Infertility Education - Stress And Fertility

Stress can come from just about anything that you feel is threatening or harmful. It can develop following a single event or a combination of the little things that worry you all day long.

Acute stress, caused by a single event (or your fear of it), makes your heart beat faster and your blood pressure go up. You breathe harder, your hands get sweaty, and your skin feels cool and clammy. Chronic stress, which is when you are always stressed, can cause depression and changes in your sleep habits. It can also decrease your chances of fighting off common illnesses.

Stress makes many body organs work harder than normal and increases the production of some important chemicals in your body, including hormones.

Is stress causing my infertility?

Even though infertility is very stressful, there isn't any proof that stress can cause infertility. In extreme cases, a woman who is under significant stress can experience changes in her hormone levels such that release of an egg (ovulation) is delayed or does not take place at all.

Is infertility causing my stress?

Many women who are being treated for infertility have as much stress as women who have cancer or heart disease. Infertile couples experience stress in a cyclic form each month; there is the buildup of hope that the woman is pregnant, and if she is not, the couple has to recover from the disappointment and feeling of loss that follows.

Why is infertility stressful?

Most couples are used to having some degree of control over their lives. They may believe that if they work hard at something, they can achieve it. So when it's hard to get pregnant, they feel as if they don't have control of their bodies or of their goal of becoming parents.

Fertility tests and treatments can be physically, emotionally, and financially stressful. Infertility can cause a couple to grow apart, which increases stress levels. Couples may have many appointments for fertility treatments, which often cause them to miss work or other activities.

What can I do to reduce my stress?

  • Talk to your partner.
  • Realize you're not alone. Some find it helpful to talk to other people who have infertility, through individual, couples, or group counseling, or through online support groups.
  • Consider complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga, or massage therapy.
  • Read books on infertility, which will show you that your feelings are normal and may help you deal with them.
  • Avoid using too much caffeine or other stimulants.
  • Exercise regularly to release physical and emotional tension.
  • Develop a medical treatment plan with your physician that both you and your partner are comfortable with.
  • Learn as much as you can about the cause of your infertility and the treatment options available.
  • Find out as much as you can about your insurance coverage and make financial plans regarding your fertility treatments.

Who can help us?

Megan Farrell, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with patients at our center through support groups and counseling for both couples and individuals. For additional information, please contact Dr. Farrell at 716-805-7995.

RESOLVE is a national support organization for couples with infertility. For information on local chapters, you can reach them at 1310 Broadway, Somerville, Massachusetts 02144; (617) 623-0744. Also, support information and weekly internet chat sessions can be found through the American Fertility Association at www.afafamilymatters.com.

716-839-3057