From Heartache to Hope and Back Again: Insight from Angela K. Lawson, PhD 

June is Mental Health Awareness Month, which reminds us of the importance mental health plays in our overall well-being. For prospective parents on their fertility journey, taking care of one’s mental health is as necessary as regularly exercising or eating well. 

Angela K. Lawson, PhD, has worked as a psychologist in a fertility clinic for over 15 years and knows the emotional toll that infertility and pregnancy loss can have on patients. She provided us with insight into four questions about mental health’s effect on one’s fertility journey. The following details the importance of caring for a prospective parent’s mental health and how clinics can support the mental health of their patients.  

Does Emotional Stress Cause Infertility? 

“Although some people have shared stories about relaxing increasing pregnancy chances, no rigorous study has shown that stress causes infertility or that relaxing will get you pregnant. Additionally, because we don’t hear the many stories of how relaxing and relieving stress did not lead to pregnancy for couples, we often have a biased perception that stress could be considered a frequent cause of infertility.   

At least 17% of people worldwide will struggle to grow their families. It is well known that our age (not our mental health) is the best predictor of who will get pregnant. When someone gets pregnant after reducing their stress levels, it is because they were either having appropriately timed unprotected heterosexual intercourse or they were engaging in fertility treatment in which a good sperm and egg connected. Chances of conceiving after relaxing (or not relaxing) are based on someone’s normal chances of getting pregnant if they keep trying. Telling someone to relax and they’ll get pregnant is therefore not only bad advice but also hurtful to the person being told to relax. Without realizing it, when you tell someone to relax you are blaming them for their difficulty getting pregnant.”  

How does infertility and pregnancy loss affect mental health? 

“Although it doesn’t appear that our mental health biologically causes infertility or loss, it is well known that infertility and pregnancy loss can increase our risk of depression and anxiety. Many patients and couples report experiencing distress associated with being diagnosed with infertility and/or experiencing a pregnancy loss. The unfairness of infertility and loss and the uncertainty as to one’s reproductive future may be associated with a host of difficult emotional and relational experiences. Relationships with partners or support systems can become strained, financial or other aspects of treatment may serve as a barrier to growing your family or add to your stress, the need to consider alternate family building options and work with a donor or gestational carrier may be associated with grief, and you may feel like your life has been put on hold while you wait to see if you can conceive.” 

What can I do to care for my mental health? 

“Even if our mental health doesn’t cause infertility, it is still important to take care of our emotional well-being. Please consider reaching out for emotional support if you notice that your mental health is negatively affecting your desire to engage in activities you used to like, if you are experiencing negative changes in sleep or appetite, are crying or feeling anxious on a daily or near daily basis, or are experiencing any other negative changes in your mood. If you don’t have a friend or family member you feel would be able to provide the support you need or if you need more support, you could consider connecting with a reproductive mental health professional to begin therapy. Online support groups through organizations like Resolve may also be helpful. Additionally, avoiding social media pages that can be emotionally triggering may be beneficial. Lastly, speaking to ourselves in the same loving way that we would speak to a best friend going through fertility treatments can go a long way in supporting our mental health.” 

What can my clinic do to support my mental health? 

“There are many things that clinics can do to support a patient’s mental health. The first is to either have mental health professionals working in their clinic or have a list of trusted reproductive mental health professionals to whom they can refer you for support. They can also engage in regular staff training and education about how to best support and communicate with patients during fertility treatment. Clinics that understand the emotional rollercoaster of infertility and pregnancy loss may be more likely to engage in effective and empathetic communication with patients. Consider sharing with your clinic the ways in which you feel they could improve their support for you while you work to grow your family. If you still feel unsupported after sharing your needs with your clinic, you may want to consider scheduling a consultation with a different clinic that offers you the support you need.” 

This mental health awareness month and every month after, remember that an empty tank will get you nowhere. Take time to refuel by engaging in self-care and getting the support you need.  



To connect with Dr. Lawson and learn more about her proficiencies, visit her website at For more information on how Cryoport Systems supports the safe and secure transportation of reproductive materials, reach out to us for more information.