Psychological Stress and Infertility

It doesn’t take research to know that dealing with infertility is stressful. However, what research does tell us is that stress levels can affect a couple’s ability to conceive as they are going through infertility treatments. In fact, this research is the very subject of a paper written by Dr. Alice Domar, Phd, a leader in the field of mind-body medicine.

Dr. Domar examined a number of studies on the correlation between high levels of stress and number of live births. In general, several trials showed lower birth rates for women with high levels of stress, when compared to women with lower stress rates. Of course these results come as no surprise. However, what is interesting is the reason most often cited by couples who dropped out of IVF treatment after unsuccessful attempts.

This reason most couples drop out of IVF treatments is not related to cost, as I would have guessed. The most commonly given reason was the “psychological burden” of the treatments — or stress. In a study of 974 couples in Sweden, a country where three IVF cycles are covered under the national health plan, 65% dropped out before using all of their attempts. Similarly sized studies in Germany and Australia showed the same trend.  In the US, 211 couples with insurance coverage were asked why they dropped out of treatment and, again, stress was the most common response. The second reason was perception of poor prognosis.

What we can deduce from these studies is that, when couples face fertility challenges, they would do well to engage in stress reducing practices — like acupuncture and meditation.