Thursday, February 23, 2017

The depressed and unhappy infertile patient


Most infertile patients are unhappy and stressed out. They're depressed , because they're unable to perform the basic biological function every woman is designed for - to have a baby . For some of them, their whole life seems to revolve around this inability to have a child.

Having kids is a basic biological urge which is hard wired into us. It's something which we all take for granted.  No one ever anticipates they'll ever have a problem with their own fertility , and when they do find out that they're having difficulty conceiving , this comes as a rude shock.

Usually one hopes that it's going to be a simple problem - something which will get fixed by having more sex; going for a holiday ; or maybe visiting a gynecologist and taking some tablets. But when none of this works and they find out they have a problem which requires more aggressive treatment, such as IVF, they start getting depressed. They feel very sorry for themselves because they feel that their bodies have let them down.

Even the poor starving beggars on the road have babies effortlessly. They start resenting their friends who get pregnant at the drop of a hat. They get heartburn when they hear about young unmarried girls terminating unwanted pregnancies because they had sex irresponsibly. They believe the world is unfair , and they're getting a raw deal.

It can become hard for them to deal with these feelings , because it's tough to talk about them . You can't keep on complaining to your husband every time you get a period, so you start bottling your unhappiness . It's very hard to know whom you can share your personal angst safely with.
Most people can be surprisingly un-empathetic . While they may not mean to be unkind , they usually offer completely unhelpful suggestions, such as - Just relax and go for a holiday and you'll get pregnant. Or , why don't you just adopt a baby, that's so much easier.

This is not what someone who wants to have their own baby wants to hear, and this is why you start cutting themselves off from the rest of the world. This just makes matters worse, because you then get isolated and lonely. When you don't know whom to turn to for help , the stress and the depression starts becoming a negative, vicious cycle.

It starts affecting your self esteem and eroding your sexual desire, thus exacerbating your marital disharmony. Your husband may say that he loves you and doesn't care about having a baby, but this just makes it worse, because you think he is being insensitive and heartless as he does not understand your personal heartbreak. You are also upset that he is so clueless about the impact infertility has on the social standing of the woman in Indian society. He seems to be sandwiched between trying to keep his mother happy and placating you, and ends up doing neither well. You feel betrayed, because he is not protecting you from social taunts and barbs. Family quarrels flare up because of your inability to have a baby, and you try to run away from these problems by burying yourself in  your work.

However, when your heart is hurting , there really is no place to hide .  Some women will look for counselors, while others will turn to spiritual guidance for solace. Most are completely lost , and they start getting worried that they're going crazy . Having a baby becomes a single minded all-consuming obsession , and they don't know how to handle this.

Infertility doctors also contribute to the problem, because most are not very empathetic. They think of the woman as being a patient who has a medical problem which they need to fix.  For example, if she has blocked tubes, they are happy to do IVF for her , and they treat this as a cut and dried medical procedure, without understanding her emotional angst.

Most IVF clinics are like assembly lines , where everyone is treated like a widget. There's very little attention paid to the emotional needs of the patient , who's often left to fend for herself . If she is lucky, she can find a friendly nurse she can confide in.  Sometimes , enterprising women form informal support groups in these clinics. Patients who are doing a cycle together, start connecting with each other during their interminable waits. so they can support each other in their time of need.

Infertility can be a depressing and lonely journey , and it's sometimes hard to get support either from family members or from a husband . It's easy to feel lost , and you can consider taking antidepressants  to help you cope better. However, it's far better to understand that what you are suffering from is quite normal. This is called a reactive depression, and if you learn to be kind to yourself, you will find the inner emotional resilience to bounce back.

Please remember the Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.


Looking for an empathetic doctor ? Please send me your medical details by filling in the form at www.drmalpani.com/free-second-opinion so that I can guide you !




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