Q&A: Can Stress Worsen Fertility Problems?
I'm having trouble getting pregnant, and it's starting to really stress me out. Is this going to make it even harder to conceive? How can I get the stress under control?
Some fast facts about stress and infertility:
Infertility causes stress.
Stress is associated with lower pregnancy rates.
Stressed patients are more likely to drop out of therapy.
Interventions to decrease stress may increase pregnancy rates.
In other words, you're not alone. In general, women experiencing infertility report high levels of distress. In one study, 40% of women evaluated for distress prior to their first infertility clinic visit met the psychiatric criteria for anxiety, depression or both. And, in another study, women reporting high levels of anxiety and depression prior to starting infertility therapy were less likely to conceive than women who were calmer and happier at the beginning of their cycle.
Experimental intervention studies of mind/body programs including biofeedback, counseling, yoga, mild exercise and acupuncture suggest that pregnancy rates may be increased through amelioration of anxiety and depression. In severe cases, medications may also be necessary to treat anxiety and depression.
- Dr. Hill
TB Editors Note:
August 2010: As The New York Times recently reported, a new study published in the journal of Fertility and Sterility linked stress and infertility for the first time. In the study, women who stopped taking birth control and took longer to get pregnant actually showed high levels of the enzyme alpha-amalyse in their saliva, which is a known indicator of elevated stress. Read more about the study now.