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Will anxiety regarding fertility treatment affect the chances of conception?

Infertility affects nearly 15 percent of all couples trying to conceive that is, one in every six couples who try to try to have a baby have a problem with conception.

With this being the clinical scenario, the number of couples opting for assisted reproductive treatments is increasing day by day. // In spite of a moderate success with IVF, the couples are being subjected to physical, mental and psychological trauma. Anxiety of patients regarding the treatment is one of the major factors that have been neglected during the treatment.

But surprisingly, the results of the treatment outcome are not related to the stress levels in these patients, according to a recent study. "This means that we can use these findings to reassure women and this information should, in itself, help to reduce their stress and worry levels," said lead author Dr Lisbeth Anderheim.

The new research has the strength of being prospective and therefore does not rely on answers given after the patients found out whether their treatment was successful. A month before treatment 166 women answered extensive questionnaires evaluating their well-being. These covered a wide range of emotions, their general health, their relationship with their partner, their lifestyle and outlook on life and the intensity of their desire for children. A second questionnaire timed just before their eggs were retrieved was answered by 151 of the women. A total of 139 women had embryos available for transfer – 58 conceived and 81 did not.

The results of the pre-treatment questionnaire showed no difference between those who became pregnant and those who didn't. There was also no significant difference between the two groups on an additional test designed specifically to assess 14 emotions[2] often expressed by infertility patients.

The analysis of the second questionnaire answered just before egg retrieval again showed no difference between those who conceived and thos e who didn't. The only variable that was significantly associated with pregnancy was the number of good quality embryos transferred.

However, the fact that it was impossible to establish a link in a prospective study between stress and the chances of conceiving via IVF was encouraging.

During IVF treatment patients frequently ask about the relationship between psychological stress and outcome and often express worries that their own stress might have a negative influence, so the reassuring results of this study can be projected to patients to help decrease their stress during IVF treatment.

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