Anyone who has struggled to become pregnant knows that infertility can be a stressful, and sometimes demoralizing experience. The longer it goes on, the more intensive the medical interventions, the more physically, psychologically, and financially intrusive the experience becomes for an individual or a couple. Infertility can be a “crazy making” world—but it doesn’t have to be.
Fertility Treatment and Mental Health
In a recent internet news article, VICE spoke with Sharon N. Covington, LCSW-C, Director of Psychological Support Services at Shady Grove Fertility, about how “Fertility Treatments Take a Toll on Mental Health.” The article highlights the toll fertility treatments can take on mental health and the important role of fertility counseling with specially trained mental health professionals in dealing with the emotional challenges.
Even routine aspects of fertility treatment can be anything but routine for patients going through it. Multiple losses and repeat treatments take an enormous emotional toll. And if the road leads to the need for third-party assistance (the use of donors or surrogates), it can be a journey affected by grief, sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty since it is seldom the first-choice treatment.
The Benefit of Counseling during Fertility Treatment
Several patients in the article describe their emotional journey and why counseling was so helpful to them. However, as noted in a study published last year in Fertility and Sterility despite the high rate of clinical depression and anxiety in both women and men undergoing fertility treatment, few patients are informed or offered mental health services by their clinic. Again, this is why SGF has lead the way from the beginning with integrating medical and psychological care to treat the whole patient, as well as providing our Wellness Center, to complement these services.
The Importance of Counseling before Third-Party Fertility Treatment
With so many people involved in helping to create a child (sometimes five or more), all with different needs and goals, it is what Covington calls a “complex psychosocial minefield” to maneuver during the counseling process. This is one of the reasons why Shady Grove Fertility follows the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommendation that all parties involved in third-party reproduction (donors, gestational carriers, and recipients/intended parents) receive counseling before undergoing treatment. And another reason why SGF has been at the forefront of providing skilled psychological support services to our patients, as well as our staff being involved in training other mental health professionals in fertility counseling.
Where to Find Mental Health Support during Infertility
Our support groups are a hidden gem to our patients and a free service of SGF, providing help, encouragement, and connection by and to others who truly understand how hard infertility is. And for those patients who have reached to our Psychological Support Staff for individual or couple counseling, the phrase heard most often is, “I wish I hadn’t waited so long to get this help.” Or as Covington says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”
To learn more about finding mental health support during infertility call 301-279-9030 or to schedule an appointment to see one of our 39 physicians, please call our New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755 or click here.