Should fertilization treatment start with reducing stress?

Hum Reprod. 2006 Jul;21(7):1651-8. doi: 10.1093/humrep/del078. Epub 2006 Mar 16.


In the past few decades, new and more efficient techniques to help solve fertility problems have become widely available throughout the developed world. These techniques include hormonal stimulation, ICSI, gamete intra-Fallopian transfer (GIFT) and IVF, and their cost is, on average, considerable. There is substantial initial evidence that the psychological disposition of the parents-to-be influences their fertility and thus the outcome of fertilization techniques. Many fertility treatments include consultation with a psychologist and do try to keep the stress produced by the treatment itself to a minimum, using concurrent therapy. However, the accumulating evidence points to the need to program medical fertility treatment, bearing in mind both chronic and acute stress levels, and to treat for their reduction before commencing the (actual) fertility treatment. There is ample evidence that lower stress levels mean better female and male natural fertility, though there is as yet no conclusive experimental evidence that lower stress levels result in better fertility treatment outcome. However, first reducing stress may diminish the number of treatment cycles needed before pregnancy is obtained, may prepare the couple for an initial failure of treatment or even make the more invasive techniques unnecessary. Primary psychological treatment for trait and state stress, being a less invasive method than IVF, ICSI or GIFT, is to be applied whenever indicated. Also, treatment and therapy to reduce stress, and in so doing enhance fertility, do not provoke the ethical and religious objections raised by infertility treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Depression / complications
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro / psychology
  • Gonads / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Infertility / psychology*
  • Infertility / therapy
  • Male
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological / therapy*