Objective: To examine the relationship between stress and IVF outcome in women and to compare prospective ratings of IVF stress to retrospective ratings.
Design: Women completed daily stress ratings for one complete IVF cycle. Three days after the pregnancy test women completed a questionnaire that asked them to recall the stress of IVF. Based on the results of treatment, women were assigned to the nonpregnant (n = 23) or pregnant (n = 17) group and their daily stress ratings were compared. In addition, prospective and retrospective ratings were compared.
Results: The nonpregnant group reported more stress during specific stages of IVF and had a poorer biologic response to treatment than the pregnant group. It also was found that women recalled the stress of the waiting period as greater than their ongoing experience of it as measured by their daily ratings.
Conclusions: The pattern of differences between the nonpregnant and pregnant group on stress and biologic factors indicates that stress is related to IVF outcome. Certain data suggest that negative feedback about the progress of treatment communicated to patients responding poorly to IVF (nonpregnant group) may have increased their stress level. However, the direction of causality between stress and IVF outcome remains speculative. Differences between prospective and retrospective stress ratings may reflect women's attempt to cope with the strain of the waiting period.