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1 September 2005
Stress Won't Affect IVF Success

In the past, research on the effects of psychological stress on IVF success has been confusing, with some studies finding an association and others not. Now, new research from Sweden has shown that psychological stress does not appear to influence the outcome of IVF. Welcome news for women who fear that the anxiety that they suffer during fertility treatment might damage their chances of conceiving.

"We can use these findings to reassure women and this information should, in itself, help to reduce their stress and worry levels," said lead author of the study Dr Lisbeth Anderheim, from the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg.

The new study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, has the strength of being prospective, and does not rely on answers given after the patients found out whether their treatment was successful. The questionnaire used measured well-being according to the Psychological General Well-Being index. The results of the pre-treatment questionnaire showed no difference between those who became pregnant and those who didn't. The analysis of the second questionnaire answered just before egg retrieval again showed no difference between those who conceived and those who didn't. "The only variable that was significantly associated with pregnancy was the number of good quality embryos transferred,' said Anderheim.

Anderheim cautioned that it was possible that the patients were keeping their worries to themselves because they had great expectations and were giving answers that were more positive than they felt. However, the fact that it was impossible to establish a link was encouraging. "During IVF treatment patients frequently ask about the relationship between psychological stress and outcome and often express worries that their own stress might have a negative influence, so the fact that our prospective study did not indicate any relationship is reassuring. This is a positive message we can give our patients to help decrease their stress at this time," Anderheim said in conclusion.

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