Sunday, March 06, 2016

How Stress Affects IVF Success Rates



Lots of couples believe that being stressed out will reduce their chance of getting pregnant in an IVF cycle. After all, doesn't everyone know that stress is bad for you, and that it can harm the delicate balance of the reproductive system ?

Many patients blame themselves for their IVF failure by feeling that they prevented their embryos from implanting because of their high stress levels . This is especially true when they start getting early pregnancy symptoms .They start believing that this proves that their embryos implanted, but they couldn't hold onto them, because they were too stressed out , and this caused them to "reject" their embryos. This is one of the reasons why mind / body programs on stress reduction are very popular in IVF clinics - they help patients to cope with their stress better.

However, the truth between stress and IVF success is a little bit more nuanced. I honestly don't think that stress levels affect IVF success rates, because embryo implantation is a biological process and whether you're stressed out or not , if the embryo is going to implant , it will. For example, a woman who gets raped has enormous stress levels , but if she's going to get pregnant , she does. I don't believe that stress causes infertility, I think it's the infertility which causes the stress ! I feel that blaming the stress for the IVF failure is a bit like blaming the victim for being unable to control a biological process , and I think that's unfair.

However, I also believe that patients who can cope with their stress more effectively are much more willing to go through a second and a third IVF cycle. This is what really makes the difference between IVF success and IVF failure for an individual. Patients who are extremely stressed out and cannot cope with the ups and downs of the first IVF cycle will refuse to do a second cycle.  They drop out , and thus deprive themselves of their chance of  having a baby. Because they don't have emotional stamina, they don't  give themselves enough opportunities to allow their IVF cycle to succeed. On the other hand, patients who can cope with their stress well are quite willing to do a second and a third cycle if required. They are mentally prepared and emotionally resilient, which means that over time, their cumulative conception rate is much higher !


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