HomeInfertilityWhat Impact Does Infertility Have On Psychological Well Being

What Impact Does Infertility Have On Psychological Well Being


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Almost all cultures and communities view infertility as an issue, and it affects 10%–15% of couples of reproductive age. Due to factors like women delaying children, the development of newer and more effective infertility treatment procedures, and rising awareness of the available services, the number of couples seeking infertility treatment has substantially increased in recent years.

This rising interest in reproductive treatments has increased knowledge about and motivation for research into the psychological effects of infertility. The link between mental illness and infertility has been taken into account.

The psychological effects of infertility and prolonged exposure to intrusive infertility therapies on mood and well-being have also been studied. Effective psychiatric therapy for this population is less well understood, but there is evidence supporting the use of psychotherapeutic interventions.


A disorder of the male or female reproductive system known as infertility is characterised by the inability to conceive after 12 months or more of frequent, unprotected sexual activity. Millions of people in the world who are of reproductive age struggle with infertility, which also affects their families and communities. Worldwide, it is estimated that 48 million couples and 186 million people struggle with infertility.

Women’s infertility can result from a variety of conditions that affect the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, and endocrine system, among others. Infertility in men is typically associated with issues in the ejaculation of semen, absence of sperm or low sperm count,  motility issues (motion ) and morphology problems (irregular sperm shape).

You can have primary or secondary infertility. A person would have secondary infertility if at least one pregnancy has been accomplished previously, while it is called primary infertility when a pregnancy has never been achieved.

Causes Of Male Infertility

A number of biological and environmental factors. Among the possibilities are

  • Azoospermia:  Azoospermia is a condition characterised as the failure to make sperm cells that may cause infertility.
  • Oligospermia: It is the condition in which sperm generation is of inferior quality.
  • Genetic illnesses:  Klinefelter’s syndrome, myotonic dystrophy, microdeletion, and other genetic illnesses are a few examples.
  • Sperm that isn’t healthy and won’t live long enough to fertilise the egg.
  • Several health issues: Diabetes, a few autoimmune diseases, cystic fibrosis, and a few infections are a few examples.
  • Some drugs and supplements.
  • Varicoceles: This is a disorder where your testicles’ veins are larger than usual. This causes them to overheat, which might alter the type or quantity of sperm you produce.
  • Cancer treatments which include radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or testicular removal surgery (one or both testes).
  • Hormonal disorders: Issues with your hypothalamus or pituitary glands may impact your ability to conceive.
  • Substance abuse, including the use of alcohol, tobacco, and narcotics.
  • A testicular trauma.

Causes Of Female Infertility

Women’s infertility, also called the  “female factor” infertility, is the term given when the female partner is unable to conceive as the cause of infertility. Infertility may have a variety of causes. It can be challenging to determine the specific cause, and some couples experience “unexplained” or “multifactorial” infertility (multiple causes, often both male and female factors). The following are some potential reasons of female factor infertility:

  • Uterine Problems: Polyps, fibroids, septum, or adhesions inside the uterine cavity are examples of uterine problems. Other anomalies (such as septum) are present from birth, whereas polyps and fibroids can arise on their own at any moment. After a procedure such as dilation and curettage, adhesions may develop (D&C).
  • Issues with Fallopian Tubes: The most frequent cause of “tubal factor” infertility is a pelvic inflammatory disease typically brought on by chlamydia and gonorrhoea.
  • Ovulation issues: A woman may not release an egg or ovulate regularly for many reasons. Ovulation can be impacted by a variety of factors, including hormonal imbalances, pituitary tumours, prior eating disorders, substance addiction, thyroid issues, and extreme stress.
  • Egg quantity and quality issues: Women are born with all the eggs they will ever need, but this supply sometimes “runs out” before menopause. Additionally, some eggs will have an incorrect amount of chromosomes, which prevents them from fertilising or developing into healthy fetuses. The eggs may be impacted by chromosomal issues, such as “balanced translocation.” Others are arbitrary but increase in frequency as a woman ages.

Why Is Addressing Infertility Important?

Every person has a right to the best possible bodily and mental health. The choice of how many children to have at what age and at what intervals matters for both individuals and couples. The realisation of these fundamental human rights may be undermined by infertility. Therefore, addressing infertility is crucial to realise everyone’s and couples’ right to start a family.

Many people may need infertility management and fertility care services, including heterosexual couples, same-sex partners, elderly people, people not in sexual relationships, people with particular medical disorders, such as some HIV couples and cancer survivors. Marginalised communities such as the poor, uneducated,  single, illiterate, jobless, and others bear the brunt of being marginalised and, as a result,  suffer from inequities in accessing fertility care services.

Gender inequality can be lessened by addressing infertility. Even while both men and women can experience infertility, women in a relationship with a male are frequently thought to be infertile, whether or not they are. Women who are unable to bear a child, in particular, frequently face divorce, physical ill-treatment, social stigma, depression, emotional stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem owing to infertility, which has a significant negative social impact on their life.

In some cultures, having children holds a high social value. Therefore the fear of infertility stops both genders from using contraceptive methods if they feel pressured to exhibit fertility at a young age. Interventions targeting educating people about the prevalence and causes of infertility are crucial in the present scenario.

Infertility and Mental Health

Infertility is an increasing challenge in all cultures and nations, and parenthood is one of the major milestones in adult life for both men and women. Around the world, 80 million individuals are affected. Stress brought on by not getting a child has been linked to emotional aftereffects like resentment, sadness, anxiety, marital issues, sexual dysfunction, and social isolation.

It has an impact on every aspect of a couple’s existence and poses a threat to the individual’s identity. Infertility is viewed as a protracted life crisis that increases the risk of depression and is linked to feelings of loss, guilt, loneliness, and meaninglessness, in addition to sexual and marital issues.

Given that parenthood is one of life’s most significant milestones, the stress of not becoming a mother is particularly depressing for a woman, which can result in a variety of psychological issues like resentment, sadness, jealousy, marital issues, a sense of unworthiness, anxiety, and ultimately depression. Compared to fertile women, infertile women may have a poorer marital life. Infertility treatments have dramatically increased, shedding light on the psychological side of infertility and mental health.

It is well-established that infertility and mental health are related and psychological factors contribute to infertility. Infertility is ranked with physical conditions like cancer and HIV as one of life’s greatest stressors, along with divorce, family death, and separation.

Couples dealing with infertility encounter shame, a sense of loss, and lowered self-esteem. In infertile couples, women typically express more grief than their male partners; yet, when infertility is attributable to a male reason, men’s emotions toward infertility closely resemble women’s responses in terms of intensity. Both men and women have strong sentiments of being flawed and incompetent and a sense of identity loss.

Psychological Effects Of Infertility

The link between stress and infertility has been debated for a very long time. Due to the most painful psychological issues it can cause, infertility is the most trying and depressing time in any couple’s life.

Infertility is said to frequently have side effects like stress, despair, and anxiety. Studies have shown that infertile couples seeking infertility treatment have a much greater frequency of depression than fertile controls, with estimates of severe depression prevalence ranging from 15% to 54%. Due to the stigma associated with infertility, women experience increased distress that has a detrimental impact on their mental health.

Several social customs in India require women to have children right after marriage. If they are unable to, they are blamed solely for this despite the reality that both men and women share equal responsibility for infertility or miscarriage.

Whether stress causes infertility or infertility causes stress, the relationship between stress and infertility is frequently unclear. Infertility has a stressful effect on both men and women, which lowers their quality of life. Infertility issues worsen marital and family issues and lower quality of life, self-esteem, and relationship happiness.

Infertile couples have also been reported to experience anxiety at much greater levels than the general population, with 8% to 28% of infertile couples experiencing clinically significant anxiety. The physiology of the depressed state, including higher prolactin levels, disturbance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, and thyroid dysfunction, are proposed methods by which depression may directly affect infertility.  Studies have also revealed that depression is linked to aberrant luteinising hormone regulation, which controls ovulation. Stress and depression-related immune system modifications may negatively impact reproductive health.

Psychological Effects Of Infertility Treatments

While many couples seeking infertility treatment have significant levels of psychological distress related to infertility, the assisted reproductive procedure is also linked to higher stress, anxiety, and depression levels.

A growing number of research papers have looked at the effects of various stages of infertility therapy, with the majority concentrating on the effects of unsuccessful IVF trials. Compared to fertile women, women seeking IVF were more depressed, lower in self-esteem, and less confident. After an unsuccessful IVF cycle, women also experience a further decline in self-esteem and an increase in depression compared to pre-treatment levels.

Continued treatment may increase depressed symptoms in women enduring multiple IVF cycles more than first-time participants. Couples receiving infertility treatment frequently blame women for their infertility. Only 15% of males responded to the fact that over 50% of women said being infertile was the most painful thing they had ever experienced. It is crucial to focus on infertility and psychological discomfort for infertility treatments. Numerous researchers have concluded that a woman’s infertility is her most upsetting life experience.


  • Can we prevent female infertility?

A majority of infertility issues in females cannot be foreseen or avoided. However, by reducing or eliminating the risk factors that contribute to infertility, , it may become possible to avoid infertility in women in some circumstances. For instance, adjusting one’s lifestyle to reduce alcohol intake and stop smoking, as well as to keep a healthy weight and form good exercise habits, may help women’s fertility. It is of utmost importance to regularly have appointments to see your doctor and discuss any additional infertility risks you may have and what precautionary measures can be taken.

  • What are the symptoms of male infertility?

The primary symptom is infertility. The consequential mental and emotional impact infertility has on a couple that hopes and wishes to have children are inexplicably harder to put into words. Having a child is often of paramount significance in people’s lives. Both men and women who are trying to conceive often experience feelings of sadness, loss, grief, insufficiency, and failure.

People or couples who go through these emotions may wish to get support from professionals like psychologists or psychiatrists who have experience working with people who have infertility problems. These professionals can provide you with the much-needed support as you get treated and assist you in dealing with the situation more realistically.

  • How does age impact female infertility?

Women’s fertility declines as they age, and so do their chances of getting pregnant. Since many couples wait until their 30s or 40s to start a family, age is becoming a more prevalent factor in female infertility. Women over the age of 35 years are more susceptible to fertility problems. There are causes for this could be:

  • Less eggs overall.
  • There are abnormally more chromosomes in more eggs.
  • An elevated chance of developing additional illnesses.
  • As a male, how can I reduce my risk of infertility?

As a male, you may be able to lower your risk of infertility by altering your lifestyle choices like smoking and working with particular chemicals which impact your fertility.  You can also discuss other risk factors and what you can do to mitigate those with your healthcare provider. Talk to your doctor if you are receiving cancer treatment about sperm banking as an option.

  • How is infertility in women treated?

Many possible treatment options are available after your doctor has identified the cause of a woman’s infertility and made the diagnosis. Which type of treatment is given depends on the underlying cause of infertility. Surgery may be used to rectify structural anomalies, while medications may be given to treat hormonal disorders (ovulation issues, thyroid illnesses). Many women may undergo artificial insemination or in vitro fertilisation, a process which involves fertilizing eggs with sperm in the lab to make embryos, and then transferring the embryo into the uterus. Gestational surrogacy and adoption may also be treated as options


Both partners may experience intense loss and disruption due to long-term infertility. One of the most upsetting life crises a couple can experience is infertility. Most couples experience emotional turmoil as they deal with the numerous medical choices and concerns that infertility presents. Fortunately, improved infertility treatment methods and enabling mechanisms are consistently being created.

Specifically designed support groups can assist people in managing their chronic stressors using various coping methods. Coping models are essential for controlling the various emotional reactions to the stress factors associated with infertility and creating prevention-specific therapies. However, support groups can also help people identify the underlying cause of the issue by enabling them to probe further, reflect more deeply, and evaluate before finding peace of mind.

Through various engagement therapies like focus group discussions, individual assessment sessions, and helping couples maintain a healthy routine with a well-balanced diet, and healthy sleep routine, as well as reducing their mental and emotional turmoil, counselling can also help people to let out their fears, worries, and anxiety.

Somapika Dutta (B.Sc Physiology, Honours)
Somapikar holds Bachelors Degree in Physiology from University of Culcutta. She has 6+ years of experience writing in different niches, including health, tech and lifestyle. An animal enthusiast and a raging foodie, experiencing life - one day at a time.


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