The Psychological Impact of Infertility

By Alice Domar, PhD
Executive Director
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF

Researchers have been arguing for years about the best definition of stress. In my opinion, the most logical one basically says that stress results when a person doesn’t have adequate resources to meet a particular demand. So Bill Gates would not be stressed if he was told he needed a new roof on his house, since he has plenty of money (resources) to meet the demand (having to pay for a new roof).  But the average person, who doesn’t have a spare $20,000 would in fact be stressed.

Infertility is a stressor for most people because of a lack of resources. Infertility essentially demands too much, in terms of time, energy, patience, support, and money. And the result is that most infertility patients report symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. In fact, a recent study showed that 40% of women had significant symptoms of anxiety or depression at their very first visit to an infertility specialist, and the percentage increases as the complexity of treatment increases. A majority of women report depressive symptoms after an unsuccessful IVF cycle.

So if you have noticed that you are more irritable lately, or don’t enjoy things as much as you used to, it likely means that you are having a normal reaction to infertility. The key is to figure out what you can do to help yourself feel better. Research has shown that the most effective way to get better quickly is to participate in a group which includes training in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).  Recent research supports the efficacy of the Mind/Body Program for Infertility in treating psychological symptoms as well as being associated with increases in pregnancy rates.  The mind/body program includes CBT, relaxation training, information on lifestyle habits, as well as group support.  The average woman who starts the program has a moderate level of depressive symptoms but by the end of the ten week program, will report symptoms in the normal range. Our goal is to help you become the person you were before you started trying, in other words, to get the real you back.

For more information on the mind/body program, go to www.


Alice D. Domar, PhD is a pioneer in the application of mind/body medicine to men’s and women’s health issues. She not only established the first Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health, but also conducts ongoing ground-breaking research in the field. Her research focuses on the relationship between stress and different women’s health conditions, and creating innovative programs to help women decrease physical and psychological symptoms.

Dr. Domar received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Health Psychology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Ferkauf School of Professional Psychology of Yeshiva University. Her post-doctoral training was at Beth Israel Hospital, Deaconess Hospital, and Children’s Hospital, all in Boston.

She has conducted research on infertility, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms, ovarian cancer, and premenstrual syndrome. Dr. Domar has earned an international reputation as one of the country’s top women’s health experts.

She is currently the Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. She is an assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and a senior staff psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Domar has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments as a best-selling author, media authority and sought-after public speaker. She is the author of numerous books, on the advisory board for Parents Magazine, Health Magazine, Conceive Magazine, and Resolve, and on the Board of Experts for LLuminari. Two of her books have been finalists for the Books for a Better Life Award. She was also the Series Editor for a series of mind/body books by Harvard Medical Publications/Simon and Schuster. She is the narrator of the DVD’s “Stress and Relaxation Explained” and “Infertility Explained”, both of which won silver Telly Awards.  Dr. Domar has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline NBC, CNN, PBS, and the CBS and NBC Evening News, to name a few. She presents lectures and conducts workshops throughout the US and around the world and went on tour with Oprah in the spring of 2004 and 2005 with the LLuminari team. Dr. Domar was named to the prestigious list of 15 “Women to Watch in 2004″ by Lifetime TV. Her newest book is “Be Happy Without Being Perfect” (Three Rivers Press, March, 2009) and she is currently working on a new book, co-authored with Dr. Susan Love, called “Live a Little” (Crown, December, 2009). She is also a featured expert on the new online social health network