Researchers at the University of Aarhus in Denmark have uncovered preliminary evidence that appears to suggest a link between stress and the chances of success with in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Unlike other studies that focused on stress caused by infertility and the IVF treatment itself, this study[i] analyzed non-fertility-related, naturally occurring life stressors. Specifically, this research explored the association between IVF outcome and stressful life events during the previous 12 months. Read the study methods and results after the jump.
A sample of 809 women of an average age of 31.2 years were asked to complete validated questionnaires measuring perceived stress and depressive symptoms. The study revealed that the women who became pregnant via IVF had reported fewer non-fertility-related stressful life events than those who did not become pregnant. Statistical analysis of the data detailed that the number of stressful life events was a significant predictor of pregnancy. The women with fewer total number of stressful life events, lower perceived stress within the previous month, fewer depressive symptoms, and no relevant medical factors related to the patient or treatment procedure, showed a higher rate of success with IVF.
The researchers inferred that a large number of stressful life events with negative impact on quality of life may indicate chronic stress, and that this type of stress may reduce the chances of a successful outcome following IVF, possibly through psychobiological mechanisms affecting the number and quality of oocytes that become available for IVF treatment. In other words, ovarian response appears to be one of the most important predictors of pregnancy and may prove to be an important link in the association between psychological stressors and pregnancy.
[i] Human Reproduction. 2009;24(9):2173-2182.