While the general public may think that infertility treatment is cost prohibitive for most couples, it turns out that emotional reasons are the biggest barriers keeping infertile patients from undergoing fertility treatment.
Over 50 percent of infertile couples never talk to their doctors about their fertility challenges. The ones who are willing to talk to their primary care doctor or their general OB/GYN do so hesitantly. And 20 percent wait two years before they are willing to make an appointment with a fertility specialist.
Fear, denial and a lack of awareness are the three biggest reasons why couples delay getting the treatment that could help them have a child.
Many studies have shown that unsuccessfully trying to conceive creates a great psychological burden for people. In one study, over 40 percent of patients who initiated a visit at a fertility clinic were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. The most frequent diagnosis is anxiety but depression is almost as common. Only a fraction of such patients receive any sort of psychological treatment concurrent with fertility care.
It is also apparent that infertility treatment itself may worsen these underlying psychiatric disorders. So it’s important for patients and physicians to pay attention to this, and to seek psychological counseling when appropriate.
Combating the psychological burden of fertility treatment
Fertility patients and fertility physicians have a role in this. The first thing you can do is seek expert care earlier. Since the length of time it takes to conceive is strongly correlated with the increased diagnosis of a psychological disorder, seeking and receiving good treatment early on makes you less likely to have depression or anxiety – and more likely to be a parent!
This means taking charge of your fertility by understanding what things you can do at home to make you more fertile, and what things the doctors can do to help you achieve success sooner. Studies show that over 81 percent of women who saw a fertility specialist wished they had seen a doctor earlier.
It’s also important to tell your doctor(s) about any depression or anxiety you are experiencing. There are simple questionnaires that can be taken to help identify if you have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder such as depression or anxiety. There are also great counselors that can help with mind-body therapy or stress management skills to reduce anxiety and depression. Interestingly, studies showed improved success with fertility treatment for patients who had undergone psychological interventions during fertility treatment.
Preventing patient drop out from fertility treatment, especially in vitro fertilization (IVF), is also critical to help bring success. By choosing more successful treatments, even if more expensive, dropout rates will be lower and success will be higher. And simplifying treatment protocols will be beneficial in preventing patient drop out.
Studies have shown that even patients with insurance coverage for IVF will drop out of treatment before they have used up all of their infertility benefits. The dropout rate is high, averaging 50 percent. For non-insured patients, cost may be a major reason why they drop out of treatment.
But patient stress is closely linked to drop out. By recognizing the obstacles to conceiving and getting the right treatment at the right time, you can be a parent!