Experiencing depression over wanting a baby? (Why & coping tips)

In this guide we are going to touch upon the topic of experiencing depression over wanting a baby and how you can cope with symptoms of depression caused by infertility. 

How can you cope if you are experiencing depression over wanting a baby?

Not being able to have children when you desperately want them can be a distressing experience especially if you have been trying to conceive for months and even years. 

A few things you can do to cope include:

  • Being kind to yourself
  • Seek professional help for your fertility and your mental health
  • Communicate your distress to your partner and listen to theirs
  • Engage with other parts of your life. 

If you are experiencing symptoms of depression due to the stressors related to the difficulty of you being unable to conceive a child or your deep desire of having a baby, you are not alone. 

Infertility or challenges that come with conception is a disease that affects both men and women all over the world. WHO estimates that close to 186 million people struggle with infertility. 

Infertility has a profound impact on the individual and the relationship of the couple who are trying to conceive. 

Let us take a closer look at what makes infertility a particular challenging issue to discuss with respect to mental health and well-being. 

Stigma surrounding infertility

The way infertility impacts an individual’s life, especially if they want children, is profound in the way it affects their sense of self, their relationship with their partner, and their mental health. 

While the loss of an experience or a dream can be just as distressing as any other loss, the loss of the possibility of having children is often seen as a tricky issue because of the stigma that surrounds it. 

The reason why there is so much stigma surrounding infertility has been summarised in one study,

“…In all communities worldwide, infertility is an important issue for both sexes because it is an instinctive biological behavior to have an offspring, but also an important issue to be a family as a part of a community.”

This particular stigma, shame, and guilt around the issue added to the distress of the couple and the individual who is trying to conceive- be it the male or the female partner. The same study also found that stigma led to social exclusion of the couple and more so directed onto the female partner. 

The struggling couple also felt that their quality of relationships were deteriorating as they perceived themselves to be isolated and losing their value as members of society. These perceptions fuel the stigma and shame surrounding infertility that can cause relationship tension, stress, and even divorce all the while impacting the mental health and sense of well-being of the people involved. 

Infertility and mental health

Infertility is a distressing crisis for couples who want to start a family. Upon finding out that they are infertile they may begin to struggle with emotions related to loss, guilt, and shame. 

Months and sometimes years of treatment can bring about great emotional turmion as they fluctuate between hope and disappointment over treatment options all the while dealing with the lonely experience of not being able to conceive.

A review of various studies with the intent to understand the prevalence of depression amongst people who are struggling with infertility found that depression amongst the infertile population was much higher. 

It is also to be mentioned that Infertility is not just a woman’s issue. WHO reported prevalence rates 3.6% among men worldwide.

The reason why you might be depressed over your want to have a baby can be caused by various factors surrounding the issue of infertility. 

Research has found that infertile couples are confronted with uncertainty, fear of their future, divorce, loneliness, and rejection. These can bring about immense emotional distress if they do not have healthy ways of coping and strong social support.

Let us take a closer look at how these factors can lead to depression:

  • Loneliness: The struggle that comes with infertility is an isolating experience because it is so personal and there is so much stigma surrounding it. While your friends and family may offer you support, you might feel like they can never truly understand the magnitude of distress you feel.
  • Hopelessness. If you were someone who has always wanted children or have recently discovered that you wanted them, the loss of the experience can be as distressing as any loss. This hopelessness can be profound in cases where you have been in treatment for a long time. 

Hopelessness can cause you to develop a pessimistic view of your life and your future and can lead to depressive symptoms. 

  • Low self-esteem. Not being able to have children might make you feel as if you are not good enough or good enough to be a parent. This can cause you to develop a negative perception of yourself which can lead to more negative emotions and ultimately, if intervention is not made, depression. 
  • Shame is another challenge that comes with not being able to have children especially in a world that uplifts the institution of family as a major milestone in anyone’s life. It can make you feel as though it was somehow your fault or that you are flawed causing shame.
  • Along with shame and low-self esteem, you may even feel like you have failed as a person. This sense of failure is often internalised to such a large extent that it can impact the way you perceive yourself which, when it is maladaptive, can lead to depression. 

Coping with depression over wanting a baby and infertility

If you are in treatment and trying to conceive or you have some to the end of your fertility treatment without being able to carry, the desire of wanting a baby linger and can cause distress throughout.

Depression caused by your deep desire to have a baby and infertility can impact not only your mental health but also your relationship and quality of life. That is why it is extremely important for you to cope and manage your depression in effective ways. 

Here are some of the things you can do to cope:

Be kind

The world can be an unkind place to people who struggle with infertility, you do not need another person judging you for something you cannot control. So be kind to yourself. 

Self compassion has been found to have a positive impact on mental health and well-being and it is not a hard thing to do when you get the hang of it. 

You can be kind to yourself the way you are kind to others- by treating yourself the way you would treat your friend if she is going through something similar. It could be keeping a watch on what you say to yourself and replacing negative evaluations with words of affirmation or positive self talk. 

You can give yourself a moment of rest by doing things you enjoy or taking a nap, you can even choose to eat your favorite dessert. The intent here is to treat yourself with kindness and to care for yourself.

Self care can also include engaging in meditation, exercise such as walking, yoga, or engaging in mindful breathing. Self care can also include creating nutritious meal plans for yourself and your partner, correcting and picking up a healthy sleep routine, and engaging in activities that instill joy.

Seek professional help

Depression can be deadly and it is not a simple issue to resolve. When your symptoms of depression begin to impact your quality of life, seek out professional help- a therapist or counselor who can help you make sense of what you are experiencing and teach your strategies on how to better cope with your thoughts and feelings.

You and your partner can also opt for couples counselling as this time can be stressful and cause miscommunications, tension, resentment, and distress between couples.

Seek Support

You can choose to reach out to a trusted friend or family member whom you can share your feelings and thoughts with. It is important to allow yourself to communicate your struggles, you might find that you are not alone in your pain. 

You Can also opt to seek out support from support groups in your community of people who are struggling with the same issue. Support groups can prove to be helpful as you can learn strategies to cope form other people and also gain hopeful insight of a life beyond infertility.

Communicate with your partner

The challenges of infertility between couples can be isolating in spite of both of you being present every step of the way. Each person has their own anxieties related to treatment, their part to play during treatment, and their own fears when it comes to the future of their relationship or the family.

These fears and anxieties can cause problems related to emotional and physical intimacy and they may find it difficult to understand and meet the needs of the other. The best thing you and your partner can do is to create a space for open and honest communication to discuss each other’s needs, feelings, and struggles. 

Being able to understand each other and by taking on the perspective that you are a team and the issue of infertility is a problem that both of you can work against, can bring you both closer rather than drive you apart. 

Engage with other parts of your life

Your journey to treat infertility can be all consuming- from doctors visits to person research about various treatments and outcomes. It can take take up a large space in your life and in your relationship. It is important for you to be mindful about how much time you commit to this journey versus how much attention you give to other aspects of your life. 

If mindful awareness and attention is not given, it could encroach on the parts of your life that you once deemed important- such as your family relationships, relationships with your friends, quality couple time, and perhaps even your job that you love.

It is advisable that time is given to reflect on your priorities other than your treatment and dedicate time and effort to improve the quality of engagement with them. You can take an entire day without distractions to spend time with your partner or go out for lunch with your friends with the intent to talk about everything else under the sun.

While you might be wondering how this can even be possible when it has been such a struggle for you and your partner, be mindful of the fact that your mind and body needs this break and it is an act of self-love to comply.

Conclusion

In this guide we have taken a closer look at the harrowing experience of infertility and how it can impact mental health. We have also discussed various ways to cope with depression over wanting a child. 

Frequently asked questions related to “Experiencing depression over wanting a baby (Why it happens and how to cope)”

Can depression make it harder to get pregnant?

There have been studies that found that severe depression is linked to higher rates of infertility with an indirect connection where life styles  and choices of those who are depressed such as substance use, unhealthy lifestyle can cause problems getting pregnant. 

Should you get pregnant if you have depression?

It is advisable that you remain asymptomatic for at least 6 months while being tapered of medication under the supervision of your physician before trying to get pregnant. 

It is highly important that if you want to have children with a history of depression, that you consult with your therapist, physiatrist, and establish an effective support system to help you manage your depression symptoms and the challenges that come with pregnancy.

Can having a baby cause mental illness?

Postpartum hormonal imbalance along with traumatic experience of childbirth can lead to mental illness after having a baby especially when the mother has a history of depression and does not have a healthy support system to help her cope with the changes that comes with motherhood. 

Can I get pregnant under stress?

Evidence suggests that stress does negatively affect fertility. Women with high levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that correlates with stress, are found to have a harder time getting pregnant.

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