When a couple is finally ready to have a baby and can’t get pregnant quickly, it typically leads to a lot of stress and anxiety. This anxiety doesn’t cause people to have fertility problems. After all, most couples start out the process quite relaxed or excited. As time goes on, however, stress and anxiety around fertility certainly compounds an already difficult process.
Can anxiety make a couple more infertile? Yes and no. Anxiety and stress alone in the short term does not seem to cause infertility, but it can determine how much a couple suffers while trying to conceive. A study published in Human Reproduction in 2013 showed that perceived stress and anxiety levels were high among all women undergoing in vitro Fertilization (IVF), but there were no differences in pregnancy outcomes between women who reported the highest levels of anxiety vs. the lowest.
When I mention this study to my patients undergoing IVF cycles, it usually gives them a huge amount of relief. Almost all women going through this process feel some anxiety and stress about it. The guilt of feeling like their stress and anxiety might be causing their infertility just compounds their already anxious state.
Interestingly, however, another study published in 2015 in BMJ Open explored how techniques to reduce stress in couples struggling to conceive showed improvements in both pregnancy outcomes and quality of life. This meta-analysis took data from several different studies, and the results indicate that, indeed, taking steps to lower stress and incorporating techniques such as talk therapy or mind-body therapies (like acupuncture) can help improve fertility outcomes while also increasing quality of life.
The take-home from these studies is that the fertility process is stressful, and patients typically experience a fair amount of anxiety, which intensifies during artificial reproductive treatments like IVF. The short-term anxiety experienced during an IVF treatment does not seem to affect a patient’s ability to conceive, but long-term anxiety and stress could have an impact on fertility. And so taking measures to manage this while trying to conceive is worthwhile and important.
Studies have shown that acupuncture is not only helpful for reducing stress and anxiety, but it also has a positive impact on reproductive health. In fact, one study showed that adding acupuncture during IVF may almost double your chances of conceiving. Regular acupuncture treatments may improve reproductive hormones, ovarian function, implantation, blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, and many other aspects involved in conception.
If you are trying to get pregnant and need some extra support, I recommend finding an acupuncturist in your area who specializes in fertility.