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How Infertility and Depression May Influence Each Other

How Infertility and Depression May Influence Each Other 

Danielle Wade

It’s easy to see how infertility could lead to depression. So many personal hopes, life plans, and societal expectations are tied to family building. On top of that, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), if you have access to them, can be difficult and expensive. What’s a little less clear is how depression can influence fertility. Yet, there is some evidence that it does.

Infertility and depression

The relationship between depression and infertility is a two-way street. Research shows that infertility can lead to depression. And there’s some evidence to suggest that depression may influence fertility.

To be clear: Depression on its own doesn’t cause infertility.

However, according to a 2018 studyTrusted Source, when a sperm-giving partner has severe depression, pregnancy rates drop slightly. Researchers think that may be because depression can make people less interested in sex. In addition, there’s some evidence that medications used to treat depression may affect your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.

Let’s take a closer look at how these two health conditions affect each other.

If you have had depression in the past, you are more likely to experience depression symptoms with infertility, according to 2020 researchTrusted Source. Even if you have never experienced depression before, infertility can raise your risk for a number of reasons.

The stress of fertility concerns can lead to depression

The pressure to become pregnant can take a toll on your mental health — whether that pressure comes from family and friends, the wider society in which you live, or your own desires and expectations.

Research published in 2017Trusted Source shows that, for many people, infertility affects identity. It may cause some people to question their worth or feel like their body is failing them. It can make you feel as though you’ve failed. And because of the stigma associated with infertility, it can be a profoundly isolating experience.

On top of that, the treatments themselves can cause stress. ARTs can be physically uncomfortable, expensive, time-consuming, and tiring. That extra stress can trigger depression, research shows.

In fact, studies show that a large percentage of people with infertility between 25 and 60 percent Trusted Source  have depression symptoms.

Medication side effects could bring on depression symptoms

If you’ve developed depression after starting ART or in vitro fertilization (IVF), your symptoms could be related to the hormones in your treatment.

Researchers in 2020Trusted Source looked at multiple studies of people with infertility and found that those whose treatment involved ovarian stimulation had more depression symptoms than people who didn’t take medication to stimulate their ovaries.

Some of the medications commonly used to treat infertility can cause depression symptoms, 2018 research Trusted Sourcesays. These include:

  • clomiphene
  • leuprolide
  • gonadotropins

These side effects can build up as your treatment continues. Depression symptoms are especially likely to worsen if treatment doesn’t result in pregnancy.

You may have trouble sleeping

There’s a complicated interplay between fertility, sleep, and depression.

Researchers in 2022Trusted Source suggested that many people experiencing infertility often have a hard time getting a good night’s rest. Disrupted sleep and sleep deprivation can also worsen fertility concerns.

For example, people with sleep trouble may have a harder time conceiving and may have a higher risk of losing a pregnancy early. More research needs to be done to understand why this link exists, though.

For many people, lack of sleep triggers or worsens depression symptoms like:

  • fatigue
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • trouble concentrating

Health conditions associated with infertility are also associated with depression

Some medical conditions can make it harder to get pregnant, according to 2019 researchTrusted Source. Others are associated with a higher risk of pregnancy loss.

Sometimes it isn’t the condition itself that causes fertility challenges, 2017 research saysTrusted Source — it’s the medications used to treat it.

In many cases, these health conditions also come with symptoms of depression, according to other research from 2017Trusted Source. Some of the conditions linked to lower fertility as well as depression are:

  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • endometriosis
  • celiac disease
  • thyroid conditions
  • systemic lupus erythematosus
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • high blood pressure

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