Infertility, in general can lead to enormous amounts of stress, both psychologically and emotionally. Different kinds of thoughts may be running across your mind such as loss of hope, fear of permanent infertility, fear of fertility treatments, doubts about success or failure of treatments, etc., all of which contribute to stress before, during and after In vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. Studies have revealed that retrieval of eggs and pregnancy tests are the most stressful stages of IVF treatment.

Each person experiences different levels of stress during their IVF treatment, based on their individual personality, personal experiences and circumstances. It is important to understand the impacts of stress on IVF treatment and essential measures to be taken to cope with the stress. Let us look at how stress affects IVF treatment and some tips to keep in mind:

Effects of stress on IVF treatment

During stress, the development of ovaries can be delayed or blocked, due to increased levels of cortisone and norepinephrine hormones, eventually delaying the process of embryo transfer into the uterus. Several studies have indicated that women with high levels of anxiety and stress hormones have lower rates of pregnancy with IVF.

Increased epinephrine level leads to accumulation of epinephrine in the fluid within the ovary, which compromises the quality of the embryo. Infertility related stress associated with high cortisol and epinephrine concentrations has shown to cause failed implantation and overall negative impact on the pregnancy outcomes with IVF.

Tips to overcome stress during IVF treatment

  • Having adequate knowledge and information

One of the most important aspects of overcoming your stress is to have enough information and knowledge about your IVF procedure before getting into it so that the process does not come as a surprise to you. Gaining enough knowledge helps you understand the process better in order to be prepared for it.

You may read different articles available on the internet from proper sources, discuss with your healthcare provider, take inputs from people who have previously undergone IVF treatment, etc. This gives you more confidence and reduces your anxiety and stress about going through the process.

  • Plan ahead

Plan ahead about how you are going to deal with any unexpected changes and difficulties you may face during the procedure. Discuss with your partner and accept that the process may be successful or unsuccessful at any stage. Find some indulging activities to divert your mind during the waiting period between embryo transfer and pregnancy tests.

Consider where and whom you want to be around when you hear the news. In case of a negative report you may wait for a few days before you spill the news to all your friends/family members. This gives you some time to breathe, digest the news, cope with it and think about what needs to be done further. 

  • Identify your personal coping mechanism

Each individual may have different ways to cope with one’s stress. Understand what would be the best way for you and also give your partner the space to deal with it in their own way. Recollect what has worked for you in the past. For example, some people may reduce stress by communicating with their close ones and receiving support, while some may prefer some activities or hobbies they like to engage in.

In addition to these, physical exercise, humour, body and mind relaxation techniques, etc. can provide great results in relieving your stress.

Determine your support system

We all know that there can be no better support system than friends and family. However, telling too many people just creates additional pressure on you and you might want to avoid that. You may choose one or two persons who you are the most comfortable with and have the confidence that they will support you through any kind of circumstances.

Apart from your regular circle of friends/ family you may also join IVF support groups, infertility help groups or be part of organizations specially dedicated to infertility. These may be great sources of support to alleviate your stress.

  • Communicate with your partner

Make it a point to communicate with your partner about your expectations before starting the IVF procedure. Try to comfort each other on days when either of you are low. Try to inculcate positive thoughts in each other by looking at success stories related to IVF. You may avoid constantly talking about IVF and discuss about other aspects of your life and future. When both of you are in an emotionally low phase, counselling can be extremely helpful to overcome your stress.

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  2. Preparing for IVF: Emotional Considerations. Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology.
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  3. 5 Tips for Managing Stress During IVF. New York Fertility Institute.
    Accessed on 6 July, 2021.
  4. Daniel M. Campagne, Should fertilization treatment start with reducing stress? Human Reproduction. (2006); Vol 21; 7; 1651–1658.
    Accessed on 6 July, 2021.
  5. Smeenk J, Verhaak C, Vingerhoets A et al. Stress and outcome success in IVF: the role of self-reports and endocrine variables. Human Reproduction. (2005); 20(4):991-996.
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  6. Turner K, Reynolds-May M, Zitek E, Tisdale R, Carlisle A, Westphal L. Stress and Anxiety Scores in First and Repeat IVF Cycles: A Pilot Study. PLoS One. (2013) ;8(5):e63743.
    Accessed on 6 July, 2021.

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