Infertility is when you cannot get pregnant after having unprotected, regular sex for six months to one year, depending on your age.
The main symptom of infertility is not getting pregnant. You may not have or notice any other symptoms.
Symptoms can also depend on what is causing the infertility. Many health conditions can make it hard to get pregnant. Sometimes no cause is found.
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
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
"The first group is receiving a gentle form of massage therapy on their
feet and legs just prior to either an insemination or an embryo transfer; the
matched group is going straight into treatment without any stress-reducing
therapy," says Morgan.
While he says it's still too early to predict results, he suspects the
outcome may definitely favor massage therapy.
At Grifo's center at New York University, infertility patients are routinely
referred to in-house programs that offer both guided imagery and foot
reflexology, all in an effort to reduce stress.
"We're not studying it in a scientific way, but we offer it and we
recommend it, and the women who become involved seem to feel better, and that's
what matters most to us. If it helps the quality of life for patients seeking
fertility treatments, that's a very big thing," says Grifo.
Of course the one thing experts say probably won't help reduce stress in
your life is hearing people tell you to relax. In fact, experts say it could
even generate more stress.
"I never want to tell patients to just 'relax' because you can't tell a
person who's already nervous to stop being nervous. That just isn't
helpful," says Greenfeld.
What she does recommend, however, is for each woman to look into her own
life and try to find tiny spaces where she can give her body and her mind a
respite from the stresses of every day living.
Says Greenfeld: "Don't just try to relax because you think that it's
going to help you get pregnant. But do relax just because it feels good,
because it's comfortable, and because when you do feel good, you're healthier
overall, and that can never be a bad thing for conception."
SOURCES: Margareta Pisarska, MD, co-director, Center for Reproductive
Medicine, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles; editor-in-chief,
American Society for Reproductive Medicine News. Allen Morgan, MD,
director, Shore Institute for Reproductive Medicine, Lakewood, N.J. Jamie A.
Grifo, MD, PhD, director, division of reproductive endocrinology, NYU Medical
Center, New York. Dorothy Greenfeld, MSW, director of behavioral services, Yale
Fertility Center of Yale University, New Haven, Conn. Sanders, K.A. Human
Reproduction, Oct 1997; vol 12: pp 2324-2329. Klonoff-Cohen, H.
Fertility and Sterility, April 2004; vol 8. Paulus, W. Fertility
and Sterility, April 2002; vol 77. Diego, M, Journal of
Neuroscience, 2004; vol 114: pp. 31-45.