Psychological impact of infertility, from the Harvard Mental Health Letter

The case of the California woman who recently gave birth to octuplets generated an enormous amount of public discussion about infertility treatments. But this unusual case has done little to illuminate the far more common, but usually private, psychological challenges faced by the roughly 1.3 million couples who seek infertility advice or treatment each year in the United States, reports the May 2009 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

Although the causes of infertility are overwhelmingly physiological, the resulting heartache may exact a huge psychological toll. Individuals who learn they are infertile often experience the distressing emotions common to those who are grieving a loss. Typical reactions include depression, anger, and frustration.

Relationships may suffer—not only with the spouse/partner, but also with friends and family members. Couples dealing with infertility may avoid social interaction and may struggle with anxiety-related sexual dysfunction and other marital conflicts.

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