los Angeles. Dr. Zore has contributed to several peer-reviewed articles related to topics including PCOS and pre-implantation genetic testing of embryos.
Connect with Dr. Temeka Zore on Instagram!