Infertility and Stress

By Alice D. Domar, Ph.D


(I have bolded certain passages.)

One of the many challenges of infertility is the assumptions family and friends make about the relationship about stress and infertility. Wouldn’t it be nice if what you heard on a daily basis was “I am sorry that you are having to go through infertility treatment. What can I do to support you?”, or “I know it must be painful for you that your best friend is pregnant. Should I go buy a shower gift for you?”. Instead, you more often hear comments such as “You are obsessed with this baby thing. If you would just stop thinking about it all the time, it would happen”, or “If you weren’t so fat/thin, if you would only exercise/stop exercising, if you would only do things differently from what you are doing, you would get pregnant”. And of course, the all-time favorite, “If you would just adopt, you would get pregnant”.

There does seem to be a universal assumption that infertility is caused by stress. There is also a universal tendency to underestimate the stress that is caused by infertility. The goal of this article is to educate you about the stress/infertility connection both for your own knowledge as well as to give you information for your “well-meaning” family and friends.

How Stressful is Infertility?

In a word: very. Research has shown that women with infertility have the same levels of anxiety and depression as do women with cancer, heart disease, and HIV+ status. While this may surprise some, it actually makes sense. Procreation is the strongest instinct in the animal kingdom. You are facing both genetic as well as social pressure to have a baby. You are likely surrounded by friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and a society who conceive easily. Infertility can be very lonely.

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1 Comment

  1. I love this! Folks tend to latch on to that ‘one’ couple they heard of (they don’t even know personally) that got pregnant after adopting and then assume that will happen to every infertile couple that adopts. However the reality is that the percentage this happens to is very very low.

    There isn’t an hour that goes by where I don’t think of my losses in association with infertility
    …it’s very tough!


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