One myth that has existed for many years is that stress can cause infertility and is often a contributing factor in unsuccessful fertility treatments. Although there is no scientific evidence to support this supposition, myths regarding stress and infertility continue to exist. Within this article, we have tackled (with facts) the most common myths regarding stress and infertility.
3 Myths and Facts about Stress and Infertility
Myth #1: Just relax and it will happen.
Couples who are facing infertility often hear this advice from families or friends with good intentions. Often this phrase is shortly followed by a story about another couple who was having difficulty conceiving and then put trying to conceive on hold or took a holiday and immediately became pregnant.
Fact #1: There is no evidence to suggest that a woman’s level of stress will impact her pregnancy rate.
Rigorous and well-designed research found no significant relationship between stress and infertility or stress and fertility treatment outcomes. Researchers concluded that women have always conceived during times of great stress, for example, during periods of war. What many do not consider is that infertility is a disease; therefore, the levels of stress often experienced by individuals experiencing infertility have been similar to that of individuals diagnosed with other illnesses similar to cancer or hypertension. Given that infertility is a disease, relaxation is no more of a cure for infertility than it is a cure for other illnesses.
Myth #2: If you adopt then you will become pregnant.
This continues the idea that if you stop trying to conceive and alternatively pursue adoption, you will minimise all of the stress you may be experiencing within your life and then become pregnant. Those who support this idea are also the individuals who embrace stories of couples or individuals who have conceived following adoption.
Fact #2: Research has been unable to demonstrate a relationship between adoption and pregnancy.
Research conducted on 817 fertility patients over a 5-year period identified that out of these 817 patients, 48 women pursued adoption and just one conceived after adopting. Reflecting on this, the adoption process couples or individuals have to embark on can contribute to its own stress factors including emotional and financial stress along with a significant waiting period.
Myth #3: You are stressed from IVF treatment; if you stop treatment you will become pregnant.
Again, this is another version of a belief that stress is an underlying source of infertility.
Fact #3: Multiple long-term research studies have identified that upon completing IVF treatment, the rates of unplanned pregnancy and live births ranged from 11 to 24 percent.
Reflecting on this research, those women who became pregnant and gave birth were: younger, experienced a shorter duration of infertility and had a less severe fertility diagnosis. Although it is evidently clear that IVF treatment can be stressful, numerous research studies have seen no correlation between overall stress levels and IVF outcomes.
The Relationship between Stress and Infertility
There is no denying that infertility can be stressful. Most individuals plan their personal lives around having a family and many of us have grown up being taught that if you work hard, you should be able to achieve anything. So when you are faced with difficulty in trying to conceive, you may feel as though you have no control over your body or control over your desire to become a parent. With infertility, regardless of how hard you work, it may not be possible without the help of fertility treatment.
Infertility treatment encompasses a full range of tests and treatments that can be physically, emotionally, and financially stressful. Infertility can also cause strain on relationships and cause individuals to miss work or other commitments due to doctor appointments. All of these fertility factors and challenges can mount up and contribute towards stress.
Decreasing the levels of stress may not increase pregnancy rates or impact treatment success; however, it may improve overall well-being, quality of life, and relationships with loved ones, family, and friends as you continue on your fertility journey.
Tips for Reducing Stress during Infertility Treatment
- Talk with your partner, family, and friends. Avoid becoming isolated.
- Develop a support network: whether a formal support group or just a person or two you can lean on. Finding family members, friends, or colleagues who may have experienced infertility can be of great value. Check out our Patient Stories for additional support.
- Establish a medical plan with your doctor that both you and your partner are comfortable with.
- While exercise will help to alleviate stress, be sure to check with your doctor about maintaining your regular exercise routine throughout treatment.
- Seek out humour to escape some of the stress for a while by watching a comedy film or TV show, reading a humorous book or downloading a video of your favourite stand-up comedian.
- Try to refocus your energy into a productive project—that bathroom that needs to be repainted or closet that needs reorganising. Set goals and achieve them.