One of the most difficult aspects experienced by women undergoing infertility treatments is the feeling of uncertainty and lack of control. Research has shown that these feelings reduce the wellbeing of woman where up to a ¼ of women undergoing IVF treatments will experience emotional distress. For some this distress is so great that IVF treatment is stopped before the dream of having a baby is achieved (1)
Emotional distress and depressive symptoms may also be attributed to some of the medications that are used to treat infertility. Whilst larger scale studies are needed two smaller studies show that 60 percent of women taking leuprolide or lucrin, experienced depression (2), and an observational study of women taking gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonist medication found that depressive symptoms occurred in 75 percent of women (3).
In addition physiological stress may also affect IVF outcomes where a prospective study showed that
- Stress was significantly correlated with numerous biologic end points, including affecting the number of oocytes retrieved and fertilized, pregnancy, live birth rate, and birth weight.
- Stress level on the day of the procedure was significantly related to the number of oocytes retrieved and fertilized (4)
Often the most emotionally challenging times experienced during the IVF journey is the lead up to embryo transfer and the dreaded wait between embryo transfer and the pregnancy test. The research tells us that these events lead to pre-treatment anxiety that can remain high up to 3 months following the IVF cycle (1)
Ways to get the best out of your IVF treatment?
Whilst IVF clinics have great support services, these may not be utilised for varying reasons. Some women may feel they do not require such services as psychological distress is not recognised or women may prefer other supportive treatments outside the IVF clinical environment.
Often it is finding what works best for you as there a number of supportive treatments available such as counselling, exercise, mindfulness, meditation, acupuncture, massage and other complementary health approaches.
Studies have found that women overall report an increased sense of wellbeing from using complementary treatments (5,6). In particular Acupuncture is frequently used by women undergoing IVF treatments to increase their wellbeing and reduce stress.
Acupuncture and IVF Treatments
A recent research article has examined the effect acupuncture has on women experiencing infertility and found there were benefits with reducing the stress and anxiety of infertility whilst inducing a state of relaxation and calm. Overall Acupuncture also improved physical health, women had more energy and emotionally functioned better (1)
Regardless of how one is managing IVF treatments don’t underestimate the effect it may be having on your wellbeing not just short term but also long term on you, your partner, family and friends. Seeking supportive services early and managing anxiety and stress are imperative in your fertility journey.
Want to know more?
- Smith, C. et al, 2018 The effects of acupuncture on the secondary outcomes of anxiety and quality of life for women undergoing IVF: A randomized controlled trial <https://doi-org.access.library.unisa.edu.au/10.1111/aogs.13528>
- Warnock JK, et al 2000, Depressive mood symptoms associated with ovarian suppression. Fertil Steril, 74:984.
- Steingold KA et al 1987 Treatment of endometriosis with a long acting gongadotrophin releasing hormone agonist. Obstet Gynecol 69:403.
- Domer, AD, 2017 Psychological stress and Infertility <<https://www.uptodate.com/contents/psychological-stress-and-infertility>
- Rayner, J, McLachlan, H, Forster, D, Cramer, R. Australian women’s use of complementary and alternative medicines to enhance fertility: exploring the experiences of women and practitioners. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009; 9: 52.
- Lacey, S, Smith, C, Paterson, C. Building resilience: a preliminary exploration of women’s perceptions of the use of acupuncture as an adjunct to in vitro fertilisation. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009; 9: 50.