Just like many other stresses of life, infertility is not a separate event but a process that gets unfolded in time. Typically, it begins following a year or two of trying to conceive without success. Added to that comes the decision to proceed to assisted reproduction techniques and embrace the fact that the couple needs help to conceive.
Researchers cannot be sure if mental health has a massive impact on fertility. On the other hand, it is well known that infertility can negatively affect your mental health. Being depressed and anxious may cause a series of events that can hinder the process of conceiving.
Two of the most common events are the suppressed libido and the reduction in the frequency of intercourse. It is regarded that the probability of accomplishing a pregnancy is highly influenced by the frequency and the correct timing of intercourse, in relation to the fertile phase of the woman’s cycle.
Several studies have been conducted on whether anxiety or depression constitute a key factor affecting infertility. Research has shown that the women who suffered from anxiety require more time to conceive and have a higher risk to miscarry as compared to those having lower anxiety levels. Moreover, women with a history of depression are twice as likely to experience infertility in comparison to women with no such history.
Another study performed in 2012 concluded that women who had higher levels of the substance “alpha-amylase” were less likely to get pregnant than the ones with lower levels of the substance. Alpha-amylase is secreted when the nervous system produces catecholamines, compounds that initiate a type of stress response.
Regarding IVF treatment, patients usually ask if there is a relationship between the stress and the outcome of assisted reproduction. Couples tend to think that their anxiety is having a severe impact on their treatment outcome.
Fertility problems have both medical and emotional aspects. While medical treatment should have a higher psychological impact on patients, due to physical procedures, couples tend to consider the emotional aspect more stressful. This kind of stress consists of the threat of the treatment, uncertainty, the feeling that they are not in place to control the outcome and losing hope of becoming pregnant and creating the family they desire.
Research indicates that there is no connection between the perceived psychological stress (or well-being) before or during the first IVF treatment and the outcome. This is an especially important result since it may help couples decrease their actual stress levels. Many couples dealing with fertility issues report that it is one the most stressful periods of their lives. If this is how you feel, keep in mind that you are not alone.
First of all, millions of couples all around the world are struggling with infertility.
Secondary, it is very reasonable to feel underpowered and detached; still, you should remember that these feelings are not the ones causing your infertility.
On the other hand, if this is how you feel most of the time, not only the quality of your life is affected negatively but also your psychological state of mind.
Try to do things that make you feel better like joining a support group to learn some techniques for controlling your stress. You can also use acupuncture to relieve your stress. Research in this area shows that, for many women, acupuncture may be beneficial. Our team collaborates with one of the experts in this area and we can get in touch if you want to schedule a session.
Additionally, you can consult an expert and talk to your fertility specialist, who is the most appropriate person to answer your questions responsibly. A fertility specialist can inform you about the treatment plans that are suitable to your needs along with the success rates of each plan. Moreover, you can share your thoughts and worries with them and ask for guidance on finding the best solution to your problem.
In conclusion, although it may take some time before the correlation between stress and infertility is clarified, what is known is that the reduction of stress levels can help you from the beginning of pregnancy up until your happy ending.
Maroula Kotsalidou, BSc, MSc
Maroula is a Midwife and an International Patient Coordinator at the Newlife IVF Greece clinic.