June 21, 2012

Infertility Stress is Stressing Me Out

infertility stress

Misnomer or not, the belief that infertility is a psychologically driven condition exists. It is true that extreme circumstances of stress such as famine and in times such as war, fecundity rates decrease. However, whether the psychologic stress imparted by our hectic lives coupled with the added stress of improving fertility contributes to infertility is not directly correlated. The associations between stress levels and their influence on fertility outcomes, reaction to miscarriages and decisions to continue treatment are clear.

How much stress is too much? Stress itself, is any stimulus (infertility) that causes some form of mental distress or physical reaction (anxiety, perturbation in sleep cycle). The experience of dealing with the infertility causes this distress.

It has been reported that the level of stress increases as duration of infertility and complexity intensifies. Thus, those women in an IVF cycle would be expected to experience more stress than those early in the infertility assessment. Psychologic stress may affect the fertility treatment in many ways – inducing major depressive episodes, inciting cessation of treatment and straining personal relationships.

Studies demonstrate that those patient who receive step-wise instruction and education prior to and during their cycles report a decrease in their stress levels. Understanding possible mechanism of infertility and treatment protocols help to reduce this burden.

Recognizing this need, we at FCNE work to support our patients needs. We do this through phone calls to patients in cycles, providing step-wise instructions and detailed information about what to expect while undergoing a cycle. After the egg retrieval, patients are told immediately about both the eggs and the sperm. The next day, our team members will alert patients regarding the status of embryos and anticipated day of embryo transfer.

Most certainly, maintaining physical activity and routine will help to minimize additional stressors. Acupuncture, yoga and meditation may also be added to this regimen if it is suitable for the individualized patient.

 

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Danielle Vitiello, Ph.D., M.D.

Danielle Vitiello, Ph.D., M.D. Board-Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility