empty-swings-300x200.jpgBy Betsy Shaw

An article from the Telegraph UK focuses on just how destructive the inability to conceive can be on a woman’s mental health.

The article cites a Danish study that has led fertility experts in Great Britain to label infertility as a disease and urge greater public funding for IVF, which is, according to this report, notoriously restrictive in Great Britain.

The study, which looked at 100,000 women who had visited a fertility clinic, revealed that those who were never able to get pregnant were twice as likely to be hospitalized for alcoholism or substance abuse and 47 percent more likely to display signs of schizophrenia or be hospitalized for an eating disorder.

Study leader Dr. Birgitte Baldur- Felskov emphasized the fact that this study only takes those who were hospitalized into account. Factoring in those women who may have been treated as an outpatient, or not at all, could shed even more light on this problem. It’s also important to note this affect of infertility on mental health doesn’t appear to be a temporary condition:

    “Dr Baldur-Felskov also said the results suggested that the psychological impact of unwanted childlessness was not just a transient phase. This was because the risks were equally strong more than a decade after women had seen a fertility specialist, as they were in the years immediately following their attempts to get pregnant.

Interestingly, the study also suggested that women who weren’t able to get pregnant were 10 percent less likely to be hospitalized for depression than those who did.

British fertility expert Dr. Allan Pacey was quoted in the article expressing his surprise at the findings and also his determination to advocate for infertile women:

    He said the study showed that infertility was “more than just wanting to have a baby.”
    He added: “I think it illustrates my personal frustration with all those people who say infertility isn’t a disease and it shouldn’t be funded because having a baby is a lifestyle choice.”

This seems an important finding to me. I think those of us who don’t struggle with infertility can’t ever know what those who do are going through. I can understand how many women suffer in silence, stifled and invalidated by the not-so-helpful comments made by insensitive and well-meaning people alike who suggest they accept their fate and move on, consider adoption, or try not to let infertility define them.

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