Wednesday, June 01, 2011 by: T.M. Hartle
A study in a publication of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine found that mind-body programs designed to reduce stress increased the success of In-vitro fertilization treatment. In-vitro fertilization (IVF) has an average success rate of 22-40% depending on age. Due to the relatively low success rate, complementary therapies that increase success could be extremely beneficial for women. This recent study is one of several studies that highlight the efficacy of stress reduction, a healthy mind-body connection, and successful IVF treatment.
Research published in Fertility and Sterility in 1993 concluded that psychosocial stress contributes significantly to the incidence of some forms of infertility. A study in Italy found that ‘an increased vulnerability to stress is associated with a poor outcome in in-vitro fertilization or embryo transfer treatment.’ Several fertility experts have detailed the connection between the body’s experience of stress and infertility. Reproduction is not essential for survival and therefore in times of tension, stress, and anxiety the reproductive process can be suppressed. Dr. Lorraine Bonner stated, ‘The mind-body knows that in situations of extreme tension our sex organs are our most expendable parts. The mind-body knows that when times are tough, that is not the time to make a baby.’ This connection between stress and disconnection from the mind-body has recently been studied and researchers discovered encouraging results.
Alice Domar, Ph.D, OB/GYN, the principle investigator stated, ‘The intersection of stress and fertility is a controversial one, but we do know that stress can reduce the probability of conception.’ Dr. Domar began a mind-body program for women undergoing IVF treatment in 1987. It is a 10 week program offering relaxation training, meditation, progressive relaxation, yoga, and social support. Dr. Domar organized a study of healthy women under the age of 40 to determine the effect on IVF success rates with mind-body programs.
Women in the study were randomly assigned to two groups: the first group participated in a mind-body program, and the second group received no mind-body-intervention. The women in the study were followed through two cycles of IVF. During the first cycle only about 50% of the women had begun the mind-body program and had only participated in one or two classes. There was no difference in success rate at this stage of the research. Dr. Domar believed this was an excellent outcome because it ruled out the placebo effect as a possible explanation. The mere suggestion of relaxation and the mind-body connection to IVF success did not affect results. The important effect of the mind-body connection to fertility was seen during the second cycle.