Infertility: Is it Stress Related

The stressful nature of infertility has long been recognized. In earlier years, the focus was on whether psychological stress or psychopathology prevented conception, particularly for women. With advances in the technological assessment of fertility's organic causes, the number of couples with unexplained infertility has decreased, resulting in less emphasis on mysterious psychological causes of infertility. Stress could interfere with pregnancy through direct hormonal effects, or indirectly by impairing a couple's capacity to have effective sexual intercourse or to follow the complex instructions and sexual prescriptions involved in medical treatment. However, the major focus of mental health care for infertile couples is to help them cope with the emotional impact of infertility treatment.

The "normal" stress of infertility treatment

Why is psychological distress a normal state while going through infertility treatment? A diagnosis of infertility is always stressful. Some men or women might already know or suspect that they are infertile; for example, if they have undergone cancer chemotherapy in the past or have had endometriosis. For others, the failure to conceive a child is very much a surprise. Many couples do not realize that in about 40 percent of infertile couples, a male factor contributes to the problem. The following factors can emotionally influence couples who have been diagnosed as infertile and/or who might be considering infertility treatment:
  • Uncertainty about the success of fertility treatment
  • Grief associated with infertility diagnosis
  • Feeling of losing control
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Financial strain
  • Marital stress
  • Sexual pressure
  • Family pressure