The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc

Mental Health and Starting a Family: A Guide

Happy couple looking at a pregnancy test

Mental Health and Starting a Family: A Guide

Starting a family is a life-changing experience which many people aspire to at some point in their life. Having a child truly is a miraculous experience which has the power to change everything, both regarding your life and regarding you as a person.

As with any life-changing event, your mental health may be impacted by the change, as well as being severely compromised if you have trouble starting a family or if you run into problems conceiving the way you had hoped. You may then feel as though you need further tailored support, such as from someone with a masters in mental health counseling.

Perhaps you have always thought that you would like to start a family and are wondering whether now the right time for you is. When making this decision, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you financially able to support a growing family?
  • Is your home equipped for a new baby, such as having the right amount of space and room?
  • How will your career be affected by having a baby? Are you ready to take a career break, or have your job take a back seat for a while?
  • Are you with the right person, or are you mentally ready to raise a child alone if you are considering family options as a single person?

This guide discusses the issues you may face where mental health is concerned, and important steps to consider when starting a family.

Mental Health and Trying for a Baby

Deciding to try for a baby and start a family is a significant step. No matter whether you've always planned for it or whether you've recently decided, it would be natural to feel overwhelmed by such a momentous decision. It's possible that your mental health can therefore be compromised if you feel the pressures, as well as the desperate desire, to start a family.

Although starting a family and trying for a baby is a wonderful thing, it can take a lot of planning, crucial steps and lifestyle changes. It may also take a very long time to conceive. This can easily affect your mindset and mental health if the routine becomes too draining or if you develop anxiety over not being able to conceive as quickly as you would have hoped.

It's important to be as positive and healthy as you can be while trying for a baby. Undue stress on the mind and body may only make it more difficult to naturally conceive or make it difficult to enjoy the process. To make everything easier, consider:

  • Seeking advice regarding how to improve your chances of conceiving
  • Try to avoid treating intimacy as a strict routine and instead try to conceive when you naturally feel ready to try
  • Speak to others about how you're feeling, including your partner if the situation is becoming overwhelming

Trouble with Conceiving: Which Steps to Take

It may be that, after trying to conceive for a significant period, it simply isn't working. This, naturally, can have a detrimental effect on your mental health, as not only are you not achieving the beginning of your new family, but you may also begin to worry why it is not working for you and whether there is any cause for concern health-wise for you and your partner.

In the first instance, it is crucial to speak to a medical professional regarding your trouble conceiving so that you can discuss the possibilities. Tests may need to be carried out, and your next options may need to be explored. This can be a difficult and worrying time which can take a toll on your mental health. Still, it's important to understand that difficulty conceiving in the first instance doesn't mean that you will never be able to start the family that you've been dreaming of. Alongside health and physical attention, you should also seek mental health support if necessary, from those with a masters in mental health counseling.

If you cannot conceive naturally, there are other steps you can take, such as:

  • Adoption
  • IVF treatment
  • Treatment options for infertility
  • Sperm or egg donation
  • Surrogacy

When considering which option may be right for you, be sure to do as much research as possible and gain the relevant medical advice. Taking one of these options, even if it means you can achieve the family you had hoped, can still be overwhelming and upsetting, therefore affecting your mental health.

Support is crucial during this key decision-making, so be sure to check your options from those with a masters in mental health counseling.

Mental Health and Helping Others

If you are a parent who has experienced mental health issues relating to starting a family, or perhaps an individual who has suffered from their mental health following infertility issues and not being able to start a family, maybe you're eager to help others struggling through the same — whether those with general mental health issues or specifically parents who are suffering through mental health concerning conception or raising a child.

There are various avenues to explore if you would like to help others, including seeking a career in counseling and a masters in mental health counseling so that you can support others going through the same journey or any related issues with mental health.

Wanting to start a family and either wanting to be a parent or becoming a parent, naturally means you're a compassionate and caring person who wants to help and care for others (your own child or family), so these are virtues which can be applied to counseling and helping others, too.

Mental Health and Adoption

Adoption can introduce a variety of mental health issues, both for you as a parent, and for an adopted child. For a parent choosing to adopt, it can be a difficult path if you always wanted to conceive naturally. It is a big step in deciding to seek an alternative to raising a family and helping a child who needs to have a home and a family.

Furthermore, it's important to be in a healthy and good mental state when preparing yourself to adopt a child. If your mental health has become compromised due to difficult circumstances around trying to conceive (such as being told that you're infertile), it may be a good idea to take a break and concentrate on your own recovery before adopting. That way, you can be in the healthiest condition to care for a new child. It's, therefore, imperative to seek out support options, such as sessions from a licensed individual with a masters in mental health counseling.

Regarding an adopted child, if they are at an older age when they are adopted, or if you choose to tell your child the truth about their adoption when they reach a certain age, this knowledge can affect their mental health. They may struggle emotionally trying to understand about their birth parents, or why they had to be put up for adoption. Or perhaps the truth may simply be something they struggle with mentally. It may even be the case that an adopted child suffered through difficult circumstance or even trauma, leading to the need for them to be adopted, and this could result in issues later in life.

Your child always has the option of receiving counseling at any age from someone with a masters in mental health counseling.

Mental Health and IVF Treatment

If you've chosen the IVF route, then firstly, it can be expensive, depending on how many attempts of the treatment you need. Therefore, you may experience stress and anxiety relating to your finances when trying to get pregnant through IVF. It's essential to manage your finances properly and plan for the cost of IVF treatment in advance, to have a better understanding and avoid any unwarranted stress.

Furthermore, IVF treatment is never guaranteed to work successfully. This can be extremely traumatic for those parents who had hoped the treatment would work for them. There are other options you can consider as an alternative if IVF treatment is not a success for you, or you can try again with the same treatment. Alongside this, support your mental health during this journey by seeking out services from someone with a masters in mental health counseling.

Mental Health and Your Growing Family

Mental health issues can arise at any time, at any age, in anyone. This means both for you as a parent, and for your growing child. You can never plan for how your child is going to behave, whether in their childhood years or as they develop. You can easily run into difficulty and negativity as a parent if you are worried about your child's behavior or if they are difficult.

Additionally, your child may develop mental health issues of their own as they age. It's important as a parent to know what to look out for in others regarding signs and symptoms of mental health issues such as depression.

In growing children, this could include:

  • Persistent low mood
  • Withdrawing from social situations
  • Disruptive or out-of-control behaviour
  • Speaking of negative or troublesome thoughts
  • Issues with behaviour and mood in other situations, such as school or out in public

There is always support available for parents struggling with their own mental health issues, such as from those with a masters in mental health counseling, or for parents with children who have mental health problems.

Mental Health and Suffering with a Miscarriage

While it is possible to heal and gain support from loved ones and professionals who can help through the process of miscarriage recovery, your own mental health and how you choose to handle the situation is what is most important. Nobody can tell a parent how to act when they have lost a child, and it's important for you to never keep it inside about what you are experiencing.

You may want to speak to other parents who have suffered through the same experience so that you can gain a better understanding and the support you need. Naturally, those who have never experienced the loss of a child will not be able to understand or support you fully — even if those people love you and care about your grief — so it can be very helpful to speak to other parents who know directly how it feels.

Physical, mental and emotional health can be severely impacted following the loss of a child, perhaps even for the rest of your life. The emotional distress and grief experienced by those who suffer from a miscarriage will undoubtedly mean that their mental health is compromised, and they may benefit from the services of a professional with a masters in mental health counseling.

It's important to understand that suffering a miscarriage does not mean that you can never try again for a family or that you will never be able to have a child. Still, it's also important to allow yourself enough time to understand, grieve and heal.

Understanding Postnatal Depression

You can never plan for postnatal depression, and you may think that it would never happen to you, but the truth is, it can arise in any parent following giving birth to their child. What's important to remember if suffering through postnatal depression that is — just with any mental health illness — it is not your fault, and it does not mean that you are any less of a loving parent. After all, having a baby is completely life-changing, which means it can trigger new and overwhelming responses in your mind and body when raising a new child.

The signs of postnatal depression include:

  • Feeling anxious and tearful. While this is natural after giving birth, if these symptoms persist for a long period, such as a month or longer after giving birth, it could be a sign of a large problem
  • Lack of energy and feeling tired
  • Loss of interest in anything
  • Withdrawing from other people, or different situations
  • Worrying thoughts involving your baby, including negative thoughts towards them

Strategies to cope with postnatal depression include:

  • Seeking professional help and support, such as from those with a masters in mental health counseling
  • Being prescribed medication, such as anti-depressants
  • Speaking with loved ones
  • Trying to keep up with a healthy routine, such as exercise and your diet choices
  • Trying to partake in activities which will help you to feel more positive, such as pastimes you've always enjoyed
  • All of the above

Take Away

While the experience of trying for, and raising, a family is rewarding and positive, it's undoubtedly one where many problems can be faced. These problems don't mean that raising a family isn't everything you'd hoped for or that it can't be a success, it simply means that better care and planning may be needed for problems which can arise.

Most importantly, it is your own emotional and mental wellbeing as a parent — as well as that of your child — which needs to be taken into consideration during this important time, and you can always seek support from those with masters in mental health counseling.