New studies look at infertility and stress during the pandemic

Two recent studies published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics looked at the role stress has on infertility and how the Coronavirus pandemic affecting infertility.

One study found a majority of the women it surveyed believe emotional stress caused or increased infertility while another found most of its 787 participants were distressed by fertility treatment delays caused by the pandemic.

April Hicks said she and her husband have been trying to get pregnant for years and decided to do IVF in December 2020. She said her stress levels increased.

"I just wanted to make sure that my eggs were very good. I wanted to make sure that they fertilized."

While it was not successful, Hicks said she plans on doing a second round.

"For me, I felt like because I was constantly worried, constantly… thinking about… the what-if factor, I think that did play a major role."

A new study published in JARG found 98 percent of the nearly 1,500 women who were surveyed considered emotional stress caused or increased infertility.

Reproductive Specialist and Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist Dr. Mark Trolice wrote a commentary on one of the studies and it was published in JARG. He said which came first, the stress of infertility, is a controversy still up for debate.

"People don't try to get pregnant and immediately when they try the first month are stressed. It’s pretty unusual right? Over time they're going to increase the stress if it's not happening in the timeframe that they are expecting," Dr. Trolice said. Over time, I think fertility clearly causes stress. Then there was a study by Dr. Domar that showed that reduction in stress can improve outcome, and I feel that's the case as well."

Dr. Trolice said everyone been dealing with a lot of stress since the pandemic and women had to put their fertility on hold when elective procedures temporarily stopped during the pandemic.

Another recent study published in JARG found most of its nearly 800 participants were distressed by fertility treatment delays. Nearly a quarter said it was as distressing as losing a child.

When it comes to navigating infertility treatments, Dr. Trolice recommends women talk to a mental health professional and stay positive.

"I don't think that it's fair to tell patients just relax you're going to get pregnant. I think that putting blame on the individual." Dr. Trolice said, "We do know that there is an advantage of stress reduction and improving outcome. We know that acute and chronic stress do play a role in reducing outcomes with in vitro fertilization like response to medications and live birth rate and things like that."

To read more about the JARG studies click here and here.