By Cristina Mestre Ferrer BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 02/23/2015

In many occasions, psychology and sterility are closely connected. Some emotional factors difficult the conception, even when the couple doesn’t present any physical alterations able to prevent a pregnancy.

Sometimes, the same concern related to not getting pregnant is to blame for a woman not being able to conceive. This is called unexplained infertility, that is to say, a couple with no physical problems is unable to have children. This type of infertility happens, statistically speaking, in 10% of the cases. What psychological or emotional factors can cause infertility?

The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.

How does infertility affect mental health?

Some couples, after they decide to have a child, experience a real invasion of negative thoughts. Will the baby be born healthy? Will I be able to take care of him? And many more that will, undoubtedly, negatively influence the process of conception. All these reflections may vary according to the sex of the person.

In women

The main reason for psychological sterility in women is the alteration of ovulation, that is to say, any psychological problem can directly affect the woman’s menstrual cycle and, all that pertains to the ovulation cycle affects the female capacity to conceive.

Among the main causes of this disorder are some concerns, such as:

  • That the baby is born healthy.
  • The responsibility that comes with motherhood. Women often think that they will not be able to care of their child.
  • Anxiety: from the moment when a woman decides she wants to be a mother to the moment she learns she is pregnant, more than a year might pass. After a year, if the woman hasn’t gotten pregnant she feels anxious about it and that can make the conception process take longer to be achieved.
  • Sudden changes in habits: the moment when a sudden change happens in a woman’s life her ovulation might be affected. The death of a loved one, a sudden accident or any situation able to induce a state of shock might difficult the conception.

Anxious woman

In men

When it comes to men, any emotional disturbance can affect the quality of the semen.

The formation of spermatozoids and its maintenance is very sensitive to external stimuli, and environmental conditions can seriously affect them. While men usually feel less anxious when facing fatherhood, they can also feel overwhelmed by a certain pessimism in regard to issues such as family finance.

The quality of sperm can be affected for several reasons:

  • An unhealthy life.
  • Concern about the costs involved in having a child grow in the house.
  • Instability of the couple that may damage the sex. Anxiety in men can cause ejaculation or erection problems.
  • Stress.

Often, the medicine has downplayed the importance of these factors when treating infertility problems. Nowadays, there are some studies that emphasize such issues and recommend that they be treated by professionals.

Psychological factors in men

Treatment

In some cases, the problems can be easy solved. Sometimes, finding other activities that interest us may be the solution: a journey that helps us relax, reading a book we like or practicing any activity that challenges us helps us stop thinking that our goals will not be achieved.

When this is not enough, couples are advised to visit a psychologist in order to try to address the problem and, in case its necessary, to be prepared to assess other possibilities such as assisted reproduction.

Specialists help the couple to overcome anxiety, to understand that it’s normal to fear parenthood and that they have the right to feel overwhelmed every now and then.

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Authors and contributors

 Cristina Mestre Ferrer
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences, Genetics & Human Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV). Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the UV and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Embryologist at IVI Barcelona. More information
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