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Relax and Get Pregnant?
a blog by Beth and Tami of Pulling Down the Moon
We just returned from the annual American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. During the conference, we were very excited to attend a presentation on recent research findings by Dr. Alice Domar. Her research revealed that women who participated in a stress management program prior to or during their second IVF cycle had pregnancy rates of 52% while those in a control group who did not attend a stress management group had pregnancy rates of only 20%.
This research seems to fly in the face of everything we’ve been told all these years by our doctors. That is, that stress does not make you infertile. You can’t just relax and get pregnant. Yet in the back of our minds we have always wondered if, perhaps, we are the exception.
Is it possible that our jobs, our lifestyle, our non-stop, on-the-go “type A” personalities are to blame after all?
Can we finally feel vindicated in our search for the root cause of our infertility? That, indeed, stress is the culprit? While I’m sure doctors and researchers will be anxious to continue studying and researching this issue, let’s look at it from a purely practical point of view.
We regularly ask women in our Yoga for Fertility classes and mind/body programs to raise their hand if they think stress is contributing to their infertility. Time and time again, all the hands go up in the room. We then ask how many feel tressed about their infertility. Again, everyone raises their hand:
- “I’m stressed because the medicine is making me feel fat,” shouts one woman. “I’m stressed because I don’t feel I’m getting enough answers from my doctor,” yells another. “I’m stressed because I’m obsessed with infertility and researching online,” laughs another. “I swear my boss is going to fire me.”
All around the room, women are telling us why their infertility is making them feel stressed. “So, how does this stress manifest in your life?” we ask. Here are some of the responses:
- I eat poorly
- I don’t sleep
- I stop exercising or exercise too much
- I get depressed
- I drop out of treatment
Research has shown that being over or underweight, poor sleep habits, exercising too much or too little and even depression can impact our fertility. Interestingly, the same study done by Dr. Domar on stress management, also found that mind-body sessions appeared to be especially helpful for women who were more depressed, judging from test scores.
So, while I’m not a medical doctor or researcher, it seems practical to say that whether or not stress causes infertility, infertility does cause stress. And stress that manifests in bad lifestyle habits, depression or dropping out of treatment can decrease your chances of conception.
We asked Dr. Brian Kaplan, one of our doctor partners and a well-respected reproductive endocrinologist from Fertility Centers of Illinois what he thought of the study. Here’s what he told us
- “A percentage of women drop out during treatment before pregnancy is achieved. There are multiple reason for this, one factor being the enormous amount of stress involved in the process. Holistic treatments play an important role in stress management of these patients. I therefore highly recommend holistic treatments as a compliment to the treatment patients receive in my practice.”
Dr. R. Dale McClure, president of the ASRM, said in a news release from the organization, "It's clear, based on this carefully designed study, that a holistic approach to infertility care leads to better outcomes for patients.”
Are we finally getting to a place where western medicine and holistic practices which reduce stress like yoga, meditation, and other mind/body techniques might actually be able to co-exist happily in the same treatment room?
Wow, the thought of how that could help revolutionize healthcare in America is stressing me out.
I think I’ll be up all night pondering it.
Anybody got a bag of Cheetos and a soda?
Be Peaceful, Be Positive, Be a Holistic Believer,