Psychological & Social Impact of Infertility | KJK Hospital, Trivandrum

Psychological & Social Impact of Infertility

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Infertility is something that affects 10-15 per cent married couples in India. The WHO pegs the prevalence of primary infertility in India to 3.9 to 16.8 %. The numbers could possibly be higher as this is still quite a taboo topic of discussion today.  Infertility seems to be more common in urban settings due to lifestyles or women planning first pregnancies at older ages.

Infertility is a medical condition that can touch every aspect of a couple’s life. Many studies have also been carried out into the effects of childlessness in the developing world. Although psychological effects are found, the main concerns for childless couples in developing countries are the social and cultural effects.

As for the social impact of infertility, in many cultures across our country, childless women face discrimination, ostracism and stigma if they fail to become pregnant or carry a baby to term. They may even be regarded as non-human or described as “cursed”. The situation is further worsened by the fact that such women face a lack of support, both emotionally from their own families and financially as well.  Exposed to a tremendous social pressure, infertile couples may resort to hiding the problem due to the extreme privacy of the matter.

The inability to conceive children is experienced as a stressful situation by individuals and couples all around the world. For both partners, infertility is a complex and situational crisis that is generically psychologically threatening, emotionally stressful, financially challenging, and physically painful most of the times due to diagnostic-curative operations undergone. Infertility triggers a range of physical, psychological, social, emotional, and financial effects. Although it is not a life-threatening problem, infertility is yet experienced as a stressful life event for couples or individuals due to the exalted value attributed to having a child by individuals themselves or society in general.

Another factor is the medicalization of infertility. This has sadly led to a disregard for the emotional responses that couples experience, which include distress, loss of control, stigmatization, and a disruption in the developmental trajectory of adulthood. Evidence is emerging of an association between stress of fertility treatment and patient drop-out and pregnancy rates. Fortunately, psychological interventions, especially those emphasizing stress management and coping-skills training, have been shown to have beneficial effects for infertility patients.

Emotions, thoughts, and beliefs of infertile couples frequently change as one consequence of infertility diagnosis. Infertility also affects marriage life adversely. For infertile couples, stress sources may originate from personal, societal, and marital life. Couples have even gone to the extent of defining their infertility experience as “the most distressing life event,”.

Individuals diagnosed with infertility are forced to counteract a condition not solvable with the available coping strategies. In stress management while dealing with infertile couples, personal capacity, past experiences, and support from immediate social circle are very critical. The first step for infertile couples to reduce stress is to understand that what they are feeling is completely normal. One of the worst instigators of stress is uncertainty about the future. To alleviate this, it helps couples to actively do some research on their present situation and options and especially treatment outcomes.

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