There are many factors affecting a woman’s fertility. The ability to get pregnant and support a healthy pregnancy depends on a wide range of factors, not all of which are understood. The way that you eat, how much sleep you get, and even how much you exercise can all affect your fertility. One factor that you may not have considered yet, though, is your mental health. Mental problems, especially depression, can hinder your fertility.
Depression can significantly lower your fertility. If you are depressed, you are more likely to have fertility problems. Studies have found that, “women with a history of depressive symptoms reported two times the rate of subsequent infertility.” (1) That’s right, researchers found that women suffering from depression were twice as likely as non-depressed women to be unable to conceive. Even taking into account that there are other factors involved, that is still a significant difference.
Another study showed that depression affected the ability to conceive both naturally and with fertility treatments. When studying couples undergoing IVF treatments, they found that women who were depressed were far less likely to conceive than other women.
It is clear, then, that depression adversely affects a woman’s fertility. The question is: why? How does depression affect fertility?
The simplest reason is that depression lowers your libido. In order to get pregnant (naturally), you have to have sex. That seems obvious, but it’s actually part of the link between depression and difficulty conceiving. Depression lowers your sex drive. (2) If you’re less interested in sex, you’re less likely to get pregnant.
Also, depression inhibits your immune system. (1) If your immune system is weakened, then your body is less likely to fight off infections and other conditions that harm your health. When you are unhealthy physically, you are less likely to conceive.
Additionally, depression and depression related stress can change the hormone levels in your body. (3) Depression affects the chemical balance of your body, and it can “suppress the hormones that are needed for ovulation to occur.” (3) If you do not ovulate, then you are unable to conceive.
The good news is that depression related fertility problems seem to be reversible. Luckily, the adverse affects of depression on fertility seem to be temporary. In one study of women suffering from depression and trying to conceive, the results are hopeful for anyone in a similar situation (1). According to the study, women who were treated for their depression had a “60% viable fertility rate within six months.” For women who went untreated for their depression, the conception rate was much lower, with only 24% able to conceive within six months. So if you think you may be suffering from depression, and are planning a family, you should seek help and support.
(1) “Depression: Can it Affect Your Fertility?” by Dr. Gayle Peterson, iVillage
(2) “Loss of Libido”, Patient UK
(3) “Can Depression Play a Role in My Fertility?”, Baby Hopes