Thursday, November 12, 2015

Infertility and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Infertility is traumatic.  Fearing the loss of a dream or a perceived future, undergoing medical tests and treatments, or losing a pregnancy can all be devastating and traumatic events.  It can be extremely difficult to move past feelings of hopelessness or sadness that so often accompany a failed cycle or a miscarriage.  We all respond differently to loss or trauma, and some are able to recover very quickly, while others need more time to deal with complicated grief or depression.

I’ve been going to counseling for the past couple of months for anxiety and depression related to infertility and my miscarriage earlier this year.  My therapist mentioned that my symptoms are very similar to those of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It surprised me, but then again it didn’t. I mean, infertility is awful and life changing. Of course it has impacted my life and changed the way I react to certain situations. I thought I was just depressed, but it’s actually more complicated than that. It got me thinking, why don’t we talk more about infertility and PTSD?

Most of the women I’ve met who are suffering from infertility or pregnancy loss exhibit some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress, however very few are seeking treatment.  Symptoms include:

Avoidance Behaviors
Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the trauma
Avoiding places, people, or activities that remind you of the trauma

Intrusive Memories
Recurrent or unwanted distressing memories of the traumatic event
Upsetting dreams about the trauma
Hyperarousal, or severe emotional distress or physical reactions to anything that remind you of the trauma

Negative Changes in Mood
Depression or anxiety
Feeling emotionally numb
Lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Hopelessness about the future

Changes in Emotional Reactions
Overwhelming guilt or shame
Trouble sleeping
Increases in drinking or use of substances
Irritability or angry outbursts

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, please seek help.  Infertility is difficult enough as it is, but suffering from moderate to severe depression or post-traumatic stress are reason to pursue treatment for your mental health. We get so focused on what’s going on inside our bodies, that sometimes we forget to care for our emotional and mental well-being.

If you can’t afford counseling, reach out to others who understand what you’re going through.  Join a support group, and practice self-care every day. Check with your employer’s benefits department to see if they offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which often offers free counseling sessions.

You are definitely not alone in feeling this way, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

For more information:

Medscape “Examining PTSD as a Complication of Infertility”

ReachOut "Post traumatic stress disorder symptoms, treatment and coping strategies" 

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