Friday, January 06, 2012

Can stress cause an IVF cycle to fail ?

There are more myths about stress and IVF than about any other area of reproductive medicine. It's become fashionable to blame stress for every failed IVF cycle - which is why "mind-body" programs which teach patients how to manage their stress have become so popular.

When an IVF cycle has gone well ( good embryos; a good uterine lining; and an easy embryo transfer) , patients expect to get pregnant. Doctors are also usually quite optimistic at the time of embryo transfer , because they want to cheer up the patient !

When a perfect IVF cycle fails, the doctor ( and the mother in law and the husband) will often blame the patient - You took too much stress, which is why your body rejected the embryos.
You need to relax, otherwise all your IVF cycles will fail. You are too uptight and highly wound , which is why all your cycles have failed so far.

Sadly, most patients also buy into this argument - after all, it's impossible to disprove ! Since they already suffer from low self esteem, many believe that it's their fault that the beautiful embryos did not implant.

I think this is a cruel form of victim blaming. Every IVF patient is stressed out - after all, no one looks forward to doing IVF . If stress caused IVF cycles to fail, then no IVF patient would ever get pregnant !

We need to remember that embryo implantation is a biological process , which is not affected by stress levels. Let's not forget that a woman who gets raped can also get pregnant - and we all know how sky high her stress levels must be !

I believe that stress does not affect the outcome of the IVF cycle. Everyone has different ways of coping with the stress in their life; and with the stress of the IVF cycle. Some people take this in their stride, while others go to pieces. However, this does not correlate with the outcome of the IVF cycle.

Yes, it's true that your ability to cope with stress does affect the IVF treatment process. It's much easier for you ( and your spouse !) to deal with the emotional roller coaster ride if you learn how to manage your stress. This is why programs such as Inner Engineering and the Art of Living can be so helpful - they teach you how to still your mind and deal with failures and uncertainty.

However, please don't blame your stress levels if the cycle fails - and don't let anyone else blame these either !

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