Stress Rate Predicts Pregnancy after In Vitro Fertilization

Undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) can be an extremely stressful experience. Women who have tried to get pregnant in the past and were unsuccessful may see IVF as a last resort, of sorts. This can increase their anxiety and stress relating to IVF treatment. Stress has been shown to have a negative impact on reproduction in general, and is especially detrimental to IVF success. However, few studies have looked at how stress fluctuates over the IVF cycle and how anxiety and stress at different times during IVF treatment affect pregnancy success.

Kathy Turner of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Stanford University School of Medicine in California wanted to examine the influence of stress on IVF. In a recent study, Turner assessed the stress levels of 44 women as they underwent IVF. She evaluated their stress at three different time points, and also compared stress and anxiety of women receiving their first IVF treatment to those who undergoing subsequent treatments.

Turner found that stress levels were elevated at all three time points for all of the women. But resiliency was higher among the first-time IVF recipients. In other words, the women who had received IVF before had steeper declines in self-efficacy than those undergoing their first cycle.

Interestingly, stress levels measured one day before egg retrieval seemed to predict pregnancy. The women who had the lowest stress levels prior to egg retrieval were more likely to have successful pregnancies than those whose stress levels were higher at the same time. Turner specifically selected to measure stress on days that were not procedure days in an effort to reduce the chance of increased anxiety related to egg retrieval or embryo transfer.

In all, she believes that these findings show how significant stress is to reproduction, and in particular, to the success of IVF. Turner added, “These results emphasize the need to investigate stress reduction modalities throughout the IVF cycle.”

Turner, K., Reynolds-May, M.F., Zitek, E.M., Tisdale, R.L., Carlisle, A.B., et al. (2013). Stress and Anxiety Scores in First and Repeat IVF Cycles: A Pilot Study. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63743. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063743

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  • regina


    June 4th, 2013 at 11:02 AM

    There are so many couples who place all of their fertility hopes and dreams in IVF that it does become a very stressful experience for both of them. I wish that making babies didn’t have to be that way, and for the people who really don’t need them in the first place, those are the ones that you wish would be a little more stressed out about it. it is always the couples who truly want a baby and could provide for it that are the ones who have to go through this kind of experience and it is no surprise just how much stress can play a role in theri success rate for pregnancy. Maybe doctors who perform this should also refer their patients to a counselor who could help them to sort a lot of this out while going through the process, and I ill bet that if more couples knew just how effective a little stress relief could be to their chances for getting pregnant many of them would jump at the chance to implement those services.

  • Keith


    June 5th, 2013 at 3:59 AM

    This was hands down the most stressful thing that my wife and I ever did.
    We ended up adopting which was so much easier in the end and caused far less stress in our marriage.
    I strongly encourage other couples who experience infertility to try adoption.

  • Latasha


    June 5th, 2013 at 11:12 AM

    I understand how stress can bring in body changes but hey,how is this even related to the reproductive system?Aren’t stress and reproduction hormones controlled by different areas of the brain and through completely different organs?How does this play out in a physical sense?I would like to know more on this.

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