Updated: Jan 18
This three-part-series is for you if you, or a loved one, are living with infertility, have lost a much wanted baby or have experienced both infertility and baby loss. If you feel down, worried, or have any other persistent symptoms affecting your mental health, read on to learn three steps to get help.I hope these resources help you get the support you need because your mental health matters.
This blog focuses on getting mental health conditions, such as severe stress, depression and anxiety assessed. The next blog, part 2, discusses how to get treatment, and after this, we talk about tips to help reduce short term overwhelm and stress.
Your mental health matters! Living with infertility or losing a baby can have short and long term effects on your mental health.
You can use online tools to help monitor your mood.
If you feel suicidal, get immediate assistance. Call 999, attend A&E or call the Samaritans.
An NHS GP or Psychologist can assess your mental health symptoms. GPs and Psychologists are also available privately.
In the UK, you can contact the NHS Improving Access To Psychological therapies service in your local area for assessment and treatment for mental health matters.
Antidepressants may affect your ability to conceive naturally but have not been shown to affect IVF outcomes. It’s essentia to have a conversation with your doctor about any medication you are taking and whether it can affect your fertility.
Step 1: Recognise if you have mental health symptoms that need attention
Struggling to get pregnant, having fertility treatments and dealing with the grief and disappointment of failed cycles and pregnancy loss understandably results in several emotions.
The range and mixture of emotions will be different for every person and can include grief, confusion, guilt, tiredness, exhaustion, worry, fear, anxiety, isolation, pressure, and overwhelm.
Over time emotions change, and some will dominate more than others. Emotions can also manifest as physical symptoms such as tiredness, loss of appetite, panic, poor sleep, overeating.
Living with infertility or losing a baby can have short and long term effects on your mental health. Whilst everyone has a different response, if you don’t feel right, if you don't feel yourself, if your symptoms and thoughts are repeated, last for longer than a few weeks and/or are affecting your daily life it’s important to get a medical assessment, advice and if required treatment.
You can do this discreetly with your GP in person, by phone or if they offer the service, by video. You can also obtain assessment and support for mental health matters from dedicated online services.
Stress, Overwhelm and Infertility
You might be struggling with getting things done, finding it difficult to make decisions, or feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information you are taking in and don't know where to begin. If this is a short term feeling that settles, you may recover, and it may not be harmful to you in the long term.
However, if it doesn’t resolve and becomes prolonged or severe and makes you feel unsettled, extremely worried or unable to do your daily activities properly, stress requires medical attention.
Bereavement and Grief
When you’ve lost someone you loved, including your much wanted baby or embryo, it’s a natural reaction to grieve; to cry, to feel a deep sense of loss and emptiness. Grief, the emotions you experience resulting from a bereavement loss, can affect your appetite, concentration, sleep.
The grieving process can become prolonged or have a longer-lasting effect on your ability to function in life. This is more likely when bereavement occurs alongside other life events, e.g. infertility and recurrent failed cycles, repeated miscarriages, chronic illness, job loss, redundancy etc.
Other Common Mental Health Conditions
Experiencing infertility and loss can lead to mental health illness. Conditions include depression, anxiety and others. You can have more than one condition at the same time e.g anxiety with depression.
Sometimes one condition may be more dominant than the other. Conditions can also vary in severity. Common symptoms of anxiety and depression include:
Feeling low, miserable and unhappy
Comfort eating or loss of appetite
Problems with sleep
Inability to enjoy things
Loss of confidence
Difficulty concentrating on things
Feeling your heart beating fast or irregularly
Loss of interest in sex
Feeling irritable, restless or, nervous,
Worrying about something more than you have in the past
Avoiding social situations, withdrawing from people
Not taking care of yourself e.g. not washing,
Making more mistakes than usual.
You can find more information about specific mental health conditions in the resources section at the end of the article.
If you doubt whether you should get help, call NHS 111 or speak to your GP.
Step 2: Check your mood with a Mood questionnaire
In the same way, you might use a weighing scale to check your weight or try on your favourite pair of jeans to check whether your size is changing. You can perform a basic review or ‘check’ of your mood.
You can try this Mood assessment questionnaire on NHS.UK that will take a few minutes to complete. The outcome of the assessment will guide you on whether any action needs to be taken.
There aren't any published guidelines or evidence on how often you should take this test.
Taking this test at least every 1-2 months is a decent time frame; you may want to do this more often or use a mood tracking app.
If in doubt, contact NHS 111 or your GP for an assessment.
If you feel suicidal or want to end your life, please tell someone, call 999 or attend A&E. You can also contact services like The Samaritans on 116 123.
Step 3: Take the First steps to get help
Make an appointment to see or speak to your GP in confidence. After the assessment, your GP may refer you to the local, improving access to psychological therapies service (IAPT).
Depending on the results of your assessment, your GP may also recommend and prescribe medication. You can also contact your local IAPT service directly to speak to a psychologist or you can contact a private psychologist directly.
Treatment can involve talking therapy, medication or a combination of both. This is why it's so important to be assessed by a clinician.
In our next blog, we’ll discuss the health professionals and services that you can see to get support. Join our mailing list and we’ll let you know when it goes live!
Anxiety, Mental Health Foundation
Depression, Mental Health
Planning a Pregnancy, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Royal College of Psychiatrists
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