Stress and Infertility
Doctors offer insights on how daily stress can disrupt fertility -- and how relaxation can help.
Is Stress Affecting Your Fertility? continued...
Moreover, doctors say often the stress of actually undergoing infertility treatments can be so great it can stop even the most successful procedures from working.
"The whole process of undergoing fertility treatment is pretty nerve racking, partly because it's a series of hurdles that must be jumped at each step of the way. It's a period of time that in and of itself is very stressful," says Dorothy Greenfeld, MSW, director of behavioral services at the Yale Fertility Center of Yale University.
If you already have problems with stress, she says, the treatments themselves can definitely turn your tension up a notch or two.
Overcoming Infertility Stress
While it may be a while before the pathway between stress and infertility is clear, what is known right now is that reducing stress levels seems to help.
Some research in this area shows that, for many women, acupuncture could hold the key.
In studies conducted in Germany and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, women enrolled in an infertility program underwent acupuncture treatments just prior to and just after an embryo transfer into the uterus -- the final step in an in vitro fertilization procedure.
The result: Compared to women who did not have the acupuncture treatment, those who did had a significantly higher rate of pregnancy -- 42.5% compared with 26.3% in the group not having acupuncture.
"I don't think we know if acupuncture actually reduces stress but it may help counterbalance some of the effects of stress on the reproductive system," says Grifo, who indicates that at least three studies thus far have proven its benefits on fertility.
Other studies have found that for some women, massage may hold another key to reducing infertility stress. In research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 2004, doctors found that massage therapy worked to decrease the body's physical signals of stress, including heart rate and brain waves.
And while it wasn't tested on infertility patients, Morgan feels so strongly that it will make a difference, he recently launched his own study to test the impact of lower body massage therapy on women undergoing infertility treatments,