Although, the last thing a woman wants to hear while going through infertility treatments is “just relax and you’ll get pregnant,” there may be some truth to this statement. According to a study published in Fertility and Sterility, women who participate in a mind/body program for stress reduction while undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment have a significantly higher pregnancy rate than those who do not.
To study the effects of a mind/body program on IVF pregnancy outcomes, Dr. Alice Domer asked women 40 years or younger who were about to begin IVF treatment to participate in a 10-week stress management program. All of the women had normal hormonal levels and had never before participated in any type of mind/body stress reduction exercises. The program taught couples effective relaxation and stress management techniques while also focusing on cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation training, and negative health behavior modification.
The study revealed that by the second cycle of fertility treatments, the participants who had at least five sessions of the mind/body program had a significant increase in pregnancy rates. Of the group of women who participated in the stress reduction program, 52 % became pregnant compared to only 20 percent achieving pregnancy in the control group.
Dr. Dormar explained that there are many reasons why mind/body programs work for women undergoing fertility treatments. The main reason is that when a woman is stressed out and depressed, her body seems to sense that it is not a good time for pregnancy. What makes the mind/body stress reduction programs a success is the combination of learning the relaxation techniques along with the social/emotional support that women provide for one another when sharing their experiences.
Participants in the study committed to a vigorous, time-intensive, 10-session mind/body stress reduction program at The Dolmar Center for Mind/Body Health. They were taught daily relaxation techniques, various stress management strategies and were provided suggestions for healthy lifestyle habits, such as not smoking, decreasing caffeine, alcohol or avoiding strenuous exercise. One of the mind/body exercises was “cognitive restructuring,” where women are asked to share recurring negative thoughts. Some of the women had common thoughts such as “I’m never going to be happy unless I have a baby,’’ or “It’s my fault for waiting too long, ” however through a series of exercises, these thoughts were re-structured. The participants were taught to replace their negative feelings with more positive but realistic thoughts. For example, repeating daily positive affirmations such as “I’m doing everything I can to have a healthy baby.’’
In general, mind body programs are known to decrease anxiety, decrease depressive symptoms, decrease hostility and confusion, and to decrease physical symptoms like insomnia, headaches and neck pain. If you are interested in learning more about the IVF treatment process or how mind/body stress reduction programs may increase your chances for fertility, schedule an appointment with one of our fertility experts. We look forward to helping you!