There is no doubt that undergoing infertility treatment involves a rollercoaster of emotions and can be very stressful, with many women reporting high rates of anxiety and depression. Therapies designed to help women reduce stress earlier in the treatment process result in higher pregnancy rates.
A new study published June 1 in Fertility and Sterility, a publication of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, shows that women who participate in a mind/body program such as self hypnosis or meditation for stress reduction while undergoing IVF treatment have a significantly higher pregnancy rate than those who do not (52% versus 20%).
The new study was lead by principal investigator Alice Domar, Ph.D, OB/GYN, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF.
Domar’s team studied 100 women about to begin their IVF treatment at Boston IVF. All of the women were under 40 years of age, had normal hormone levels and none of them had participated in such a mind/body group to reduce stress before. Two groups were selected at random. One group participated in stress reducing mind/body program and the other, a control group, didn’t receive any stress reduction program. All the women underwent their IVF treatment and the study tracked their progress and outcome through two IVF cycles.
After the first IVF cycle there were not differences in the pregnancy rates between the two groups. However, only half of the group participating in the mind/body stress reduction program had begun the sessions and those that had started were only a couple of sessions in.
By the second IVF cycle the majority of woman in the mind/body study group had completed at least five sessions. “By that point, they had acquired some real life skills to deal with their stress,” said Domar. “And that’s when we saw the significant increase in pregnancy rates.”
52% of the women who completed the stress reduction program for infertility were successful with their second IVF cycle compared to 20% of the control group. This is a statistically significant difference.
“The study supports the theory that psychological distress may be an important detriment to IVF outcome. We worked with a small group, about a 100 women total, so we’ll need to continue with a larger group of patients to see if the results bear out,” said Domar. “But there is a strong indication that stress levels and IVF outcomes are linked and that intervening with mind/body therapies can help.”
Alice D. Domar, Kristin L. Rooney, Benjamin Wiegand, E. John Orav, Michael M. Alper, Brian M. Berger, Janeta Nikolovski. Impact of a group mind/body intervention on pregnancy rates in IVF patients. Fertility and Sterility, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.03.046