What is quality of life?
Quality of life isn’t synonymous with being happy. Quality of life is subjective and includes positive and negative facets of life. It is assessed when considering a person’s physical, psychological, and social health. Complex perceptions, personality-related, monetary, social, cultural, and legislative components also take place.
Fluctuations in quality of life or well-being are frequently reported by fertility patients. Their mental health, vitality, emotional physical, and social functioning go through a rollercoaster. Most report having difficult moments in their journey that make them feel sad or powerless. People who want to have biological children and struggle to become parents, show symptoms of depression, anxiety, social isolation and deprivation, marital instability, loss of self-esteem, loss of identity and control, fear, self-blame, and guilt.
Long periods trying to conceive, a high number of treatment attempts, having had bad consultation experiences, cycle cancellation, and low marital satisfaction are associated with lower fertility quality of life. So far, there isn’t consistent proof that income, higher education, older age, and marital duration or status correlate to a better quality of life. Nevertheless, these factors can impact one’s chance of pursuing fertility goals, which in turn affects quality of life.
Women’s quality of life decreases, but so does Men’s
Most studies seem to focus on how women have a more impaired quality of life and higher levels of depression. However, stating that men cope better or have no impairment in their quality of life is not true. They may feel sad, disappointed, stuck, frustrated, unable to express themselves and perceive a lack of potency. The role that modifiable lifestyle factors have in male fertility can increase their level of distress, whether it is self-imposed pressure or pressure imposed by a partner.
The importance of companionship
Patients tend to rely primarily on their spouse and family when distressed. This is very good when people understand each other, listen to each other, and communicate effectively, but this isn’t always the case. Avoiding issues or not showing you are taking them seriously seem to be very common strategies, but neither of them helps. It is advised that a set of conversations take place to clarify feelings, needs, goals, and personal experiences. This is difficult to implement alone. The next step is looking for a counselor or psychologist.
One simple step toward working together as a couple includes accompanying the other person to consultations. This is associated with a higher quality of life and decreases feelings of loneliness. The latter is a particularly intriguing phenomenon. Although quality of life does not differ markedly between spouses, patients frequently report feeling alone. It might be fruitful to have interventions together.
Infertility vs. Treatment
Don’t miss out on the opportunity of treatment, and don’t allow treatment to make you miss out on the opportunity of having a baby. Sounds weird, but interestingly it is not just diminished quality of life that may prevent someone from seeking treatment, but treatment is also a factor that decreases someone’s quality of life. Both infertility and seeking treatment can provoke negative reactions and negatively affect life satisfaction, well-being, and willingness to continue with treatment.
Looking for help
Despite the interest, few patients try counseling, psychotherapy, or any other form of emotional/psychological support. Some do not consider themselves sufficiently in need of it, some think it won’t help, and some prefer support from family and friends. My advice is if you have been unhappy for between three to six months don’t wait for the seventh month and talk to someone knowledgeable about it. There are online services that make the process easy. Start by looking for the type of professional you are looking for, search credible websites for the work those professionals have done, and then reach out. When you find a match with a professional you trust and connect with it can be life-changing.
Also, fertility education improves fertility quality of life because it allows you to make informed decisions, measure expectations, and feel more in control. For that, you can check Enhanced Fertility’s app on AppleStore and GooglePlay. It is an evidence-based mobile app that allows you to learn about reproductive health at your pace and links you to further help, like the Fertility Risk Detection Tool, a questionnaire designed to allow you to assess your fertility health.
- Quality of life is composed of a balance of positive and negative aspects of life, and takes into consideration physical, psychological, emotional, social, and relational components.
- Quality of life is often decreased in infertile people who want to be parents. That can be clear by depressive and anxious states, lack of vitality, and decreased satisfaction if social interactions.
- All people may experience difficulties dealing with infertility and have their quality of life affected by it, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, culture, or age, …
- Treatment can be very hard on someone’s life as well, it is a great opportunity but not a miracle that fixes everything, and a lot of patients start counseling or psychotherapy after having started treatment.
- Quality of life is, gladly, something that can be improved:
– Companionship is important: start by analyzing who you can rely on to open up and share your problems;
– If you are in a relationship, allow your partner to be a part of your struggles, and vice-versa; going to consultations together is usually very helpful;
– Don’t shy away from the option of trying a few mental healthcare professionals – they can assist you when no one else knows how.
Beatriz Regina de Oliveira Trigo, Head of Wellness at Enhanced Fertility Program