Fertility treatment success is not prevented by stress

Image caption,
IVF is a popular assisted reproduction technique

Emotional distress does not affect the success of IVF or other assisted reproductive techniques, according to a study.

The report, published in the British Medical Journal aims to dispel the myth that stress prevents women from becoming pregnant.

Researchers from Cardiff University reviewed 14 previous studies involving 3,583 women.

Patient charity Infertility Network said the report was encouraging.

The report reviewed previous research studies into the efficacy of assisted reproduction therapy.

In the 14 studies examined, women had had their stress levels assessed before beginning treatment and then underwent a single cycle of assisted reproductive therapy.

Stress levels were measured using recognised psychological techniques and included traits such as anxiety, tension and depression.

In each study the researchers looked at whether women who were stressed before the start of their treatment were any more or less likely to become pregnant.

The results showed that stress had no impact on whether a woman became pregnant or not, with women who were stressed becoming pregnant at the same rates as those who were not.

Pregnancy myths

The lead researcher from Cardiff University, Professor Jacky Boivin, said that it was a "common myth" that women who were stressed would impede the effectiveness of fertility treatment.

She commented: "There are a lot of myths around how people get pregnant.

"Women having fertility treatment who do not get pregnant early on often blame themselves for getting too stressed out and the longer they remain not pregnant the more stressed they get. This just reinforces the myth."

However, she felt that it was important women did not ignore the stress that they were feeling: "Fertility treatments are stressful in themselves. Women should not ignore feeling stressed - because apart from anything it could mean that they do not persist with treatment."

Around one third of couples end assisted reproductive treatments early, because of the stress involved in undergoing treatment.

Clare Lewis-Jones, chief executive of the charity Infertility Network UK, said the report was encouraging, but agreed it was important not to ignore stress.

"Whilst stress may not impact on the success of treatment, the need for patients to receive support and understanding should not be ignored.

"Clinics should ensure that they make every effort to care for their patients not only in terms of the best possible treatment but also to support their emotional and practical needs."

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