“A strong mind makes a strong body” – the importance of a sound mental health cannot be explained better. All the systems in our human body are controlled by the brain through chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, melatonin, and other neurotransmitters. This impact of mental health is even more profound in reproductive function because the entire cycle of reproduction is controlled by hormones produced by the pituitary gland in the brain. Hormones can affect a woman’s emotions and moods in different ways throughout her lifetime. Sometimes the impact on mood can affect a woman’s quality of life or may induce other symptoms related to their menstrual cycles or fertility.
To add to this, high levels of psychological stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression have been reported in patients with infertility. This could affect the hormones that control ovulation make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant. Stress and infertility thus become a vicious cycle with one affecting the other and vice versa. This stress does not spare the male partner as well. It induces production of toxins and free oxide radicals inside the sperms that would lead to structural and functional deformities of these sex cells.
What can be done to achieve a sound mental health and reduce the burden of stress? Experts say that good sleep in the night for 7-8 hours help in achieving a good state of mind. Also, the hormone melatonin produced in the night is a crucial factor in improving oocyte quality and keeping the other hormones at bay. Physical activity in the form of brisk walking , yoga or gardening help keeping both the body and the mind fit. When combined with proper eating habits, physical activity or exercise can help many people with mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and substance abuse.
To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art. Getting the right nutrients, including high fibre diet, fresh fruits and vegetables, and staying hydrated can help one feel better physically and can boost the mood. The antioxidants in fruits, vegetables and nuts help in fighting against the free oxide radicals and good hydration help in flushing out the toxin accumulation from the body.
For those who are already undergoing treatment for mental health disorders in the form of pills and who are trying to get pregnant should talk to their doctor or nurse about the benefits and risks of stopping/changing the medicine. Some medicines may be harmful to the foetus if she conceives while on such medications while others may intervene with the treatment taken for infertility. Hence it is important to revise the medications before starting treatment or change to other forms of therapy including psychotherapy or talk therapy.
Finally, if you are facing the battle of balancing mental health disorders and infertility, remember that you are not alone in this. A report says that 40% women trying to conceive are suffering from mental illness either in the form of depression or anxiety or behavioural disorders. Seeking the right help at the right time is the need of the hour. Every Gynae/fertility clinic has an in-house psychologist or psychotherapist who could help you combat your struggle. Whether you talk to friends, family, or a therapist, stay in effective communication with people who know you well. Forming peer groups among people with similar conditions and organising frequent gatherings, discussions and motivational camps can help encourage one another. To sum up, don’t forget to ask for help if you think you need it. Sometimes the hardest part of the journey is believing you’re worthy of the trip. Believe in you because you are worth it.