Disclosing infertility doesn't cause women stress

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - For women undergoing fertility treatment, the decision over whether to tell their employer seems to have little effect on their general stress levels, a study suggests.

Researchers found that among 267 women undergoing treatment at the same fertility clinic, stress levels seemed to be unrelated to a woman’s choice to tell her boss and co-workers about the treatment.

Going into the study, the researchers had hypothesized that such disclosure might help ease stress for some women. Fertility treatment is time-consuming and bound to require taking time off from work; keeping the reason for work absences secret might, in theory, generate added anxiety for some women.

On the flip side, some women might be stressed by having to tell an employer about such a personal matter.

However, the findings suggest that whatever women decide to do, it has little effect on their overall stress, the researchers report in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

Dr. Peter S. Finamore, of the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey, led the study, which included women undergoing treatment at the university’s fertility clinic.

Of 267 women who responded to questionnaires, 43 percent said they had not told their employer or co-workers, while 32 percent said they had. The rest of the women were self-employed, not working outside the home or did not answer all the survey questions.

Whether the women informed their employer about the fertility treatments made no apparent difference in their reported stress levels, Finamore’s team found.

Research suggests that stress, depression and anxiety may affect a woman’s odds of having a successful pregnancy with infertility treatment. So it’s important to understand the factors that either worsen or ease women’s stress as they undergo treatment, according to Finamore’s team.

“However,” the researchers write, “results of this survey suggest that disclosure of one’s infertility status is not a significant factor in either increasing or diminishing personal stress.”

Instead, they add, the decision seems to be a matter of a woman’s personal values, and appears to have few implications for treatment.

SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, October 2007.