Stress does not reduce the success of IVF

During IVF treatment, patients frequently ask about the relationship between psychological stress and IVF success. They often express concern that their own stress might have a negative influence on the outcome of IVF. Furthermore, support groups have advanced the notion that stress reduction can result in greater IVF success. Groups offering stress reduction services have been actively promoting themselves by citing the results of small scale studies pointing to the benefit of their own services towards improving the success of IVF (at a price of course).

A 2005 study of 166 infertile women looked at whether stress affected the success of IVF. All of the women in this study were treated using a standard IVF treatment regimen. The women answered extensive questionnaires concerning psychological factors. The first questionnaire was filled in one month before the onset of IVF treatment and the second questionnaire was completed one hour before the egg retrieval. 

The questionnaires included the following:

General psychological well-being was measured by the Psychological General Well-Being (PGWB) index. The PGWB contains 22 items with six response alternatives. The higher the value measured on the index, the better the well-being.

In addition to a total score for the index, there are sub-scores for anxiety, depressed mood, positive well-being, self-control, general health and vitality. In addition to the well-evaluated PGWB, psychological effects of infertility were measured by 14 items (guilt, success, anger, contentment, frustration, happiness, isolation, confidence, anxiety, satisfaction, depression, powerlessness, competence and control). Each item was graded from 1 to 5. Low figures indicate well-being.

The PGWB results did not differ between pregnant and non-pregnant women. In general, the PGWB values were comparable with reference values reflecting that the women starting IVF treatment were in good psychological health. When analyzing each of the 14 items in the questionnaire concerning the psychological effects of infertility, no differences were found between women who got pregnant and those who did not.

Even when the analysis was restricted to compare those women with the most abnormal scores, there was still no difference seen between those women who became pregnant with IVF and those who did not. 

The results of this study do not indicate any relationship between perceived psychological stress or perceived psychological well-being before or during the first IVF treatment and IVF success. These results can be regarded as reassuring and can help to decrease the stress experienced by patients.