Stress & Emotional Distress in Assisted Reproductive Technology

By (embryologist) and (fertility counselor).
Last Update: 09/01/2015

High levels of stress are present in many cases of women undergoing Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Fertility problems are not easy to cope with.

Many couples need psychological help to be able to face these problems and the assisted reproductive treatment. This situation creates many emotions, such as frustration or anxiety, which may lead to a state of stress that further increases the inability to conceive.

The root of the problem is not only coping with infertility but also assuming that, on the one hand, you need help, and, on the other hand, you may need to resort to a fertility treatment. According to specialists, stress levels among women who undergo assisted reproductive treatments are similar to those of people who suffer from severe conditions.

Provided below is an index with the 3 points we are going to expand on in this article.

Struggling with infertility

Infertility stands for the inability to naturally have children or to carry a pregnancy to term after a year of active sex life.

A couple may not be able to conceive without medical assistance for several different reasons. This situation is stressful for the couple, especially for the woman. According to Dr Victoria Verdú, Gynecology Coordinator at a Spanish fertility clinic, stress may have an impact on the reproductive process, either natural or using ART.

In 55% of cases, the root of the problem lies in female infertility problems. In this sense, the psychological factor plays a fundamental role. In women, it may even lead to anovulation. In men, it may reduce sperm quality and quantity.

Assisted reproductive technology

Thirty percent of couples undergoing ART need psychological help. One example is the fact that if pregnancy is not achieved on the first attempt, the patient's self-esteem may suffer a considerable "blow".

The follicular puncture, the embryo transfer, and the two-week wait before a pregnancy test can be done are the most stressful moments of any fertility treatment.

Even if the fertility treatment is successful and pregnancy is achieved, the couple's emotions continue to have an effect on pregnancy. The great joy and happiness that invades them is accompanied by uncertainty and fear, both related to how is the pregnancy going month by month.

Likewise, when the reproductive technique fails and the much-desired pregnancy is not achieved, the couple experiences feelings that can range from frustration and anguish to pity and despair. These situations and the couple's emotional state may difficult the next cycle.

In cases of repeated failures, it's common for the couples to abandon the treatments due to despair.

To avoid these problems, couples should seek expert counseling during the whole process.

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 Laura Garrido
Laura Garrido
B.Sc., M.Sc.
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Pablo de Olavide University (UPO) of Seville, Spain. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV) and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Experience at IVF, andrology, and general analysis laboratories. Embryologist specialized in Assisted Reproduction. More information about Laura Garrido
Adapted into english by:
 Sandra Fernández
Sandra Fernández
B.A., M.A.
Fertility Counselor
Bachelor of Arts in Translation and Interpreting (English, Spanish, Catalan, German) from the University of Valencia (UV) and Heriot-Watt University, Riccarton Campus (Edinburgh, UK). Postgraduate Course in Legal Translation from the University of Valencia. Specialist in Medical Translation, with several years of experience in the field of Assisted Reproduction. More information about Sandra Fernández

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