Stress and Fertility

A common complaint for patients presenting with infertility is stress

Stress and infertility is often multifactorial in nature. The emotional challenges of infertility can be compounded by other personal, professional, and familial issues. If this stress becomes chronic, it can lead to depression, changes in sleep habits, weight gain/loss, and susceptibility to illness.

Many patients wonder if stress is causing infertility. There is no definitive proof that stress causes infertility, unless a woman is experiencing irregular or absent menstrual cycles as a result of stress.

It is well known that infertility can compound and exacerbate stress. It can be difficult for a couple to realize that the road to parenthood is not happening for them, in spite of having many family members or friends who appear to have no difficulty. It can be very isolating for a patient to feel as if there is something wrong with her body. Though patients are more open than in the past about infertility struggles, it is not uncommon for a woman to feel as if she is alone in her infertility experience.

Infertility tests and treatments can be physically, emotionally, and financially taxing. Infertility can lead to such stress that a couple grows apart, further increasing stress levels. During fertility treatment, it can be difficult for many patients and partners to miss work or other activities for multiple doctors’ appointments.

Though stress may not directly lead to infertility, it certainly does not feel good and it can make the process of treating infertility much more challenging. It is important to find ways to reduce stress. This is accomplished in different ways for different people, but reaching out to others can be a helpful start. It is critical to maintain communication within the couple. Some couples find it helpful to seek counseling advice to address and discuss their thoughts and feelings. Other patients may find support groups in person or online helpful.

Physically, it is helpful to learn stress reduction techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or acupuncture. Reducing caffeine intake can be helpful for improving fertility, reducing miscarriage, and lowering stress. Regular exercise can optimize physical and mental health.

It is also important to communicate with your doctor so that you are well-educated about treatment options and predicted success rates as well as the financial and time responsibilities inherent in these options. It is helpful to have your partner aware of these issues as well so that you can support each other through the emotional highs/lows of infertility.