Infertility Stress and Anxiety

Studies show that anxiety and stress in fertility patients is equal to that of patients with cancer.

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Infertility patients often have a high anxiety level. Studies show that anxiety and stress in these patients is equal to that of patients with cancer. Other studies show that stress may negatively affect the conception rate and that stress reduction may improve it. The inability to conceive while all around seemingly everyone else does so successfully often leads to frustration, depression, and anger. Such stress may strain the marriage, wreak havoc in sexual relationship, and adversely affect work performance. Patients with infertility often overlook the fact that the natural conception rate per cycle in humans is at best 20 to 25 percent. Each therapy that is offered, therefore, should be repeated several times (usually three to four) in order to give ample opportunity for successful conception. One should keep in mind, though, that repeated failures to conceive might generate more stress, which by itself may be harmful.

How should stress be addressed? Any stress-reduction strategy may be beneficial:

  • exercise,
  • yoga,
  • massage therapy,
  • acupuncture,
  • acupressure,
  • spiritual counseling,
  • psychological counseling

All these might improve one’s outlook and reduce adverse psychological effects. Infertility support groups, where available, are also helpful. One has to be cautious, however, about shared information, either in person or via the Internet. In each couple, infertility factors are different and what applies to one may not apply to another.

Taking a break from infertility treatment is often advised when stress becomes unbearable. This is particularly welcome in younger individuals in whom age is not yet a factor in the success rate. It is important for the physician to set limits and guidelines as to the extent and duration of treatment. A well-defined plan that outlines the type of treatment, the number of treatment cycles, and the alternatives, should be discussed with the patient early in the process and reiterated later. The patient should be assertive and ask questions, as well as express his or her anxiety to the physician or his staff. Bottling feelings inside may only lead to additional stress and frustration. The patient should be notified early that if he or she wishes to discuss alternatives or change the intensity of treatment, they should do so without hesitation. Infrequently, anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications are prescribed.

The Bennett Fertility Institute refers patients to a counselor when appropriate. Please discuss the necessity for psychological counseling with your physician. Even in the most supportive family setting, stress may not be adequately addressed without a more objective approach by a counselor.



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