Worry Lowers IVF Success
Financial Concerns Have Big Impact on Infertility Treatment
'Chicken or Egg'
"Fifty or 60 years ago, infertility was considered a psychological problem because we didn't have medical ways to treat it," assisted reproduction counselor Sharon Covington, MWS, tells WebMD. "Now it is very much a medical issue, but there is still something of a 'chicken or egg' question with regard to stress. Infertility is inherently stressful, but it is not clear to what extent stress causes infertility."
No one is suggesting that adopting the 'don't worry, be happy' approach would take care of all women's infertility issues. But Covington says studies like this one underscore the importance of taking a holistic approach to infertility treatment. She is the director of psychological support services at Rockville, Maryland's Shady Grove Fertility Center.
"If we are better able to address the stresses associated with treatment, such as improving insurance coverage or offering creative financing, we may end up with better outcomes," she says.
Reproductive specialist Mark Perloe, MD, says it is clear that stress plays an important role in the success or failure of assisted reproduction procedures, but the UCSD study was too small to answer many questions about this. Perloe is medical director of the Atlanta infertility clinic Georgia Reproductive Specialists.
"These findings certainly need to be reproduced in a larger study," he tells WebMD. "And we don't really know if stress per se is the problem or if stress is keeping patients from doing the things that their medical team needs them to do."
Miller says her stress level dropped once she made the decision to have IVF. She started doing more yoga to improve her relaxation skills and trained for triathlons to get her body in the best shape possible. She also did a lot of research.
"I was determined to know as much as I could," she says. "And I had already made the decision that I would do IVF twice, but no more. That took some of the pressure off. I didn't feel like it had to work the first time."
But it did. Now 27 weeks pregnant, Miller is due to give birth at the end of July.