Is It Just the Emotions of Infertility or Depression?

What Are "Normal" Emotions of Infertility?

Although "normal" emotions of infertility can be devastating, there are some differences between them and the signs of depression. Infertility-related emotions are often characterized by grief, shame, and isolation. But let's take a closer look at some of the specific emotions of infertility to help you distinguish whether you may be reaching a state that requires some medical help.

In order for a diagnosis of infertility to be made, a couple must have tried to get pregnant for at least six months to a year without success. This means many months of hoping for that positive pregnancy test and the disappointment of not seeing that plus sign.

Month after month, these couples go through a grieving process with the loss of that possible baby. The process will vary for each couple. However, some of the common emotions felt on a monthly basis (sometimes to extreme levels) may include:
  • Anger
  • Guilt and shame
  • Denial, shock, and numbness
  • Loss of control
  • Disappointment
  • Resentment
  • Embarrassment
  • Low self-esteem
  • Isolation.

Learning ways to deal with these emotions is a vital part of coping with infertility.

(Click Coping With Infertility for more information on how to handle the ups and downs of infertility, including suggestions for how to work through these emotions.)

Could It Be Depression?

Although the emotions that go hand-in-hand with infertility are devastating, they don't necessarily mean you have depression. As mentioned already, depression and infertility are separate disorders. Although it is unclear as to whether infertility can directly cause depression, couples who go through infertility seem to have a higher risk for it.

It's important to understand that clinical depression is not the same as a blue mood that passes. It also is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that you can just "will away." It can be a disabling condition, and one that requires medical attention. It's important that you and those around you watch for signs of depression.

It's also important to understand that those who have depression cannot simply "pull themselves together." Without treatment, the symptoms will not just go away, and may become worse.

Symptoms of depression can vary in severity. However, depression consists of a combination of things that interfere with your ability to sleep, eat, work, and enjoy activities that once gave you pleasure. If you have any of the following symptoms for at least two weeks, you may have clinical depression. These include:
  • A depressed mood, which may include sadness, anxiousness, or an "empty" mood
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that you once enjoyed
  • Lack of interest in eating, exercising, sex, or social activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; attempting suicide
  • Thoughts that life is not worth living
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Decreased energy
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia or oversleeping.

Depression can manifest in physical symptoms as well. Some of these physical signs include:

If you or your loved one is experiencing any of these possible symptoms, set up an appointment with a healthcare provider. If you are noticing these symptoms, do not be embarrassed. Depression is common, particularly for those going through infertility. If you are worried that you may be sinking into depression, tell your healthcare provider about your concerns. Ignoring the symptoms will not make them go away -- in fact, they may become worse.

Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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