American Society of Reproductive Medicine meeting: Women's stress management program may increase fertility chances

January 1, 2010

Women who participated in a group stress management (mind/body) program before or during their second in vitro fertilization cycle were significantly more likely to achieve pregnancy than women who didn't participate, research shows.

Women who participated in a 9-week group stress management ("mind/body") program before or during their second in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle were significantly more likely to achieve pregnancy than women who didn't participate in the program, researchers from the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health reported.

Participants 40 years old or younger who were scheduled to begin their first IVF cycle were randomized to the 10-session mind/body program or to a control group. The groups did not differ with respect to age or levels of follicle-stimulating hormone or estradiol. Ninety-seven women completed the study.

Each mind/body session was 2 hours long and consisted of relaxation, cognitive-behavioral strategies, and participation in group support, said the study's lead investigator, Alice Domar, PhD, executive director of the Domar Center and director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF.

The clinical pregnancy rate for the first IVF cycle was 43% in both groups. However, more than half of the women randomized to the mind/body program did not attend any sessions before their first IVF cycle, and 43.9% attended only 1 to 5 sessions.

Participation improved before the start of the second IVF cycle: 76% attended 6 to 10 sessions.

Pregnancy rates for the second IVF cycle were 52% for those assigned to the mind/body program and only 20% for the controls (P=.05).

Women who had moderate symptoms of depression at baseline were analyzed separately. Among this group, pregnancy rates were 62% in the mind/body group and 39% in the control group for cycle 1, and 67% in the mind/body group and 0 in the control group for cycle 2.

According to Domar, 22 studies in which baseline stress and subsequent pregnancy rates have been assessed have found that those with more distress were less likely to become pregnant; in fact, those with the most distress were 93% less likely to become pregnant than were those with the least stress.