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How Stress Can Affect Your Chances at TTC

Another study conducted by Professor Eliahu Levitas and his team at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva, Israel, found that out of 185 women in the study, 28 percent of them who were hypnotized for their IVF treatment became pregnant, compared to 14 percent in the control group. According to Levitas, "Performing embryo transfer under hypnosis may significantly contribute to an increased clinical pregnancy rate."

Stress can also affect the sexual performance and the health of sperm in men. The journal Fertility and Sterility reported in 1987 on a study of 500 men whose sperm counts dropped when their partners were going through in vitro fertilization treatment. Another study published in 1992 in the Journal of Reproduction and Infant Psychology found that couples were less likely to achieve pregnancy if the man was depressed or had low self-esteem. Experts believe the brain chemicals that are released in men during times of intense stress constrict the smooth muscles of the penis and its arteries, reducing the blood flow to the penis and preventing erections.

There are other experts, however, who insist that too much emphasis is placed on stress as a factor in infertility. Dr. Estil Young Strawn Jr., Director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the Medical College of Wisconsin, states that "Women can and do become pregnant in life situations far more stressful than what many couples consider stressful. Specifically, in countries where there is open warfare and starvation conditions, women are becoming pregnant." Strawn believes that stress plays only a small role in infertility, and that stress more likely leads to relationship problems and loss of sex drive. Research published in a 2005 edition of the journal Human Reproduction backs up Dr. Strawn's assertion, showing that psychological stress does not appear to influence the outcome of IVF. In addition, the official position of prominent organizations, such as RESOLVE and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, remains that stress does not cause infertility.

Despite this ongoing scientific debate, if you have been categorized by your physician with "unexplained infertility," you may be helped by taking steps to reduce the level of stress in your life and find healthy ways to cope with unavoidable stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which addresses negative thinking, may be helpful to couples who are struggling to conceive. Berga and her colleagues recently conducted a study in which a group of women who had stopped ovulating for no clear reason underwent five months of CBT. Nearly 90 percent ovulated in the two months following their therapy, as opposed to only 25 percent of the women who didn't receive therapy.

Try the following tips to reduce stress:

  • Keep the lines of communication with your partner open.
  • Seek emotional support from a counselor, support groups, friends, and family.
  • Learn yoga or meditation techniques.
  • Avoid excessive intake of caffeine and other stimulants.
  • Exercise regularly to relieve physical and emotional tension.

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