A new EU study provides a comprehensive evaluation of the different stress points that challenge women as they struggle to become pregnant.
Researchers looked at the stress of not being able to naturally conceive and the stress associated with the difficult decision to undergo and then receive fertility treatments.
In the study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, researchers examined experiences of patients in four countries with the highest number of cases of assisted reproduction cycles in Europe: France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Researchers acknowledge that the inability to normally conceive is extremely stressful for women who want to have a family.
“Infertility causes a series of varied emotions that have a negative impact on important aspects of a woman’s life,” said Dr. Juan García Velasco, one of the authors of the study. “It is linked to depression, anxiety, anger, cognitive imbalance and low self-esteem.”
Researchers analyzed the emotional impact of infertility and also identified aspects of fertility treatments that contribute to the physical and psychological stress suffered by many women.
Investigators studied 445 women, between the ages of 18 and 44 years, who were experiencing difficulties in conceiving. While some had never undergone any fertility treatment, others were receiving it at the time or had already received it in the past two years.
Almost one-third of the participants said they began to worry from the moment they started trying to get pregnant, and nearly half claimed to have felt ashamed or like a failure as a woman.
Researchers determined that anxiety toward injections and the deterioration of their relationship with their partner were the main causes of stress for the women.
However, when women actually received treatment, they reported that they got closer to their partner (33 percent compared to 19 percent). The majority of participants felt that their partner supported them, especially those women who received fertility therapy (63 percent).
Women undergoing treatment said they were more anxious when it comes to sex and negative emotions, such as impatience or frustration. Those not having treatment said they felt “confused” and those undergoing treatment claimed to mostly feel “vulnerable and exhausted.”
Over two-thirds (68 percent) of the women never thought they would have a problem conceiving although they were aware of the inverse relationship with aging.
Nevertheless, researchers learned that women waited for an average of two years before starting treatment because they wanted to see if they could conceive naturally. The authors believe that this waiting period causes anxiety and regret and almost 58 percent of participants feel that they waited too long.
Another stress-evoking component of fertility treatments is the absence of a protocol that outlines the minimal number of injections and/or provides information to reduce stress and increase patient satisfaction.
Researchers concluded that “these results show the need to educate women to eradicate fear and better prepare them for the demands of treatment and its associated emotional effects.”