Our patients often ask us: does stress cause infertility? There’s no clear and easy answer to this question. Some studies suggest a relationship between stress and infertility; others suggest infertility causes the stress to begin with. While we don’t have an exact answer for “does stress cause infertility,” we do have resources for stress management, which can help improve your daily life overall.
Does Stress Cause Infertility in Clinical Studies?
Several scientific studies have looked at the relationship between infertility and stress, and a relationship clearly exists. For instance, a summary of research indicates that anywhere from 25%-60% of individuals with infertility also have psychiatric issues, such as anxiety or depression. The idea that infertility causes stress will come as no surprise to anyone with infertility: it is an intensely emotional and complex experience.
However, it is harder to prove if stress by itself causes infertility. Some studies suggest that women with high levels of stress hormones have a harder time getting pregnant; others show no association between emotional distress and pregnancy.
Why is it so hard to tell if stress causes infertility? One major reason is that it’s a chicken-and-egg situation: people experiencing infertility are often stressed by that experience, so it’s difficult to tell if their ongoing infertility is made worse by their stress, or if their stress is made worse by their infertility. And, paradoxically, knowing that stress may affect infertility can often make a patient stressed about feeling stressed, which creates a vicious cycle–not to mention an unhealthy way to live.
So We Don’t Know if Stress Causes Infertility…Now What?
Fortunately, we don’t need a clear cut answer to this question. We know two things: infertility can be very stressful, and reducing stress improves overall quality of life. With that in mind, finding effective stress management techniques can help you more smoothly navigate your infertility journey.
There are lots of different ways to reduce stress, and each person has their own way of relaxing. Some common and effective tools for managing stress include:
- Counseling or support groups
- Deep breathing
- Spending time in nature
- Leaning on the support of loved ones
We also have some helpful links and a recommended reading list, which have further resources for managing stress. In particular, you can find two books about infertility and stress management here and here.
Does Stress Cause Infertility? Either Way, Take Care Of Yourself
Infertility can be a deeply emotionally distressing experience. Our goal is to provide compassionate and expert fertility guidance for each patient’s individual needs. We are here to help, whether that’s with counselors, exceptional medical care, or just as a sympathetic listener. Infertility can be stressful, but you’re not alone – contact us today.
For more information on the relationship between stress and infertility, check out this article by Dr. Lora Shahine.