Stress & Infertility

Stress & infertility at a glance

  • Infertility can be a physically taxing condition, but often the emotional aspects can be just as difficult.
  • Personal life, relationships, self-esteem and even self-image may be significantly affected by stress caused by treatments, or infertility itself.
  • Because of this, it is important to find avenues for reducing stress, anxiety, and tension to change the state of mind created from all the negative emotions.

Handling stress when dealing with infertility

Infertility can be a physically taxing condition, but often the emotional aspects can be just as difficult. It is common to feel stress in the form of sadness, guilt, anger, and anxiety. Personal life, relationships, self-esteem and even self-image may be significantly affected.

Dealing with these emotions and feelings will vary for each person or couple, but talking to someone about how you feel can help alleviate hard-to-handle emotional responses and effects that make infertility so challenging. Seeking support, from family and friends or with medical caregivers or professional counselors, prevents isolation and gives the individual or couple struggling with infertility a resource where they can share their struggle.

Making thought-out decisions about infertility treatment can help take that pressure off when actually undergoing treatment. For instance, how far or how many cycles will be tried in order to conceive? At what point should treatment be stopped if pregnancy has not been achieved? Arriving at these important decisions ahead of time avoids adding more stress later on and helps a couple be on the same page.

The stress of fertility treatments

While fertility doctors and their supporting staff try very hard to be supportive of their patients, the stress caused by infertility is trying and hard to avoid. Medications and temperature must be taken on schedule. Masturbation to produce a semen sample must be performed on demand. Constant contact with doctors, nurses, needles, and tubes can be taxing on the mind and spirit. Not to mention the emotional build up of a cycle can create a spiraling letdown if it doesn’t work and the process must start over.

Although a little bit of stress can motivate action to produce results, everyone has their threshold, and passing that threshold of stress can adversely affect health and even fertility treatment success. Infertile women are more likely to become depressed and report higher levels of anxiety than fertile women, often due to the far-reaching effects of infertility on family, intimacy, finances, and work.

Because of this, it is important to find avenues for reducing stress, anxiety, and tension to change the state of mind created from all the negative emotions. Signs that might point to the need for counseling include:

  • Marital discord
  • Social isolation
  • Difficulty with scheduled intercourse
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in usual activities and relationships
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Increased mood swings
  • Constant preoccupation with infertility
  • Difficulty concentrating and remembering
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • A change in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Persistent back or neck pain
  • Thoughts about suicide or death

Strategies to reduce stress

Again, the emotional effect of infertility will affect each person differently, so relieving stress varies for each person or couple. However, some basic strategies that do tend to work for the majority of people include:

  • Meditation or progressive muscle relaxation
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Cognitive behavioral therapies that examine automatic recurrent negative thoughts
  • Writing in a journal
  • Lifestyle modification
  • Social support