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Aug 12, 2011

Stress Reduction Improves Fertility

Too much stress will take its toll on anyone.  Both casual and clinical observation continue to demonstrate excessive amounts of stress being related to multiple health conditions, including problems with fertility.  New research published in Fertility and Sterility found that women who are involved in a mind-body program designed to help lower stress while undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) have a much higher success rate for pregnancy compared with those do not.  

Principal investigator Alice Domar, Ph.D, OB/GYN, noted that the probability of conception can be reduced by stress.  Domar was responsible for introducing the Mind/Body Program for Infertility at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in 1987.  She later moved the program to Boston IVF in 2002.  This was designed as a 10-week stress management program for couples attempting to conceive.  Certain modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques, are incorporated into the program to provide tools for successful stress management.  

In Domar’s study, about 100 women participants ready to begin treatment at Boston IVF were selected and randomly assigned to either the Mind/Body intervention group or control group (no mind/body program).  All participants were 40 years of age or younger, had normal hormone levels, and underwent IVF treatment.  After most of the women involved in the Mind/Body program had completed at least five sessions, a significant increase in pregnancy rates was observed.  According to Domar, “By that point, they had acquired some real life skills to deal with their stress.”  During the study, out of those women involved in the Mind/Body program, 52% became pregnant compared with only 20% of women in the control group.  Even though this was a small-scale study, it effectively highlights the importance of stress management when it comes to successful conception.  Bringing new lives into the world will naturally be easier when life is not overwhelmed by stress!         

Dr. Shana McQueen