Thursday, February 25, 2010
Does stress affect the outcome of an IVF cycle ?
When an IVF cycle fails, often the patient's world falls apart. Everyone does a post-mortem including the couple, the doctor and the rest of the world ! Why did it fail ? Why did the uterus reject the embryo ? Did we do anything wrong to cause the embryo to fall out ? What can we do differently the next time ? Are we destined to fail every time ?
In the desperate search for answers, many doctors will play the game of blaming the victim. Rather than be honest and tell the patient the plain truth that we really have no way of determining why an IVF cycle fails, they will tell the patient that the cycle failed because she did not rest enough, or because she was too stressed out !
This is very unfair - and blatantly false ! Stress has very little to do with the outcome of an IVF cycle. Implantation is a biological process which is not influenced by the state of mind . After all, even rape victims do get pregnant !
I agree that it's best for IVF patients to have a positive approach. It's much better for the doctor, for example , because I'd much rather treat patients who are smiling ! However, by telling the patient to "relax" or "not take stress", I think we sometimes do them a disservice. If the message is that a positive attitude increases IVF success rates, the hidden sub-text is - the IVF cycle failed because you were too negative or too stressed out ! This is adding insult to injury !
Programs like the Mind-Body program and books like The Secret are useful - but only upto a limit. We all need a more balanced approach. Many smart patients prefer being pessimistic and keeping their expectations low, because they find it easier to handle failure using this tactic. If we blame their failure on their " negative " state of mind, they just end up feeling even worse and thinking of themselves as losers.
I know this is a chicken and egg problem. Optimistic patients who success will broadcast their success to the entire world - and many will attribute their success to their positive attitude. They will then advise other patients to adopt the same attitude as well, if they want to succeed ! However, the truth is that pessimistic and negative patients have successful IVF cycles too - they just don't talk about them as much !
at 1:46 PM