The effects of COVID-19 stress on fertility

by Ermina Konstantinidou, last updated 04 May 2020

Trying to achieve a pregnancy can be a stressful process especially when going through IVF. Patients long to create a family and have invested greatly in a procedure that can be emotionally and physically draining until they finally have a positive result.

Women, men, couples who are having IVF treatment cycles are continuously troubled by questions such as: "Will I ever have a child?”, "Will IVF work?", "Is all this worth it?", "Why me?". This type of questions has a huge emotional toll and is the main cause of IVF stress. In addition to that stress, people who have decided to proceed with an IVF in the last couple of months have to also face the COVID-19 pandemic which has changed our daily lives drastically. Suddenly in most areas of the world people have to go through quarantine, social distancing, restrictions in travelling, treatment cancellation along with constant fear for their own and their loved ones' health being in danger. This feeling of anxiety and elevated stress levels do have an impact on the emotional well-being of those going or thinking of going through IVF treatment.

Female fertility

In women who are trying to achieve a pregnancy naturally, stress seems to have a negative impact but the exact pathway of how this works has not been yet established. In IVF cycles, as women are placed in an artificial cycle, stress does not really have a direct negative impact on the effectiveness of the treatment cycle, nor on the and body’s preparation for an egg collection or embryo transfer. However, stress can have an indirect negative effect as it can lead to:

  • Unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle leading to weight gain. Weight gain and obesity have been linked with anovulation, higher miscarriage rates and pregnancy complications.
  • Unhealthy habits and abuse of substances such as tobacco, alcohol, narcotics which on their turn increase dramatically miscarriage rates and pregnancy complications.

Male fertility

When it comes to male fertility, its link with stress is a bit more established. Many studies have shown that the hormonal imbalance stress causes to the male body can lead to low sperm quality. The release of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids during stress is considered to be the main culprit as it has been implicated with a decrease in testosterone levels which in turn affects the semen production.

So even though, from what we know so far, COVID-19 does not negatively impact fertility directly, COVID-19 related stress does. Therefore, patients need to find coping mechanisms to get through this challenging period of their lives successfully and be fully prepared to resume their IVF treatments as soon as all this is over.

  • Support: Surround yourself with people who love you and are there to support you.
  • Seek professional help: Most of the time in times of great emotional stress the best solution is to ask for professional help to guide us in how to comprehend the plethora of our emotions. Many communities amidst the coronavirus pandemic have organized psychological support lines, so please check with your local community to see what services are available.
  • Share your concerns: Discussing your concerns in forums with people who are in a similar state as you, can many times help as it makes you feel that you are not alone. The Internet is a powerful tool that can help us socialize nowadays.

Of course, the most fundamental factor in managing stress during these peculiar times is to have a supportive medical team that is always present and ready to support you and answer any questions you may have. Here at Newlife, we are always here for you to answer all your queries and we are ready to aid you on your fertility journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. Why don't you check our list of frequently asked questions, or contact us to organize a free video call consultation with our medical team so we can discuss your case.

Ermina Konstantinidou

Ermina Konstantinidou, BSc

Ermina is a Midwife and an International Patient Coordinator at Newlife IVF Greece.

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