DON’T SWEAT IT: YOUR STRESS WON’T IMPACT YOUR FERTILITY TREATMENT
Infertility is stressful.
First, there’s the stress of trying to get pregnant and not being able to do so. Then there’s the added stress of the infertility diagnosis and the doctor visits. Once you decide to pursue fertility treatment, there is more stress from the morning monitoring, the hormones, the procedures, the cost and the uncertainty.
But despite all that stress, a recent study found it has no impact on your fertility outcomes. In other words, the level of stress a woman experiences during fertility treatment has no impact on whether the treatment works or not. The study findings were consistent regardless of age, prior treatment or the period of time a couple or individual had been infertile.
The other piece of good news is that this study was a compilation of 20 previous studies on the subject, meaning the findings derive from a large sample and are significant. The studies involved more than 4,300 women whose anxiety, depression and stress levels were tracked, and, taken together, showed no link between stress and fertility outcomes. The umbrella study was conducted by researchers from Stony Brook University in New York City, including principal investigator Marci Lobel, whose research focuses on stress, coping, and their effects on a woman’s reproductive health.
The findings showed that women experiencing infertility have one less thing to stress about: the stress itself.
That said, researchers highlighted the importance of stress management and coping skills for women undergoing fertility treatment, as the intensity of what these women – and their partners – feel is palpable. Stress has an effect on mood, perception, energy and other behaviors, and is important to mitigate stress for the benefit of overall health and wellbeing.
But in terms of infertility, the body of literature does not support the idea that stress is related to outcomes. And it’s a good thing, because the experience is difficult, and it is not easy to relax. Telling patients to relax also puts the burden of responsibility on them, and makes women think they are causing their own infertility. This is simply not true.
When a patient asks me about stress, I tell them anything they can do to reduce stress is a good thing – not because it will get them pregnant, but because it feels bad to be stressed.
In a way, knowing that stress does not impact their fertility outcomes may cause some women to relax, reducing stress altogether, and making the infertility journey a little easier to handle – and that’s half the battle.
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