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Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

New Debate on Link Between Stress, Infertility

Study Shows Stress Doesn’t Have Impact on a Single Cycle of a Woman’s Fertility Treatment
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Measuring Stress Levels continued...

The researchers found no effect of the stress on pregnancy outcome for the cycle studied.

''Forever and ever we hear these stories," Boivin tells WebMD. People will say they knew a friend trying to get pregnant who adopted, and then got pregnant. Or a couple trying to conceive goes on a holiday and she comes back pregnant.

''Evolutionary models suggest that stress suppresses fertility in nonhuman mammals," she says, but adds that there is no evidence it happens in the context of fertility treatments in women.

What she speculates might happen in stressed-out women undergoing fertility treatments is that the mechanism of suppression somehow turns itself off.

''Your body prefers to reproduce when all conditions are optimal," she says. But when those conditions don't become reality, the stressed-out woman may decide she is going ahead regardless, Boivin says.

She's not suggesting infertile women ignore the stress of the treatment or everyday life. ''What the stress really does is decrease your quality of life," she says. "People should pay attention to stress and reduce that to improve their quality of life during the treatments."

She gives patients suggestions on how to do so, including a list of tips meant to be helpful, for instance, when women are awaiting news about whether they have become pregnant with fertility treatment. Among the suggestions are to think more about the positive aspects of a difficult situation.

Boivin reports receiving speaker fees from pharmaceutical companies EMD Serono Inc. and Merck & Co., and a research grant from Merck Serono S.A.

Stress Reduction Helpful?

Women who volunteer to be in the studies of stress and infertility are often among the less-stressed women, agreeable to putting in the time required for the study, says Domar, who reviewed the abstract of the study for WebMD.

The body of medical literature does suggest a stress and infertility link, she tells WebMD. "There have been close to 30 studies in the last 15 years looking at the impact of stress on IVF outcome, and most of them did show a positive relationship. The more stress there was, the less likely the woman was to get pregnant."

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