Stress Won’t Negatively Impact Fertility Treatment

Many women find infertility and subsequent treatments to try to conceive extremely stressful, and the entire process can be emotionally draining. One worry is that all this emotional stress could affect the outcome of any infertility treatment, but thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Recent research analyzed 20 studies that looked at the stress associated with infertility. Previously it’s been shown that the inability to conceive can lead to some women feeling as if they are different or defective, resulting in anxiety, depression, and loneliness. But, the good news is that emotional distress doesn’t seem to result in poorer treatment outcomes, regardless of a woman’s treatment history or how long they have been suffering from infertility.

It’s estimated that 70 million women throughout the world are infertile which means they have been unable to conceive after a year of trying. In the United States, the figure is estimated to be about 1.5 million. Around half of these women will seek treatment and the two most common treatments used are in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Many women will find treatment is successful and around a third of patients in Europe who have in vitro fertilization will become pregnant, while the figure is more than half for women under the age of 35 in the United States.

Unfortunately, the success rate does go down with age, and for American women aged over 42, the success rate is just 7%. Treatment for infertility can be lengthy and grueling, involving ultrasounds, surgical procedures, hormone injections, and blood testing. It’s also far from cheap and is estimated to cost between $10,000 and $15,000 depending on the woman’s location and their insurance coverage.

There’s no doubt the entire experience is stressful, but studies that involved more than 4000 women with an average age of between 30 and 36 found no correlation between emotional distress and an increased risk that fertility treatment may not work. These investigations tracked women’s levels of stress, depression, and anxiety before they began fertility treatment while others looked at these factors during fertility treatment.

Even if stress and anxiety don’t affect the outcome, experts still feel it’s important to alleviate it wherever possible. Having good coping skills and being able to manage stress could help to ease the impact of infertility and may help when going through infertility treatment. Unfortunately, many couples will give up on infertility treatment because they find the entire process such a strain. Even couples who feel relatively relaxed will experience some level of stress.

The outcome of this study isn’t a surprise to experts providing infertility treatment who are at pains to point out that women have become pregnant and have had successful pregnancies, even while coping with the most stressful situations, whether natural or man-made.

When to Seek Infertility Treatment?

Usually, couples trying for a baby are advised to wait a year. Approximately 85% of couples will conceive naturally in a year of trying. However, women who are a bit older or who have a medical history that could potentially affect their fertility should seek professional advice from their obstetrician or gynecologist earlier. Possible factors that could affect fertility include exposure to certain chemicals, a history of cancer, or even just an irregular menstrual cycle.

It’s usually possible to have a quick physical exam, or your doctor may suggest a complete infertility workup and especially when a couple is aged 35 or older. With an older couple, it’s recommended they try for six months instead of leaving it for an entire year. Most couples will be successful during this time, but fertility declines rapidly after age 35. It’s better to begin infertility treatment sooner rather than later because, at some stage, doctors may be unable to help.

Having a complete workup will help to identify the cause of the problem, and your doctor will want to examine you both. A complete workup includes a semen analysis for the male partner, while testing for women is more comprehensive. It includes blood testing to check hormone levels, a Pap smear test to check for any signs of infection or changes to the cells of the cervix, and possibly an x-ray procedure to make sure the fallopian tubes are open and to detect any abnormalities in the uterus. Because the tests for women are far more comprehensive, it’s often suggested that men get tested first, but for couples who want an evaluation as quickly as possible, both partners can be tested simultaneously.

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