egg and sperm (depicted with cookie and frosting)

Some (not-so) Fun Infertility Facts

“While everyone experiences stress differently, you can’t underestimate it. The further you go [with fertility treatments], the more stressful it is if it doesn’t work. If it works, you’re done. Everyone is happy. If it doesn’t, some people have lost a major part of their self, what they believe to be their future, and that’s terrifying.”

Dr. William Hurd, chief medical officer for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Are you (or is someone you know) dealing with infertility right now? Chances are good you do know someone, even if they’ve never told you about their struggle. 1 in 8 couples (some sources say more like 1 in 5) are unable to pregnant after a year of trying, which technically means they qualify as “infertile.”

Here are a few (not-so-fun) facts I’ve learned about infertility over the past few years:

  • In infertile couples, there is an equal chance that the cause is from the man or the woman (this is not just a woman’s issue!)
  • In one third of infertile couples, the problem can’t be identified OR is a combination of factors from a man and woman.
  • Secondary infertility (not being able to get pregnant after the birth of one or more children) occurs at the same rate as primary infertility. 50% of infertility cases are secondary infertility.

Even-less-fun facts about infertility and mental health:

  • As many as 21-52% of women struggling with infertility experience depression.
  • “While infertility treatments are physically demanding, several studies suggest that the emotional stress of the ordeal is the primary reason many couples decide to give up.”
  • Anxiety and depression increased in couples who had failed ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) treatments.
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cat looking in through slightly open window

The Sneaky Side of Depression

I think one of the most helpful things I’ve done in trying to maintain my mental health is to become aware of my own personal red flags.

There are certain things, when they start happening, that make me suddenly wonder if something is off. Suddenly I’ll realize, “oh, I’m not handling things well anymore.” 

For me, some of those red flags are:

  • Getting overly emotional at everything (more crying than usual)
  • Feeling tired and fatigued all the time (wanting to sleep as a coping mechanism)
  • The stopping of activities I normally enjoy (lack of motivation to do them)
  • Becoming extra critical and annoyed with others
  • Being extremely bothered by clutter (feeling obsessive about needing to have the house clean)

A few weeks ago I was at work reading one of my daily news emails that I subscribe to, and that day it was focused on the war in Ukraine. As I read about numerous innocent people dying, I suddenly felt so overwhelmed. I just wanted to start sobbing about the injustice of it all – literally, I was having trouble keeping it together. Now, I’m not saying that the war in Ukraine isn’t something worth crying about or getting emotional over. Obviously, it’s a very serious situation. But the reaction I was having was more extreme than was normal for me. That was hint #1 to me that maybe I was dealing with some extra anxiety, or even depression, settling in.

I thought over the previous weeks, and realized I had gotten out of some of my normal routines. I wasn’t writing or blogging anymore. I wasn’t taking time to pray or do other spiritually-focused activities. I certainly wasn’t taking time to exercise either. So what was I doing with all my time? I was sleeping a lot more, going to bed early and waking up late, despite setting my alarm for 5:30 each morning in the hopes that I would actually get up and write (which wasn’t happening). No matter how much I slept, I still felt tired. I was wasting a lot more time on Netflix and social media. It felt like I was busy all day, but I wasn’t really doing anything of substance.

And yes, I felt extra annoyed with people, especially the people I lived with. In my mind, the house was a disaster. Why did it feel like I was the only one in our family who pulled their own weight? How could everyone else stand to ignore the mess and clutter and go about their happy little lives? I had blown up a few times at my husband Dean, and had made it loud and clear that I was tired of being the “only one” who took care of things.

Basically, ALL of my red flags were showing. But this didn’t even occur to me until that day in my office when I was struggling to not have an emotional breakdown over the current news about Ukraine. 

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