Assisted reproductive technology outcomes can be affected by emotional distress.

Nearly 70 million partnered women of reproductive age worldwide, including 1.5 million in the U.S., are infertile which is defined as not being able to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse. Being female is associated with the ability to conceive and bear a child by many people. Therefore, infertility can make a woman feel different, defective, or out of step with her peers. It can also disrupt a woman's life goals and result in loneliness.

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) has become an increasingly common treatment for infertility. But even though it is considered life-changing, the procedures are often physically demanding. All of the treatment stages can be distressing. Before the treatment, some women experience fear and emotional or religious dilemmas.

A review examined the association of infertile women's distress with the outcome of IVF and ICSI treatment. Associations with distress both before and during treatment were examined as previous research suggests that these time periods may be associated with different risks for women undergoing IVF. Studies were reviewed that operationalized distress by assessing state anxiety, depression, or stress (perceived general stress, infertility-related stress, or occupational stress).


There was a small, statistically nonsignificant overall effect size of stress, anxiety and depression before the start of treatment on the likelihood of treatment success. Women who experience elevated anxiety, depressive symptoms, or stress before treatment and those who experience elevated anxiety or depressive symptoms during treatment were not more likely to have unfavourable ART outcomes.

Results clarify and offer careful analysis indicating that women's emotional distress does not appear to be detrimental to the success of treatment through ART. However, there is a pressing need to alleviate the distress associated with infertility, infertility treatment, and treatment failure.

Developing and delivering psychological interventions that focus on stress management and coping skills training may help reduce the considerable personal, familial, and societal impact of infertility and its treatment. Targeting the psychological burden associated with infertility treatment on women and on their partners–who are often not the focus of this research – may enable couples to remain in treatment and help allay their distress. What is at stake for many women and their partners is the ability to fulfil their vital life goals of bearing and raising children.

Source: Just relax and you'll get pregnant? Meta-analysis examining women's emotional distress and the outcome of assisted reproductive technology
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