Did you know…
-it’s estimated that 10-15% of women experience clinical depression and/or anxiety during pregnancy or in the first year following birth?
-women who conceive and deliver a baby following infertility can still experience Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders (aka PMADs)?
-those same women often face tremendous stigma, even from those who care about them, because it’s tough to understand why the long-awaited arrival of a baby isn’t being met with joy and contentment?
It probably comes as no surprise that research has linked the infertility experience to increased anxiety and depression (in both women and men), and especially when fertility treatment doesn’t work. So, our logic tells us that at least one answer to resolve that anxiety and depression surely must be the eventual positive outcome of pregnancy and a baby — right?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders, or PMADs, can and do occur in women from virtually all types of backgrounds, health statuses, reproductive circumstances, and more. And the stigma all around us is powerful — Who doesn’t have strong ideas about how new motherhood *should* be? The pressure to appear like a happy, thriving mom is intense and often keeps women from seeking the help they need.
Also, misunderstanding is widespread about the differences between what’s known as “the baby blues” and depression/anxiety. It’s not uncommon for women to be experiencing Postpartum Depression or Anxiety or OCD for months and even years following the birth of their child, and never realize it. For parents who struggled through infertility in order to finally bring a baby into their family, keeping silent about the experience seems like the only way to cope with the fear of others’ reactions. And it’s that silence that compounds the problem.
The good news is that PMADs are not only treatable, there’s a very high success rate when women connect with and utilize specialized talk therapy and medication if necessary. OB/Gyns and pediatricians are increasingly using quick screening tests to determine if new mothers are at risk for PMADs. Major metropolitan areas usually now have mental health professionals who specialize in treating PMADs, as well as engaging patients’ family members in the healing process. For people who don’t live near professional specialists, online support services can fill the gap and make referrals.
Journeying through the infertility experience may be the toughest emotional hurdle you’ve encountered. Untreated depression and anxiety can make it even harder. If you’ve wondered about how you’re feeling and thinking and whether you should be concerned, there’s no need to feel alone with that worry. Reach out, talk to someone, and if you need help, it’s here.
About the writer: Tracy Morris is one of several licensed mental health clinicians at The Center for Postpartum Family Health (CPFH) in Houston and Spring/The Woodlands. CPFH offers specialized services for women and their families, as well as talk therapy for a broad range of emotional wellness needs at any point in the human lifespan (and for any gender or type of relationship!)
References & ResourcesTags: infertility, mood disorders, Post partum depression