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Relationship between psychological stress and reproductive outcome in women undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment: Psychological and neurohormonal assessment



To evaluate whether psychological stress, as well as changes in hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system (SNS) at different time points during a first in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, correlates with the reproductive outcome.


A prospective study was conducted in 264 women undergoing IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment between January 2009 and March 2010. Standardized psychological questionnaires were used to assess anxiety and depression. Norepinephrine and cortisol in serum were measured with specific assays.


The non-pregnant women reported higher anxiety and depression scores at the pregnancy detection day compared with the pregnant group. Lower levels of norepinephrine and cortisol at the time of oocyte retrieval and lower levels of cortisol at the time of pregnancy test were found in women with successful treatment. Significant increases in serum norepinephrine and cortisol values were observed during ovarian stimulation. State Anxiety scores were negatively correlated with live birth rate, and positively associated with serum norepinephrine and cortisol values.


State anxiety is associated with both pregnancy rate and live birth rate in IVF patients, an effect that is partly mediated by activities in the HPA and SNS.

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The authors would like to thank all of the women who participated in the study. This study was supported by the “Doctor fund” of the First Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University(grant no. 2011BS019), as well as the scientific project of Health Bureau in Heilongjiang Province(grant no. 2012–538).

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hongping Ji.

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State anxiety might influence both pregnancy rate and live birth rate in IVF patients, an effect that is partly mediated by activities in the HPA axis and SNS.

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An, Y., Sun, Z., Li, L. et al. Relationship between psychological stress and reproductive outcome in women undergoing in vitro fertilization treatment: Psychological and neurohormonal assessment. J Assist Reprod Genet 30, 35–41 (2013).

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  • Cortisol
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Live birth rate
  • Norepinephrine
  • Pregnancy rate
  • Stress