Stress has long been linked to infertility but, for a couple struggling to conceive, the unwelcome advice of 'just relax and it will happen' is more likely to raise blood pressure than induce relaxation.
Even so, new research confirms that reducing stress levels can more than double a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.
The study, published in the journal of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, found that women undergoing certain infertility treatments are more likely to become pregnant if they take part in a simultaneous stress reduction programme.
In fact, it has been reported that 52% of women participating in a special mind/body programme for infertility became pregnant, compared with 20% of the control group.
This will come as welcome news for more than one in six couples of childbearing age who experience infertility.
"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 Dr Alice Domar, who developed the Mind/Body Programme for Infertility at Harvard Medical School.
“Several studies conducted within the past three years support the theory that psychological distress can have a significant adverse impact on successive rates in In vitro fertilisation (IVF). Mind/body treatment of infertility patients has been shown to both increase pregnancy rates as well as reducing psychological distress,” Dr Domar said.
The SIMS Clinic in Dublin has introduced a new integrative mind/body programme, based on Dr Domar’s research, which can benefit couples and individuals who are experiencing problems conceiving or who are undergoing assisted fertility treatment.
This six-week course will commence on Thursday September 1 with guest lecturers Dr Marilyn Glenville, a UK nutritionist and Dermot O’Connor, author of The Healing Code.
Mind/Body Programme Coordinator and Counsellor at the Sims Clinic, Ann Bracken, told irishhealth.com that stress can have a multi-level impact on the individual and their fertility.
“There are two aspects of stress and it’s inter-relationship with fertility. Firstly, it can adversely affect fertility itself. Stress can affect the gland in the brain that regulates your appetite and emotions as well as hormones - the hypothalamus, which tells your ovary to release eggs, so a woman experiencing severe stress may ovulate later in her cycle or not at all.
"Stress can affect our hormone balance and stress generally contributes to extreme muscle tension, which is unhelpful in terms of implantation."
“Stress can also trigger anxious thoughts and feelings or negative predictions about the future. If a person is having difficulty conceiving or is stressed about the fertility treatment, they may have unhelpful self beliefs about themselves or their partners following a negative outcome, such as ‘he can’t give me a child’ or ‘I can’t give him a child’,” she said.
“The Mind/Body Programme helps them to recognise and transform unhealthy thoughts and supports emotional and physiological balance throughout the challenging process of fertility treatment.”
Ann said the six-week course integrates a number of stress reduction techniques and approaches.
These include cognitive behavioural therapy, which can establish self-supportive belief patterns, mindfulness techniques that instill self-acceptance in a very challenging situation and progressive muscle relaxation techniques and breathing techniques, including gentle exercises such as Chi Kung. Also, the importance of nutrition in terms of conception and implantation will be explored by Dr Glenville.
Couples and individuals can attend over six evenings on consecutive weeks in a small group setting. You do not have to be a SIMS IVF patient to attend SIMS Mind/Body Programme. For further information and booking details, contact Ann Bracken, Mind/Body Programme Co-ordinator at SIMS IVF Clinic on Tel. 01 208 0729 / Email: email@example.com
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