How Undergoing IVF Can Affect Your Mental Health

Planning a family entails a lot regardless of how you choose to conceive a child, and couples undergoing In vitro fertilization (IVF) want to know everything they can about IVF before undergoing the process. IVF treatments have advanced far from the first live birth with the treatment in 1978, according to the National Library of Medicine. In the decades since, IVF has become a way for couples and individuals who are seeking to have a child to make that dream a reality. Some choose to undergo IVF treatment for fertility issues. For those in same-sex relationships, IVF can be a way of having a child without heterosexual sex. Over a million babies were born thanks to IVF between 1987 and 2015, according to a report released by the U.S. Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology.

"This outcome feels like a miracle, but the process also involves some sacrifices," Clara Moskowitz wrote in a The New York Times article recounting she and her wife's experience undergoing IVF costs — monetarily, physically, and mentally. Before visiting a fertility clinic for the first time, here are some mental health effects of IVF you may not hear about.

Here's how IVF takes a toll on your mental health

The process for IVF is just that: A process. Most people have to undergo multiple treatments in order to get pregnant, according to Northern California Fertility Medical Center. Each IVF cycle typically lasts four to six weeks, according to the Cleveland Clinic. And although getting pregnant is a good sign for your fertility, it isn't a guarantee that it will result in a successful live-birth. Talking to your fertility doctors about both the pregnancy rates and live-birth rates among people your age and condition will give you insight into your specific situation.

With all that plus its financial costs, it makes sense that IVF could be hard on you and your partner's mental wellbeing. Marital problems, depression, and obsession over fertility can all be signs that you need to speak to a mental health professional who specializes in helping people cope with infertility and IVF, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

What to do if IVF treatment is affecting your mental health

The Northern California Fertility Medical Center recommends that individuals and couples undergoing IVF setup infertility support before beginning their IVF journey. Resolve, The National Infertility Association,  offers both peer and professional-led support groups. "Support groups and informational meetings can reduce the feeling of isolation and provide opportunities to learn and share with others experiencing infertility," per the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

You can also find individual or partner counseling specific to IVF and fertility problems. In addition to online resources like those found on the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's website, you can ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a mental health counselor.

"Struggling to have a biological child is a complicated grief process because it's often an invisible loss," David Diamond, PhD, said in an article published by the American Psychological Association. "There are not rituals or public ways to honor these losses, and people often don't talk about it. They feel like something is wrong with them, and these situations can deliver a painful blow to someone's self-esteem."

Undergoing IVF for any reason is not an indicator that anything is wrong with you, your partner, or your relationship. While the process comes with challenges, it has given the gift of parenthood to the millions who sought it and continue to seek it.