Infertility and Stress

“You’re just trying too hard.  You’re too stressed out, relax and it will happen.”

If you are trying to get pregnant you have probably heard this advice from family or friends. But is is true? Read on, you might be surprised.

Can stress cause infertility?

Probably not.  Infertility is very stressful, but there isn’t any GOOD proof that stress causes infertility. Researchers have looked at the effect stress may have on infertility treatments and the news is reassuring.  A meta-analysis of 14 studies was recently published in the British Medical Journal.

Stress and infertility

These studies included 3,583 infertile women. The results support the view that emotional distress, for example feelings of tension, worry or nervousness caused by the infertility treatment or other life events are unlikely to affect fertility treatment outcomes.

Can infertility cause stress?

Absolutely yes!  Infertile women report higher levels of stress and anxiety than fertile women, and there is some indication that infertile women are more likely to become depressed.  Studies show many women who are being treated for infertility have as much stress as women who have cancer or heart disease.  The effects of infertility can interfere with work, family, money and sex.

What can I do to decrease my stress?

Talk to your partner. Take time to remember what you value about your relationship. Relationships have many positive aspects besides reproduction.  Consider your companionship, emotional support, making a home together, sharing leisure activities, and building a financial future.

  • Realize you’re not alone. Talk to other people who have infertility, through individual or couple counseling, or support groups.
  • Read books on infertility, which will show you that your feelings are normal and can help you deal with them.
  • Learn stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or acupuncture.
  • Avoid caffeine or other stimulants.
  • Exercise regularly to release physical and emotional tension.   
  • Have a medical treatment plan with which both you and your partner are comfortable.
  • Learn as much as you can about the cause of your infertility and the treatment options available. 
  • Find out as much as you can about your insurance coverage and make financial plans regarding your fertility treatments.

When should I seek professional help?

It may be hard to know when emotional responses to the pain and frustration of infertility are within normal, expected range or are excessive and problematic.

If you are experiencing any of the following feelings, you may want to see an infertility counselor or therapist:

  • You have felt sad, depressed, or hopeless for longer than two weeks.
  • You have noticed changes in your appetite, either eating more or less than usual.
  • You are having trouble sleeping or are sleeping more than usual. You awaken not feeling rested.
  • You feel anxious, agitated, and worried much of the time.
  • You have panic attacks–particularly related to infertility situations or issues.
  • You feel lethargic or have lost interest in usually enjoyable activities.
  • You have trouble concentrating, are easily distracted, and/or have difficulty making decisions.
  • You have persistent feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • You feel easily irritated, angry, and frustrated.
  • You have thoughts of death or dying.
  • You have lost interest in sex and/or fail to have orgasms.
  • Relationships with friends and family are no longer rewarding and enjoyable and you prefer being alone.

Our infertility team can offer support and compassion. We know this is a difficult process.

People who read this article also found this article of interest


American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Retrieved 4/15/2010 from:

Burns, L.H. When to seek professional help
Retrieved 3/36/2010 from:

Boivin, J. Griffiths, E. Emotional distress in infertile women and failure of assisted reproductive technologies: meta-analysis of prospective psychosocial studies, British Medical Journal, 2011;342:d223