Essential Reads: Stress, Anxiety and Depression in Couples Undergoing Infertility Treatment

By | June 10, 2021

In the United States, about 9% of men and 11% of women of reproductive age have experienced fertility problems. In a recent review (FULL TEXT available), Paraskevi and colleagues discuss how stress, anxiety and depression impact the outcomes of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and explore whether supportive interventions may help couples to minimize fertility-related stress, anxiety and depression and whether these interventions improve treatment outcomes.

Data regarding the effect of assisted reproduction techniques on couples’ levels of anxiety or depression have yielded conflicting results.  While some studies suggest increased levels of anxiety and depression among couples pursuing ART, typically more prominent in women, many studies do not show a significant effect on mental health.  The findings are also mixed when it comes to assessing the impact of depression and/or anxiety on ART outcomes; however, many studies have noted that individuals experiencing significant psychological symptoms are less likely to pursue infertility treatment and more likely to drop out.  

Various interventions have been used to decrease stress in couples with infertility, including support and coaching strategies, as well as relaxation methods, including yoga, meditation, acupuncture, and hypnotherapy. While some interventions may improve ART outcomes, this is not a universal finding.  More consistent is the finding that couples who report lower levels of anxiety, stress and depression, as well as those who had received stress-reducing interventions, demonstrated better adjustment to the treatment procedures and were more likely to make beneficial lifestyle changes, to feel less socially isolated, to function better in their marriage, and to be able to accept their situation and the outcome of treatment.  

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Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Paraskevi L, Antigoni S, Kleanthi G. Stress and Anxiety Levels in Couples who Undergo Fertility Treatment: a Review of Systematic Reviews.  Mater Sociomed. 2021 Mar;33(1):60-64. Free article. 

MGH Center for Women's Mental Health