Most couples’ lives are built around conception and reproduction after a few years of being together and as a result, if faced with challenges while conceiving, it can lead to emotional and mental stress in both spouses. A stress reaction can be triggered by a person’s psychological state where infertility is one of the most significant life difficulties that can lead to psychological stress and the most common psychological illnesses among infertile patients are anxiety, sadness and stress.
Failure to obtain conception after twelve months of unprotected intercourse if the female partner is less than 35 years of age or within six months in women over the age of 35, is described as infertility. IVF patients have reported greater rates of stress, anxiety and depression compared to the general population and there are studies which imply that stress of any sort can lead to lower IVF success rates.
Talking about how stress affects fertility, Dr Ritu Hinduja, Fertility Consultant at Nova IVF Fertility in Mumbai, explained, “Persistent stress has been shown to sensitise the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, which is important for neuroendocrine activities. This may have a detrimental influence on fertility, leading to the development of stress, anxiety, and depression and thus building a vicious loop. To back up this claim, the amount of time it takes to conceive has been linked to stress in infertile couples.”
She added, “While stress is unlikely to cause infertility on its own, it does interfere with a woman’s capacity to conceive. According to research, women who have a history of depression are twice as likely to have infertility. Anxiety might also lengthen the time it takes to become pregnant.”
Suggesting tips to manage stress, the health expert highlighted, “Everyone experiences stress from time to time. Thus, whether you are stressed out at work or worried about a huge move, it won’t harm your baby-making ability but if your stress is prolonged or if you are coping with a severe upheaval such as unemployment or a death in the family, your ovulation may be thrown off.”
Dr Ritu Hinduja revealed, “According to the CDC, one in every ten women of reproductive age has difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term. There is usually a physical cause, such as obstructed fallopian tubes. But, as the months pass without a pregnancy, stress may set in. Even though studies haven’t shown a clear correlation between stress therapies and chances of getting pregnant, improving mental health is always a win.”
So, how can you exert control over an unpredictable event in order to mitigate the possible influence of stress on your fertility? Dr Ritu Hinduja advised, “Control your stress levels with exercise, yoga, meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy, individual and group therapy and mindfulness practises. Since infertility is such a common source of melancholy and anxiety, it is especially crucial to prioritise mental health help , which is now easily available for throughout fertility treatments.” She recommended:
1. Take the effort to remedy external things that may be causing you stress. Strive for better work-life balance, make time for friends, and concentrate on strengthening your relationship if you have one.
2. Get assistance from your partner – According to a 2018 study, couples who are both emotionally impacted by infertility should be receptive to psychological therapies. According to another 2017 study, psychological support for couples receiving fertility treatments can lower cortisol levels and mental discomfort, all of which can enhance pregnancy outcomes.
She concluded, “Although stress may not directly cause infertility, it can lead to lifestyle factors that make pregnancy more difficult. Apart from the usual pressures, you may realise that infertility itself creates a great deal of anxiety. Consider seeing a therapist to help you feel less stressed. According to research, couples who had IVF treatment as well as counselling had double the success rate of their counterparts who did not get therapy. Counselling may not immediately assist you in becoming pregnant but it may reduce your stress levels, allowing you to adopt healthier lifestyle choices that will benefit your reproductive health and fertility.”