When You Feel Depressed and Are Trying to Conceive

Why People Don't Seek Help + 5 Things You Can Do to Start Feeling Better

Woman looking out window, feeling depressed and not sure what to do
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I’m so depressed. I don’t know what to do... If you’ve had these thoughts, you are far from alone. When you’re depressed, you may really have no idea what to do next or where to turn. When you’re trying to conceive and feeling depressed, the combination can be even more overwhelming. The good news is that there are steps you can take when you’re feeling blue. You don’t need to try to do this by yourself.

Below are the concerns that keep depressed men and women from reaching out for help when trying to conceive, plus five things you can do now to get yourself on a road to emotional recovery.

Why Your Depression Is Important

Some men and women will neglect to get help for depression when trying to conceive. Please don’t do this. It is important to get help. Sometimes people who are depressed and infertile assume their depression is a given, because of their situation. Or, they assume nothing can be done to help them while they are trying to get pregnant. This isn’t true.

See if you recognize in yourself some of these common dysfunctional thoughts and myths.

The thought: I’m infertile, of course I’m depressed. How could it be otherwise?

The truth: It’s actually possible to struggle with infertility and not be depressed. Stressed, yes. Sad at times and sometimes worried. But depression isn't a requirement. Depression is not something you should just consider a part of infertility. 

With support and an arsenal of coping skills, you can feel better.

The thought: I don’t need therapy or medication. I need to get pregnant. Then, I will be happy.

The truth: Pregnancy is not a cure to infertility-related depression. It may seem like getting pregnant will solve all your emotional pain, but depression (even infertility-related depression) is more complicated than that. In fact, women who struggled to get pregnant are more likely to experience pregnancy depression and postpartum depression.

It’s best to get the help and coping skills you need now. Don’t count on pregnancy to cure your emotional heartache.

The thought: Why should I tell my doctor? I can’t take anti-depressants when I’m trying to get pregnant.

The truth: There are medications for anxiety and depression that can be used when trying to conceive and even when pregnant. They are not completely risk-free—but remaining depressed is also not risk-free.

Your doctor can discuss your options and the pros and cons with you.

The thought: My depression is the least important issue right now. Getting pregnant and infertility must remain my focus.

The truth: Your emotional well-being is as important—if not more so—than your physical health. In fact, they affect each other. Research has found that depression may increase your risk of fertility problems.

Improving your emotional health may play a role in your eventual pregnancy success.

What to Do #1: Make an Appointment to Talk to Your Doctor

A medical doctor, that is. You can make the appointment with your general practitioner, but ideally, if you can meet with your gynecologist or fertility doctor, that will be better. You might think your emotional life isn’t important to your gynecologist or reproductive endocrinologist (RE), but it is. Tell them what you’re experiencing.

You may benefit from taking antidepressants. Yes, you can take them even if you’re trying to conceive.

You should also tell your doctor about your emotional struggles because low mood and anxiety can be symptoms of a hormonal imbalance. Some causes of infertility can lead to anxiety and depression. For example, untreated thyroid conditions can cause infertility and low mood. PCOS, a common cause of female infertility, is associated with depression. Low testosterone in men can cause infertility and depression. Certain vitamin deficiencies can cause depression and impact fertility.

Be aware that some medications and fertility drugs can cause mood swings, anxiety, or depression. Some can worsen or magnify emotional problems that are already present.

If your doctor knows you’re struggling, he may be able to prescribe different medications that possibly won’t affect your mood as much. For example, some women get intense mood swings taking Clomid. There are alternatives.

What to Do #2: Find a Counselor

Anyone going through infertility—whether they think they are depressed or not—could benefit from counseling. However, if you’re feeling depressed or anxious, it’s especially important to find the time to find a therapist.

Some people don’t consider therapy because they don’t realize their health plan covers it. Don’t assume you’re not covered, call and ask.

Others think therapy is only for people with “serious” mental health problems. Therapy is for anyone coping with a difficult or stressful experience. You don’t have to meet the clinical definition for depression or anxiety to see a therapist. Anyone can benefit from talk therapy.

Plus, some research has found that cognitive behavioral therapy may boost your odds of pregnancy success. Therapy doesn’t take the place of fertility treatments, but it may help.

If you’re past your trying to conceive years, you could also benefit from counseling. It can provide a place to properly grieve and process the trauma of infertility.

What to Do #3: Join a Support Group

The isolation of infertility (and depression) can make you feel worse. If you can surround yourself with people who understand, it can make a huge improvement in your ability to cope.

The best option is an in-person support group. Call your local fertility clinic for referrals. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association also has groups that you can join. Some are led by counseling professionals (those may come with a fee), others are peer-led support groups (those may be free.) Contact them for information on joining a local group.

If you can’t join a real-life group, look online for support. The trying to conceive blogging world can be very supportive, and there are a number of fertility-focused forums.

Just look out for fertility-forum drama. The wrong group can make you feel worse. Don’t hesitate to look elsewhere if your first tries aren’t a good fit.

What to Do #4: Call a Friend and Talk About Your Struggle

If you’re still suffering silently, make a commitment to reach out to a friend today.  Your friends want to help you. Infertility is hard enough without feeling like you’re keeping some big bad secret.

Choose someone who you believe will support you and is a good listener. Tell them about your depression and your infertility. Tell them how they can help. A good friend wants to help.

What to Do #5: Focus on Self-Care

When you’re depressed, you may not feel like taking care of yourself. The smallest things can feel difficult. Or, you may feel unworthy of being taken care of. Try anyway.

Do your best to…

If you’re thinking, “I’m depressed, I can’t sleep, I don’t feel like eating, and I have no energy for exercise.” This is understandable.  Just do your best, for now.

You may need to learn how to take care of yourself. Don’t feel bad if you don’t really know what that means. Many people don’t! Know that with time, therapy, and possibly medication, things will get better. They will get easier. You are going to be okay again.