Less Stress for More IVF Success
Whether or not a link with stress levels and IVF success can be definitively proven, several studies have suggested that reducing stress does seem to increase success rates. One study, published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility in 1991, found that women undergoing IVF treatments who could minimize their stress had an increased rate of conception. Of the women in the study, those who received medical treatment as well as a relaxation regimen of exercise, yoga, and meditation were twice as likely to conceive as their less-relaxed counterparts.
More recently, a study at Soroka University in Israel, presented at last year’s  meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Berlin, found that women who were relaxed with hypnotherapy during the embryo transfer stage of IVF were twice as likely to get pregnant as women who underwent the transfer without hypnosis—28 percent versus 14 percent. But some experts questioned this study’s results since there were significant differences between the two groups: The women who received hypnosis had been trying to conceive for an average of 4.7 years, while the women who did not get hypnotized had been trying to conceive for an average of 7.4 years.
While researchers continue to look at the problem, some fertility doctors aren’t waiting before trying solutions. “The anxiety and depression levels for women undergoing IVF are equivalent to those found in women undergoing treatment for metastatic cancer,” says Alice Domar, Ph.D., founder and director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Boston IVF, and the co-author of Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar’s Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping with Infertility (Penguin Books, 2004). Infertility centers like Boston IVF seek to decrease the stress surrounding the in vitro process by providing coping skills training, relaxation techniques, and instruction in how to get one’s needs met by family and friends. According to Dr. Domar, “Through group therapy, we’re seeing lovely pregnancy rates and happy, healthy mothers and babies.”
A version of this article originally appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of Conceive Magazine.