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.
I guess I’ve kind of been stuck in one of my uninspired ruts – the last time I posted was 7 weeks ago. At a minimum, I like to challenge myself to write and publish a post once a month. But if I have nothing valuable or important to say, it seems silly to post subpar writing. I confess, you may be about to embark on some “less-than-par” writing in this post.
October was a stressful month, kicked off by an emotional appointment with our fertility doctor. The days after the appointment consisted of a lot of processing about the infertility journey, and trying to decide what steps we did or did not want to take when considering trying to have a second child.
October was also chock-full of too many events. I get stressed out even when there are too many fun events happening. I need down time – though often I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to overscheduling myself. In October it seemed like we had about 10 different Halloween or Fall Festival carnivals (it was probably only 3 or 4 in reality), we had our first-grader’s big school fundraiser, our son (the same aforementioned first-grader) had just joined Cub Scouts and their biggest campout of the year happened to be the third week of October, and to top it all off I ended up needing to go out of town to Nashville for a work event… everything in the world felt like it was crammed into a 4-week time period.
I like being busy. I like hanging out with friends, traveling, and doing meaningful things with my time. But when I get so busy that I can’t do some of the essential things anymore, that’s when I know I’ve gone too far. When it becomes difficult to even have a conversation with my husband (as in, we have to try to schedule a time on the calendar when we can connect), when I don’t have time to workout, when I can’t find the time or energy to grocery shop or cook… those are my red flags signaling me that I’ve overcommitted myself. And I guess I didn’t leave much time for writing the last month or two either.
One of the things I did still make time to do over the last 7 weeks was read. And one thing I read has been mulling over in my head for a while now. I like reading books on spirituality – and I’ve been interested in prayer, so I was reading Timothy Keller’s book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. On page 219 (I noted it because I was so struck by his words) Keller says, “it takes pride to be anxious.”
The Task Force cited a study which showed that between August 2020 and February 2021, adults with symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders increased to 41.5% from 36.4%.
Initially that doesn’t seem like a huge increase to me (about 5%), but the fact that over 41% of adults may be experiencing symptoms of anxiety and/or depression does seem concerning in its own right.
As with anything, there are pros and cons to asking (or requiring) doctors to perform anxiety screenings on their patients. So let’s take a quick look at both sides of the issue:
Screenings could help prevent mental health disorders from going undetected and untreated for years
Standard screenings help to reduce the stigma of mental health – it would just be another thing to get checked out annually like any other health issue
Standard screenings could help “combat the effects of racism, implicit bias, and other systemic issues in the medical field” (you can read more about mental health disparities among people of color in this New York Times article)
Screenings alone will not solve a mental health crisis – patients who get flagged as being “at risk” would need other interventions and could not be forced to get treatment
Some worry that screenings may primarily favor doctors and healthcare providers financially if there is an uptick in diagnoses
Some doctors expressed concern that adding “one more thing” to their already long checklist for physical exams is not practical or doable – there are also staff shortages to consider
As a mental health advocate, I am in favor of making anxiety screenings (or more broadly, mental health screenings) a standard practice for all adults and children. But I understand the logistical problems with carrying that out, and I also understand the fear that it may allow the medical community to take advantage of people (due to over-diagnosing or over-prescribing medications).
I am also aware that mental health treatments like therapy are expensive, and that unless there’s a more cost-effective way for everyone to have access to that service, it may not be realistic for everyone.
The problems with increasing mental health services are real and something that need to be considered, but my hope is still that more and more people would be proactive in taking charge of their mental health – and standardizing screenings could be one way to help accomplish this.
What are your thoughts on the Task Force’s recommendation? What other pros and cons have you heard about the issue?