Stress does not affect IVF outcome
Dr. Kirsty Horsey
Progress Educational Trust28 August 2005
A study by researchers at University Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, have found that stress and anxiety do not affect the chances of a woman getting pregnant while receiving fertility treatment.
Out of 166 women who answered the initial questionnaire, 139 women had embryos available for transfer during the study. Fifty-eight women got pregnant while 81 did not. The woman's state of mind, as assessed by the initial questionnaire and then a second questionnaire immediately before her eggs were retrieved, made no difference as to whether she became pregnant or not. The researchers saw similar pregnancy rates in women reporting anxiety and depression and women who did not. The number of good quality embryos was the only variable linked to getting pregnant.
The questionnaire used in the study was the Psychological General Well-Being (PGWB) index. This measures the women's emotions, general health, relationship with their partners, lifestyle, outlook on life and the intensity of their desire for a child. The initial questionnaire was given before the women started treatment. The second questionnaire was administered just before egg retrieval because patients often express worry and anxiety at this point. Since questions were asked before the embryo transfer, the answers given could not be influenced by whether the treatment had been successful or not. However, it did not guarantee women answered truthfully, and did not give answers that were more positive than they felt.
Past research does not agree as to whether stress and anxiety contribute to failure to achieve a pregnancy. Some studies suggest they do, and women have been cautioned it could hurt their chances of becoming pregnant. Though this study does not provide a definite answer, it does, due to its size and design, lend weight to the idea that stress and anxiety do not decrease a woman's chance of getting pregnant. Dr Lisbeth Anderheim, lead author of the paper, published in the journal Human Reproduction, stated, 'we can use these findings to reassure women, and this information should, in itself, help to reduce their stress and worry'.
Though stress may not be linked to the outcome of IVF, it is a 'very real factor throughout the infertility process and the psychological and emotional distress caused affects every part of a couple's life', according to Infertility Network UK, a national organisation providing help and support to infertility sufferers.
Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.