Archived Story

Infertility is a disease just like any other

Published 8:37am Sunday, October 6, 2013

Column: Hometown Health, by Fadi Yahya

The impact infertility can have on a couple is far reaching and it can be difficult to determine. Infertility can impact one’s relationship with family and friends, create financial difficulty, affect the relationship between partners and can negatively affect the couple’s sexual relationship. In a nutshell, infertility can cause stress.

Fadi Yahya
Fadi Yahya

Research has shown that women with infertility have the same levels of anxiety and depression, as do women with cancer, heart disease and HIV-positive status. Many societies do not understand that infertility is a disease, and so couples get blamed for their condition. Can you imagine blaming cancer patients for their condition?


Does stress cause infertility?

It is unlikely that stress alone can cause infertility; however, it does interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant. Research has shown that women with history of depression are twice as likely to experience infertility. Anxiety can also have a negative effect by prolonging the time needed to achieve pregnancy. Studies on women undergoing in vitro fertilization showed that stress decreases the pregnancy rate.


How can you deal with the stress of infertility?

Learn: Educate yourself about the normal responses to infertility. Talk to other people going through infertility. Understand your medical condition and ask about treatment options.

Communicate: Talk to your partner about your feelings and needs. Allow your partner to feel and cope differently. Talk about your differences and avoid conflict. Keep communicating with family and friends and avoid isolating yourself. Understand that you can talk about your situation without going into details and tell others how they can support you.

Practice relaxation techniques: The human body has two types of responses. The fight-or-flight response is what happens to your body when you feel danger. This is the same response you experience during psychological stress. The “relaxation” response is when your body is in deep rest. Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, meditation and imagery can help you transition to a “relaxation” response state. Those techniques can help you deal with any type of stress including that related to infertility.

Take care of your health: Make sure you get your “well adult” exam every year. Eating healthy, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep and allow time for recreation.

Deal with sexual stress: Sexual stress is very common among couples with infertility, mostly because couples feel that this is an obligation or a duty rather than a fun activity.

There are a number of ways to deal with this including: Taking a break from “baby making,” distinguishing between “work” and “fun” sex and learning sensual contact that doesn’t lead to pregnancy.


Does managing stress improve infertility?

In brief, it may. The effect of managing stress on the success rate of infertility has not been well studied. Most of the available research, suggest that there is a positive effect. The “mind/body” infertility programs have been shown to improve the pregnancy rates in women with infertility.

One study showed that 55 percent of women involved in a mind/body program were able to get pregnant as compared to 20 percent for women who were not in such a program. These programs teach relaxation techniques, stress-management, coping skills training and group support. Programs range from five to 10 sessions, and most include the male partners in some of the sessions.

For more information please call our Infertility Services at 507-379-2139 or visit the following websites:,,


Fadi Yahya, M.D., is a women’s health care specialist. He practices on the Albert Lea campus of Mayo Clinic Health System of Albert Lea and Austin. To schedule an appointment, please call 507-379-2131 or go to