Infertility and Depression


Trouble conceiving can definitely result in depression – but is the opposite true as well? There’s contradictory research as to whether depression and anxiety affects fertility negatively.

One Dutch study indicates that psychological issues such as anxiety and depression don’t have a bearing on a woman’s ability to conceive, nor do they influence decisions to stop fertility treatment. The research, which was conducted at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre in the Netherlands, examined 783 women. Doctors gave the patients questionnaires before and during fertility treatments. The answers of 421 women who completed both questionnaires suggested that depression and anxiety weren’t factors in their ability to get pregnant or their decision to continue or cancel fertility procedures.

A UK study contradicts these results, suggesting that high levels of a stress-related hormone may be the cause of some women’s infertility issues. 274 women between the ages of 18 and 40 were asked to keep diaries detailing their experiences trying to conceive. Doctors also took saliva samples from the women on the sixth day of their menstrual cycles. They measured the women’s levels of alpha-amylase and cortisol, two hormones that measure stress. Alpha-amylase is linked to short-term stress and the fight-or-flight response, and cortisol is related to the longer-term stress response

25% of the women in the study had the highest alpha-amylase levels, and these women were 12% less likely to get pregnant than the study participants with the lowest alpha-amylase concentration in their saliva. Study leader Germane Buck Louis said, "The first time people try, they only have a 25-33 percent chance of getting pregnant. So to have a 12 percent further reduction can have a very powerful effect."

Corroborating this study, other research also reveals that ovulation could be affected by anxiety and depression. Women with these psychological issues sometimes ovulate later, and may not ovulate at all. Stress can lower a man’s sperm count. According to the same research, stress is rarely the sole or root cause of infertility – its impact is said to be minor.

Depression and anxiety, while perhaps not often the root cause of infertility, still need to be treated before and during the process of trying to conceive, especially if a couple has been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for a year or more. This helps rule out depression as a factor in infertility problems, and will also help the couple be better parents once they do have a child.


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