Infertility and Suicide - What's the link ? - Conceive IVF Hospital
Depression

Cheers, dear readers,

Cathy here speaking up about my journey through the infertility wilderness. Today, I have decided to tackle a difficult aspect of dealing with the potentially traumatic aspects of infertility. I was going to delay this post until later, but I think it can’t wait any longer. When I launched my very first blog post, an acquaintance of mine very gingerly said to me, “Why do you call yourself an ‘infertility survivor’? That was a little hard to read, and I bristled when I read it. I guess I don’t see infertility as life threatening.” I went on to explain it to her, but was not ready to tackle that topic in the early days of this blog – but now I am. So let’s take this question head on…

Can you die from infertility? Can this disease be life threatening?

The short answer is … yes, whether you choose to believe that or not. That is the truth.

From a very practical standpoint, there are many reasons why couples and particularly women can have their physical life in danger due in part to infertility. There is of course various types of female cancer (of the ovaries, cervix, etc.) that are extremely life threatening while rendering the woman infertile. Also complications such as dangerous uterine fibroids and tumors can be life threatening both in their very presence, as well as the risk of undergoing the surgeries to try to rectify and eradicate the bodily intrusions. I hope those reading this post can understand the truth in those realities and see the correlation. Thus, getting through those experiences in one piece would make the individual an “infertility survivor.”

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But there’s something else I’d like to touch on today:
The emotional effects of infertility and its links to stress, depression and suicide.

Infertility and depression frequently go together. While you may not be surprised to learn that infertility can lead to depression, you may be surprised to learn that depression during pregnancy and after pregnancy (postpartum depression) is more common in woman who have struggled to conceive. I believe it is very important to shed some much needed light on how serious the emotional ramifications of infertility can be. Dealing with the effects of infertility can mess with your head, your spirit and your very core. I can tell you that firsthand. And I had some very dark, dark days. I’m not the only one.

As we all know, depression is a major risk factor for thoughts of suicide, and actual suicide attempts. With the help of a friend of mine, we discovered that there is a 1998 study that found 13% of women had suicidal thoughts following a failed IVF attempt. That’s a scary statistic. Another study found that “approximately half of the women in their sample rated infertility as the most stressful experience of their life. In addition, they found that 18% of men and 16% of women had significant psychological distress including high levels of depression.” Other research has shown that the psychological stress experienced by women with infertility is similar to that of women coping with illnesses like cancer, HIV and chronic pain. Infertility is not an easy disease to cope with, and the traumatic effects don’t “go away” after the last IVF attempt.

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My friend and I found many reports online of women committing suicide over infertility. These tragic events once again show that infertility is a terrible disease to suffer from, with real and frightening consequences. This is a reminder that for many people, this journey is so heartfelt, that it is literally a matter of life and death.

Should we ignore this? Should we not talk about it because it’s uncomfortable? Should we brush it under the carpet because that’s easier? Should we fail to treat it? Should we not do further research on these facts? And do you see now why we say “infertility survivor?”

This also highlights the importance of a good support structure in the form of family members, friends, psychologists and any needed medication. If your friends or others close to you do not want to talk about it or change the subject quickly, or offer little support in the form of active listening coupled with compassionate, empathetic words, go find someone who will. There are both online support groups as well as meet ups most likely in your area. There are many books on the subject for you to read, many blogs to follow where you can interact with the author such as this one. Please seek help when and if you need it. It can take years to get to a better place, and also, just like the loss of a loved one, you don’t just “get over it”. Please don’t be ashamed or buy into the stigma of infertility or of seeking professional help. Helps is out there. Write me an email. Drop me a line. I’m here to help. Know that I care. And I care about what you are going through. You are not alone.

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Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.

Warm regards,

Cathy

  1. July 15, 2017

    Thank you for writing this. As I sit hear with tears streaming down my cheeks, I am relieved I am not the only one who wants to die due to my failure to produce a child. 7 years of IVF treatments, special diets, and countless methods of TTC. I feel like if I can’t have a child, I just want to die. I can’t cope with the idea of never having a child. My husband is against adoption so I can’t even do that. I am going to see a counsellor this week as I am really struggling.

    • February 25, 2018

      Hi Kerin, I hope you got the help and support you need. I know it must feel like you’re all alone in this struggle, no-one understands etc but believe me there are so many people going through it, I’m one of them and i struggle daily with just wishing my life would end.
      My husband didn’t want to have children with me for many years and now that he has changed his mind we are struggling to conceive. All of this has contributed to feelings of absolute despair and depression to the point that i frequently hoard medication with the intention of ending it all.
      I have a beautiful niece that i love like a daughter and thoughts of her keep me going some days. around me everyone is having kids, kids and more kids. some their 3rd or 4th.
      the absolute hardest part is that people subconsciously blame you for your inability to have a child. and I blame myself too. I had two abortions when i was a college student and while my mind know there is no link my heart tells me that this is punishment for what i did.
      I hope you are faring better than i am today.

      • April 7, 2018

        Angela,
        Thank you for your honesty and candid vulnerability. So much similarity in your life story to mine. The husband who doesn’t want children, failed treatment, a couple of abortion when younger, hoarding medication to use. I keep looking for meaning in my life, while my marriage is holding by a thread. I don’t believe in love anymore or family connection. I relate to Jody’s story of wanting to go help in war zones. You are not alone. We are not alone. I do wish for a tribe in real life.

  2. December 11, 2017

    I don’t know where this goes but thank you for writing this and the response. I would love to speak with both of you women to help me. I am struggling to figure out the internet and was is public and not but I would love to hear some support.

  3. February 6, 2018

    I want to go to sleep and never wake up. Four years of every treatment under the sun. Now I am getting hot flashes and moving into early menopause. What’s the purpose of living.

    • February 25, 2018

      I feel the exact same way. Why do I have to wake up and face the day when i really don’t want to continue like this.

  4. February 26, 2018

    I feel exactly the same and am glad I found this blog, I found it because I googled infertility and suicide. I know I’m not the only one to feel like this but sometimes it really does feel like you’re alone. I’ve lost many ‘friends’ through infertility as I’ve just had to shut off from their repeated insensitivity. Just the other day I had to sit through photograph after photograph from a friend not just of her daughter (who I adore) but her two friends six children too, all out on a half term outing together. I had another friend say to me recently ‘I know you don’t like talking about pregnancy but….’ and launch into a story I had no benefit from knowing. People just don’t get that it’s not just that we don’t ‘like’ hearing about pregnancy or other people’s children, it’s painful. It’s painful in a sense that is so damaging and debilitating it’s hard to even put it into words. The pain extends too to just not being heard, family members who constantly ask if you’re ok yet ignore what you say when you open up and tell them the truth. The truth that there is no ‘point’ to you. I feel I am a waste of breath, I too want to just not wake up in the morning. If my parents weren’t alive I would find a way to make sure I didn’t wake up to face another day of this. It’s only the pain I know I would cause them that forces me to be here. Am so grateful to read this post, breaks my heart to think of others hurting in this way but is ‘nice’ to know I’m not on my own.

  5. April 2, 2018

    To the commenters on this post as well as anyone reading this:

    First I apologize for my delay in responding. I only now realized that these comments were on this post due to a technical issue. Please know that I was most certainly not ignoring you on purpose. I am deeply concerned for where you all are on your journey, and have deep empathy for you all.

    Please know that you are not alone. If you are struggling, please don’t let any stigma about getting professional help stand in your way. It is your right and responsibility to take care of yourself by any means.

    If you would like to speak to me personally, you can write me directly at: cathy (at) giantleapscreative.com. I would be happy to speak to you one-on-one and offer support, empathy, guidance, love, and compassion. I understand how you feel as I have been there. I want to help. Please feel free to reach out. You have a friend, always here.

    Sincerely,
    Cathy Broadwell
    (co-author of this blog)

    • April 3, 2018

      Dear SS&FE Readers:

      Cathy and Eric are dear friends of mine. I am eternally grateful they shared, and continue to share their experience of infertility with me as well as readers like you who are called to this blog, as it has raised my awareness about the trials, traumas and heartbreaks they experienced as they struggled with and survived infertility— and the pangs that can still arise. More so, their caring and sharing has opened channels for compassionate listening, and that is a true gift to the world.

      I am also a suicide prevention advocate. This is such a courageous and beautiful post, and as I read your comments and feedback, I was covered in chills. So I’m honored that Cathy has asked me to share additional research and resources with you.

      1. You Are Not Alone. The National Institute of Health conducted a study in 2009 that found an association between the trauma of pregnancy loss and infertility with symptoms of post traumatic stress and depression. The study also found that these symptoms and feelings do not always abate over time. Nor would one expect them to. Experiencing the loss of a pregnancy, or attempting and not being able to carry a child at all, is a major loss. Experiencing depression and symptoms of post traumatic stress is the body and mind’s way of naturally expressing grief, despair, anger and a whole host of emotions. However, untreated depression is a contributing factor of suicidal thoughts and acts of suicide. So please know that you are not alone, that what you are experiencing is normal, and that therapies do help.

      2. Resources are Available — Locally, Regionally, Nationally and Internationally. There are many organizations that will help you find a therapist or modality of healing in your area. In the United States, a few organizations that have state and local chapters include NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and MHA (Mental Health America). Internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has launched World Mental Health Organization that offers information and services by region. Since each one of you has a unique experience, it may take some time and adjustments to find the therapist or modality of healing that is right for you. But trust that you deserve this and will find what you are looking for.

      3. Take Care for Yourself and Loved Ones. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please call your doctor, #911 or a crisis hotline. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 (or 1-800- 273-TALK) and is available 24/7. WHO also offers guidelines on how to help someone who may be suicidal, and the International Association for Suicide Prevention offers information about crisis centers around the world. You matter. Your life matters. Please stay with us, no matter what.

      May peace be with you all.
      – Alivia

      Research and Resources:

      NIH Study:
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21686042

      National Alliance on Mental Illness
      https://www.nami.org

      Mental Health America:
      http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

      World Health Organization:
      http://www.who.int/mental_health/en/

      National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
      1-800-273-8255
      (1-800- 273-TALK)

      International Association for Suicide Prevention:
      http://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/

  6. April 2, 2018

    Hi Cathy – thank you for raising this very important issue. In a book just published that I’m reviewing called ‘Making Friends with Your Fertility’ by Sarah Rayner and Tracey Sainsbury, it quotes: “The national fertility charity, Fertility Network UK, did a survey in 2016 to coincide with National Fertility Awareness Week (#NFAW), and it revealed that over 40% of women experiencing infertility had experienced suicidal thoughts”. In my own journey of coming to terms with involuntary childlessness, I too felt so low at some points that no longer living began to seem like a very attractive option… it’s something I try to always mention when I’m interviewed in the media as it’s so common… and yet each of feels alone in that pain. Certainly in my work supporting other childless women through Gateway Women I know that such periods of darkness are very common and highlights how much more work needs to be done supporting women and couples with the emotional aspects of fertility treatments, both during and after.

  7. April 4, 2018

    Cathy, it’s such an important question, and so important that people who come here know that there are people listening, and that there are people who know, who may have experienced these thoughts, and who have survived and prospered. In my years of writing about infertility and loss and childlessness (it’s now been more than 15 years, though only about seven years on my blog), these questions – including the ones from your commenters – are very common. “What’s the point of life?” comes up frequently. I may have asked this myself at one stage.

    The key thing for everyone to understand is that it doesn’t always feel this bad. It may not feel like it right now, but trust in those of us who have gone before. The life that we imagined may not happen, but the life we can have has infinite possibilities. Eventually, I think, we learn to find true joy in our No Kidding (as I call mine) lives.

    There are lots of childless/No Kidding/Life Unexpected/Road Less Travelled etc etc blogs and forums for people to find others who have been or are going through this, and who understand how difficult it can be.

  8. April 4, 2018

    Ive been there myself, and still am. It’s 3 years since I found out I had no chance of conceiving naturally due to blocked Fallopian tubes. I luckily had a very good husband and a close friend in a similar position. I still felt like the bottom of my world had dropped out. Most days I still feel heartbroken about it and really wish I’d had a professional offered to talk with after I found out. People try to be kind but they really can’t imagine how horrendous it feels. For me, I’d imagined for most of my life having children as do all the other ladies here, that’s ripped away from you but I also felt like I was letting people down by not having the ‘dream’. I can’t imagine that I will ever feel mentally the way I did ‘before’. Depression is unfortunately guaranteed.

  9. April 4, 2018

    Infertility has effected every area of my life…Ive lost friends who couldnt understand my gried and it has had a massive impact on my career because I work with children. I am still trying to figure out how to piece my life together. Because the depth of the pain is mostly misunderstood and unrecognised, my view of the world has been totally changed. Ive been close to ended it all many times. Infertility is most definitely life-threatening.

  10. April 4, 2018

    Hi everyone

    I agree with all the other contributors and yes, I also considered suicide by wanting to drive into the central reservation on purpose. I didn’t. Three rounds of IVF, first one resulting in a positive test, only to find no heartbeat on the scan. We decided that actually all that IVF gives you is hope.

    I like the phrase used here of “IVF Survivor”.

    The free counselling I got on the UK NHS afterwards can’t be faulted. I got way more than the allocated 6 sessions and the counsellor was great.

    You’ve lived and eaten (and not drunk alcohol or coffee) for so long, pandering to giving IVF the best chance, that even when you know you are not going to do IVF again, you still don’t want to drink the caffeine or alcohol, just in case. You try to find a reason for the miscarriages – if only I hadn’t gone to that wedding, if only we’d taken a taxi, not walked all that way… someone I met at a support group was convinced she’d lost her baby from sitting on a cold chair. But we do this to ourselves, in the quest to find a reason why.

    It might sound strange, but starting to drink coffee again was a big deal for me. I suppose, it was admitting the end of something. Still now 5 years on, when I drive on the same part of the motorway which goes to the IVF clinic, I always think about going there for the scan. People who aren’t NOMOs probably can’t understand that something like that can keep reminding you of going through IVF. Like other contributors here, I have also lost friends along the IVF journey through their lack of understanding and (un)helpful comments and advice.

    IVF is lived trauma. You have to try to heal yourself. You have to know when to stop trying. You have to stop putting yourself through that repeated trauma.

    I would also like to add that we did proceed down the adoption route. We ended up putting ourselves through (a different type of) trauma for 11 months. It didn’t work out and the children are no longer with us. That’s what they call adoption disruption. That is another story. Adoption should also come with a health warning and yes, I did think about ending it then too.

    Trying to parent two totally traumatised children was horrendous.

    I felt totally betrayed. I had spent so many years wanting children and to be a mum, then two children arrived and I wondered why I had wanted it so much? It was awful.

    It was only once the children came to us that other people and friends who have children have actually fessed up to the truth. Life with children is not a Hallmark card, it’s not the daily joyful messages and posts on social media. I’ve been told that anyone who says they aren’t glad their children are going to school is lying. So why didn’t anyone tell us all this?? Or tell us that a life to ourselves, with all our amazing holidays, lies-in, visiting friends, doing what we wanted when we wanted was actually great? I’m coming to realise that if people did actually say truthfully what a nightmare it is, then the human race would rapidly come to an end.

    Anyway, I am still going my grief work, dealing with “the loss of” many things, hopes and dreams, dealing with the fact that no one will ever look like me or have my genetics or that I will not have anyone to leave my things to in my will and that there will be no children to come to my funeral.

    Thanks for reading. Take comfort in the fact that there are so many people out there who have survived IVF, men as well as women and who feel exactly the same.

  11. I scarcely know where to begin here. First I feel gratitude for the honesty and the kindness expressed by all. There is nothing more validating than being heard and understood. I learned that when I was crawling out of a pervasive darkness following a decade of confronting infertility. I truly felt invisible and, yes, more than a little dead inside. Bit by bit I started to feel again — sadness, grief, anger — it was scary at times but finding a way to voice those dark emotions (writing, talking — acknowledging them) in turn helped me in ways never expected. Even now, I go back to old blog posts and read the comments other women and men left and I am reminded how much we all need each other to fully comprehend the life-altering aspects of infertility. Finally, I want you to know you matter. Your existence willingness to share here touched me deeply. It’s real evidence that you want to find a way forward. We are here to lift each other up…

  12. April 15, 2018

    Totally get this. I feel for everyone in this position. You see loneliness which is also associated with childlessness is a slow suicide in itself. And i can understand how some people eventually take thrir lives because the pain is non stop. It is an awful struggle despite what other fertile people think. Trying to put one foot in front of the other on a daily basis with feelings and thoughts in your head pounding and gnawing away at you is not a recipe for success. I admire anyone who gets through the other side. I for one struggle every day . I have gone from a happy go lucky person to a person who hopes their time is up. You might say how selfish when people are fighting for their lives so that they can live and be with their children. Well when you haven’t a family it doesn’t really matter. The future is alone for plenty of infertile couples or even singledoms….no amount of counselling if you can get it will change that. I have met plenty of elderly men and women who are childless. It’s not been a happy life as such. But they have accepted their lot. They have coped living alone and lonely. I don’t have the answers only that you stay active and connect with all sorts of people to make your life bearable. And on the child front i have been honest and have simply said can’t have them. Adoption is not possible in all countries and adopting from abroad would wipe you out financially as it is a corrupt world. Fostering well possibly but again inept authorities do not give you the full story behind these children and you are aged matched. The resources are lacking and these children are in care for a reason. The fostering process is a minefield and not an honest one.

  13. April 16, 2018

    I’ve been married for less than a year and after being told over the past couple of years that it’s not the right time to check my fertility because I’m not bringing my partner into my own private health matters or ‘oh, it’ll be fine, your period’s regular like clockwork’ I got the heartbreaking news yesterday.

    I got told by my clinical specialist that I’ll need IVF for any sign of babies. That is after the fertility problems I didn’t know I had that have prevented me from having babies with men whom I wouldn’t want to have babies with in the first place (am sure they’d say the same about me). However my current beau is perfect-that’s why I married him but well, y’know bodies-meh.

    So all that healthy living caffeine free diet was bollocks really, my body’s been an overprotective cow over more stress on my life – I guess its another way of saying that then wasn’t the right time for having lil ones otherwise I’d be out of pocket and sanity. I suppose I can’t have it both ways.

    That said I have been crying buckets comparing my fertility to evil dictators,useless celebrities popping babies and my own personal enemies, thinking that they have more right to breed than I do. At the moment I feel about as productive as a beach pebble.

    Anyway keeping a blog helps, I wish you all the biggest of hugs and to hang in on there. It sucks, we all know.

  14. April 23, 2018

    This post is truly like a gift, thought rapped with so much agonizing pain. I truly felt like I am the only one in the world who wants to stop this pain like that, that hurts so deeply, that can go through a whole day without dark thoughts.
    I sent all of you a huge hug.

  15. May 10, 2018

    Thank you SO MUCH to all of the brave people who have commented on this blog post. I admire your vulnerability, courage, and transparency in letting others know what you are struggling with. Please know that you are helping ALOT of other people out there with your words and disclosing how you are feeling, and also how you overcame some of your challenges you are experiencing. As others have commented here, it DOES get better, and there are many ways to live a fulfilling, satisfying life, with or without children.

    Here is a follow up blog post that I wrote on this topic:

    http://www.conceiveivf.com/slow-swimmers-and-fried-eggs/infertility-suicide-bravery-rising-tides-lift-boats

    Sending a big virtual hug to all of you!
    Cathy Broadwell

  16. May 15, 2018

    Hi All, I came across this post as I’m researching for a fertility book I’m writing. So many valuable comments and my heart goes out to everyone who is dealing with the injustice of infertility.

    I battled, (it is a battle), infertility for 6 years with my husband. The battle started when I was 40 (not the best age!) and we went through one IUI and one ICSI cycle in London – neither worked. After letting nature take it’s course and acupuncture and TCM and organic food and no alcohol etc etc, we did a round of ICSI in Spain when I was 45. Success them miscarriage. Research research research and tests for thrombophilia and NKCells, all negative, but I did the treatment as if I did have a problem and on our next round of ICSI in Spain……..our daughter is now 7.

    Cathy mentioned that it is common for women to get post natal depression after having a baby through fertility treatment. Two years ago after seeing a therapist I found out that I had post traumatic stress after the miscarriage (from 5 years earlier) and that I suffered from post natal depression that wasn’t treated, so led to depression. I knew what I was feeling wasn’t right after having our daughter, but how could I admit to being depressed, even to myself, after getting pregnant following fertility treatment? This was what I wanted so much, I loved my baby so much – how could I be depressed when so many don’t get this far? Even whilst I held my baby daughter I thought about ending my life – tears are streaming down my face as I write this now, remembering those thoughts.

    She kept me going and still does as my marriage ended over a year ago. Most days I’m really fine and putting the book together and thinking about my future with my daughter (it’s amicable with my husband) keeps me strong and positive.

    Promise me, when you do have your baby and maybe you feel down, find someone who you can talk to and who can help you. Don’t be ashamed like I was. Don’t suffer alone and in silence.

    Thank you Cathy for sharing.
    xxx

  17. June 24, 2018

    I’m sobbing so hard because I feel like I’m at the edge. I woke up this morning to sore breasts, and I know it’s not pregnancy, just my period starting. I told my husband, “why should I keep this junk if none of it does anything but cause me pain?” I’d rather strip away everything that makes me a woman than live in this body anymore. And the thing that really hurts is I’ve went to the doctor, they don’t know why I don’t ovulate, I was just told “some women don’t.” I don’t want to go down the IVF route because a dear friend of mine did and she lost every child she managed to conceive with IVF and it caused her and her husband to divorce, so thousands of dollars later all she got out of it was heartbreak and divorce. I can accept that I’ll never experience motherhood, but I don’t want my ovaries or breasts anymore. I don’t want painful reminders that I’ll never concieve. And I’ve been trying for years with different medications.

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