The objective of the study was to evaluate the psychological effect of an intervention of 8 stress-management sessions in women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). Moreover, the overall IVF success was assessed against the fluctuation of the participants’ stress levels. A total of 144 women participated in the study with 74 of them in the intervention group and 70 women in the control group. Demographics and medical history of all participants were recorded. The intervention group only underwent 8 weekly stress management sessions. During the 1st and 8th week of the study, both groups completed the Depression, Anxiety, Stress Scale 21 (DASS-21), the Perceived Stress Scale 14 (PSS-14) and the Fertility Problem Inventory (FPI). Following the intervention, the outcome of the IVF cycles, as defined by clinical pregnancy rates, were recorded. Our results indicated that total stress in the intervention group declined significantly (p<0.001) in respect to all the parameters of the PSS-14, DASS-21 and FPI scales, with the exception of the need for parenthood dimension that did not change significantly in the intervention group (p=0.002), while significantly increased in the control group (p<0.001). The difference of stress levels between the two groups for each scale as well as in total was also significant. There were no significant differences in the demographic data, lifestyle and medical history of the participants and their spouses between the two groups. The IVF success rate was found to be related to the levels of perceived stress on the PSS-14 scale (p=0.029) but not to any of the dimensions of DASS-21(p=0.197) and FPI (p=0.611) scales. Definitive factors affecting the IVF success were the participants’ age (p=0.046), which was negatively correlated to IVF success, and the spouses’ medical history of cryptorchidism (undescended testicles) (p=0.05). The high significance of these variables probably limited the effect of the intervention for stress relief on IVF success. This pilot study revealed encouraging results regarding the positive effect of interventions for stress management in women undergoing fertility treatment, however the possible contribution of such interventions to overall IVF success rates requires further investigation.

KEYWORDS: stress management, psychosocial intervention, perceived stress, infertility stress, In Vitro Fertilization

Maria Koumparou, Panagiotis Bakas, Konstantinos Pantos, Marina Economou, George Chrousos


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