Stress Management Techniques Can Increase Pregnancy Rates

According to a study presented on October 20, 2009 at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s 65th Annual Meeting:

“Women who participated in a stress management program prior to or during their second IVF cycle had a 160 percent greater pregnancy rate than women who did not participate in a program.  The study…..revealed a pregnancy rate of 52 percent among women who participated in a stress management program as compared to a 20 percent pregnancy rate for women who were not exposed to the stress management program……Pregnancy rates jumped to 67 percent for women with signs of depression at the start of the study who engaged in the stress management program versus no pregnancies for those that did not.”

Relaxation training, cognitive-behavioral strategies and group support were the specific stress management techniques employed during this study.

In short, what this study shows is that stress management may help increase pregnancy rates (including success rates of IVF procedures) by helping women cope with and minimize anxiety levels.    

BOTTOM LINE….

There is a proven correlation between stress/anxiety levels and lower pregnancy rates.  If you are trying to get pregnant, you need to do what you can to reduce your anxiety levels.  Worrying about whether your IVF cycle(s) will succeed or not will only harm your chances.  I know it’s easier said than done.  I really do.  I’ve been there.  Give yoga a try.  I did…and my IVF cycle at the time succeeded.  Coincidence or not, I may never know.  But I’m sure the yoga helped decrease my anxiety levels, as well as provided physical benefits in terms of the stretching, etc.  I went into that cycle with a much more positive attitude than during the previous cycle (ditching the IVF cycle and doctor I couldn’t stand for a facility I actually enjoyed being a patient at worked wonders as well).  Read my previous blog posts about yoga and seeking therapy with a mental health professional experienced with infertility.

Benefits of Yoga During IVF and Pregnancy

I know I mentioned my next blog post would be my Part II advice on getting a minimum of 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but I had to squeeze this short one in beforehand.  It’s been on my mind ever I saw the recent post over at Postpartum Progress on the benefits of yoga. 

Researchers in Iran provided the results on their study of the benefits of yoga on anxiety and depression in women in the May 2009 issue of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice (Volume 15, Issue 2, Pages 102-104).  The conclusion of the abstract reads as follows: 

“Participation in a two-month yoga class can lead to significant reduction in perceived levels of anxiety in women who suffer from anxiety disorders. This study suggests that yoga can be considered as a complementary therapy or an alternative method for medical therapy in the treatment of anxiety disorders.”

 What I forgot to mention in my previous post relating to my IVF experience is that what probably made a huge difference–other than the fact that I had an excellent experience over at RMA of NY–was the fact that I took yoga lessons once a week during the IVF process and I stopped taking the lessons once implantation took place (because I was afraid some of those yoga moves might be too much for the less than handful of eggs that were just implanted inside me).  Believe me, from the time those eggs were implanted and the next 9 months, I took all manner of precaution to avoid mental and physical strain to preserve my pregnancy.   Looking back, I probably should have taken pregnancy yoga classes (or at least followed a pregnancy yoga DVD) to reduce anxiety that would rear its head every now and then when I experienced spotting and pain.  Mind you, I don’t think my anxiety levels were abnormally high during my pregnancy.  I think it was perfectly normal for me to be concerned with spotting and pain after having gone through what I’d gone through to get that far with the pregnancy.   I mean, who wouldn’t feel concerned, given the situation?

Ruta Nonacs, in her book (pg 80) A Deeper Shade of Blue: A Woman’s Guide to Recognizing and Treating Depression in Her Childbearing Years, sums up the reason why infertility is a stressful experience for women as follows: “[Infertility] is one of the most stressful experiences for a woman.  Even the strongest and most resilient may experience depression when forced to ensure such significant demands on their emotional and physical resources…..Several recent research studies indicate that women who suffer from infertility are vulnerable to significant depression or anxiety: among women who undergo infertility treatment, it is estimated that about 25 percent to 30 percent suffer from clinical depression.”   

This is why I would suggest women going through IVF treatments to do everything they can do reduce their anxiety by seeing a therapist experienced with helping IVF patients, as well as giving yoga a try.   And for those who are pregnant–whether through IVF or naturally–you should seriously consider taking pregnancy yoga classes or follow pregnancy yoga DVDs in the privacy of your home.  Yoga will not only benefit you physically, it can help reduce anxiety levels.  After my next post on sleep, I will write on how anxiety levels are also detrimental to the fetus.