Fertility and Stress: Should I take a break?

A long-time tryer on the Choice Mom path is now scheduled for an embryo donation transfer in October — and is wondering whether the stress in the life around her right now means she should postpone her attempt.

Her father is very ill — dying — and her stepmom is adding to the stress level. We all know that stress can have a strongly negative impact on fertility success, so this woman is wondering if she should wait. She has had numerous IVF and IUI attempts already that did not work. Part of her rightly wants to keep moving forward. Part of her rightly thinks maybe this isn’t the right time.

She doesn’t know how soon her father might die — it could be weeks, months — and then, how will the grieving process affect her? Or, “do i throw all caution to the wind and maybe, just maybe, bring something joyful to this difficult time?”

My instinct, as someone who tends to leap, as someone who tends to try to find ways to “control” my emotions — or at least — find distractions to move around them, is to tell this woman to keep moving. I know how long she’s been trying. I am not generally a patient woman. I like the motion of trying to reach your goal, especially since she’s older than 35.

But… I did consult about fertility and stress with some experts in the field who are always gracious with their advice to the Choice Mom community.

Krista Post, a Minnesota-based psychologist who specializes in pregnancy and postpartum support:
“I would be less concerned with whether her stress would effect an embryo and pregnancy, and more concerned about whether or not she is able to create a nurturing space around her in order to have a child right now. Given that, my advice to her would be to wait until she can really refocus her attention and energy onto herself.

“As far as her fertility time clock, using donor embryos really frees her up time-wise. She could likely have a successful transfer/pregnancy now, or in three years! What’s most important for her and her future children is that she be in a good place emotionally. AND, ideally, that she has good support around her as she becomes a mother. My two cents! I wish her the best.”

I also asked Dr. Craig Sweet, Reproductive Endocrinologist, Medical & Practice Director for Embryo Donation International:
“Extreme levels of stress can affect many areas of reproduction and it would seem you are potentially experiencing these right now. From my perspective, I have the following concerns and comments:

  • The embryos will store for years of not decades without any reduction of implantation rates.
  • The extreme stress you are experiencing could potentially effect success or failure but it is often not the stress itself but the ways in which you respond and cope.
  • If implantation fails, I fear you will blame yourself for years to come for being impatient and potentially harming your chances.
  • A single cryopreserved embryo transfer, donor or not, is far more prone to failure than success. I am concerned for you having the tremendous family issues which could be further compounded by yet another failed cycle.

“For these reasons, I would humbly suggest you consider the following:

  • Delay the transfer when you are in a better emotional place
  • Your clinic really needs to give you solid statistics regarding your chances with a single thawed/warmed donor embryo transfer procedure. Perhaps they can provide you with much higher success rates that I would normally predict
  • If the above success rates are not what you are hoping for, work very hard at finding more donated embryos to simultaneously transfer so that you finally succeed.

Good luck in all that you do.”

Choice Mom community….feel free to add your advice and support in the Comments field below.

— Mikki

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