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For Some, Infertility Causes PTSD

Infertility and PTSD

a blog by Claire, August 8, 2012

When you think of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you think of the definition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. PTSD is characterized as a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event in which a person's life has been threatened, such as events experienced by soldiers during war or victims in a mass shooting such as the recent one in Colorado. According to this definition, fertility treatment doesn't quite qualify.

But a new study, which was presented at American Psychological Association meeting in Orlando in August, found that many women undergoing fertility treatment met the official criteria for PTSD. The study looked at the prevalence of PTSD in those who are diagnosed with infertility or secondary infertility and/or receiving treatment for infertility. The participants were asked to consider their infertility diagnosis and fertility treatment as their traumatic event and complete an online survey to assess PTSD symptoms.

The study found:

  • Of the 115 participants with primary infertility, 49 percent met both the cut-off score and symptom pattern criterion for PTSD.
  • Of the 27 percent with secondary infertility, 33 percent met both criteria.
  • Symptoms included feeling upset at reminders of their infertility, such as seeing commercials for baby diapers, feeling distant or cut off from people, feeling irritable, feeling hopeless or changes in personality.

According to Allison Bradow, Psy.D., the researcher on the study, the definition of "trauma" needs to be expanded to include situations in which your expectations for your life, such as having a family, are threatened. In addition, she says that greater effort needs to be made to counsel couples going through fertility treatments to help them cope with the emotional and psychological effects of the experience.

Infertility and fertility treatment are intense emotional experiences that are generally not understood by the general population. Other studies have indicated how important it is to seek support for infertility because of the mental health risk it poses.

Where do you start in seeking help? FertilityAuthority has a a large section on Infertility Support with many articles and videos. And to talk with others who are going through your same situation, visit the online community FertileThoughts.

Also, please share what has helped you through infertility and fertility treatment in the comments section below or visit us on Facebook.

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