Mind/Body Therapy Helps Women Conceive through IVF

A new study suggests that mind/body therapy can increase the chance of pregnancy in in vitro fertilization treatment. The Mind/Body Program for Infertility at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was designed as a 10-week program that would allow participants to learn stress reducing techniques through “cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation training, negative health behavior modification and social support components.” Recently, a study was conducted to examine the effects of this program on women trying to conceive through IVF. “The intersection of stress and fertility is a controversial one, but we do know that stress can reduce the probability of conception,” said principal investigator Alice Domar, Ph.D, OB/GYN, BIDMC and Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF.

The study involved 100 women under the age of 40 with normal hormonal ranges. Half of the group entered into the Mind/Body Program, and the other half served as the control. Although there were minimal differences between the groups after the first round of IVF treatments, Domar believes that it was because the subjects were only in the program for a short period of time. “We noticed that only half of the study group had begun the Mind/Body Program and those who had started the program were only a couple of sessions in,” said Domar. However, the results were quite significant after the second round. “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.”

The results showed that over half of the women in the program became pregnant compared to less than one fifth of the control group. “The study supports the theory that psychological distress may be an important detriment to IVF outcome,” wrote the authors. Domar added, “But there is a strong indication that stress levels and IVF outcomes are linked and that intervening with mind/body therapies can help.”

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

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  • brandi

    May 12th, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    Sharing this with my hairdresser. She and her husband have been trying to conceive for a while now and have had no luck even though she has had two children ten years ago from a different marriage. maybe this can get them on the path to conceiving like she wants to.

  • daniella

    May 12th, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    im surprised at how little attention I pay to stress and more precisely to get away from being stressed. reading this article gives a big reason to try and keep stress away because if it can play a role in even conceiving then it sure can play a part in other aspects of one’s physical health too!

  • Green Fairy

    May 12th, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    It’s a great finding,yes. But does this hold good only for IVF? I definitely think it works other ways too. Even to conceive the normal way, therapy would help. I say this because your mental state has a lot to do with getting pregnant.

  • Michelle

    May 13th, 2011 at 4:30 AM

    Dealing with the stresses in life in a positive way is such a key to getting help in this area for many couples. Think about how many couples will conceive when they have just adopted a child. The pressure is off, the stress levels are less and they are happy, And bam! They do something that they have not been able to do for years- conceive a child naturally. We all know that this is an example to the extreme but I do think that working with couples who are undergoing ivf and other fertility treatments could certainly benefit from working with a therapist too to get them to slow down and teach them effective ways for dealing with the stress of their life.

  • Linda

    May 15th, 2011 at 6:01 PM

    @brandi: A more plausible explanation would be that her husband is infertile. After all, she had two children from a previous marriage without a problem. Has he been and had himself checked out physically? I would be looking more in his direction for answers first.

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