To better understand the beliefs about a causal role of emotional stress maintained by women seeking fertility care.
A cross-sectional, self-administered survey was distributed to fertility care patients at an academic fertility center in Illinois. Of 5000 consecutive patients, 1460 completed the survey and were included in the study sample.
Members of our sample (N = 1460) were between 20 and 58 years (mean = 36.2, SD = 4.4). Most respondents were White (72.2%), were in a heterosexual relationship (86.8%), and felt that their physician understood their cultural background (79.4%). Of the sample, 28.9% believed emotional stress could cause infertility, 69.0% believed emotional stress could reduce success with fertility treatment, and 31.3% believed that emotional stress could cause a miscarriage, with evidence of significant racial differences. Less than a quarter (23.8%) of the sample believed emotional stress had no impact on fertility. Lower household income and educational attainment were associated with a greater belief in emotional stress as a causative factor in reproduction with regard to infertility, fertility treatment, and miscarriage.
The majority of women seeking fertility care believe emotional stress could reduce the success of fertility treatment. Furthermore, beliefs about emotional stress and reproduction significantly differ based on race/ethnicity, income, and education. Particular attention should be paid to specific groups of women who may more likely not be aware of the lack of a proven biological relationship between emotional stress and reproduction.