This study examines the effect of stress on embryo transfer and explores its impact via the immune system. The researchers conclude that stress is associated with high amounts of activated T cells in the peripheral blood which is in turn associated with a reduced implantation rate in women undergoing IVF-ET. The subject of regulation of T cells by acupuncture is a subject of ongoing research and is one of the hypothesized mechanisms by which acupuncture may increase implantation in some women.
Objective: To evaluate the possible correlation between immunological changes and implantation rates in patients who undergo in vitro fertilization–embryo transfer (IVF-ET).
Design: Controlled clinical study.
Setting: University hospital.
Patient(s): Forty infertile women undergoing IVF-ET.
Intervention(s): Stroop Color Word (CW) test, State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) test, blood sampling.
Main Outcome Measure(s): Heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure responses to Stroop CW; circulating T, B, T-helper (CD4), and T-suppressor (CD8) lymphocytes.
Result(s): The total number of T lymphocytes increased significantly during superovulation, resulting in significantly higher levels in subjects achieving embryo implantation than in those showing a failure of implantation. An opposite trend was observed for the activated T cells. The number of T-helper lymphocytes and the T-helper/T-suppressor ratio showed a significant increase from baseline to the time of pick-up only in patients with implantation.
Conclusion(s): A prolonged condition of stress, which causes a decreased ability to adapt and a transitory anxious state, is associated with high amounts of activated T cells in the peripheral blood. Such a condition, in turn, is associated with a reduced implantation rate in women undergoing IVF-ET.