For years women seeking to get pregnant have been advised by friends and family to stop stressing about it – an idea that not all obstetricians and gynaecologists have embraced.
But research presented at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Atlanta suggests there may be something to it.
Dr Alice Domar, who runs a fertility centre in Boston and also works at Harvard Medical School, found that women who took part in a stress management program while having a second round of assisted fertility treatment had a greater chance of falling pregnant than women getting IVF alone.
“Reproductive health experts have long wondered about the impact that stress may have on fertility, thus impeding a woman’s ability to conceive,” says Domar.
“This study shows that stress management may improve pregnancy rates, minimising the stress of fertility management itself, improving the success rates of IVF procedures, and ultimately, helping to alleviate the emotional burden for women who are facing challenges trying to conceive.”
Second try charm
She and colleagues randomly assigned 97 patients at the clinic to take part in a 10-session mind/body program while undergoing in-vitro fertilisation treatments.
The program had no effect on how many women conceived during the first attempt, Domar told the meeting, with 43% of the women getting pregnant.
But for women who failed the first time and were having a second attempt, 52% who took part in the mind/body program became pregnant, compared to only 20% of those who did not.
“It’s clear based on this carefully designed study, that a holistic approach to infertility care leads to better outcomes for patients,” says Dr R Dale McClure, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Dr Alice Domar has also run clinical studies showing that acupuncture increases relaxation and well being in IVF patients.