Women who joined a mind-body stress management program had better success becoming pregnant with in vitro fertilization (IVF) than those who did not join the program, according to a study published in Fertility and Sterility (2011; 95, 2269–73). Reduced fertility is associated with stress; however, it is unclear whether infertility causes stress or whether stress causes infertility. This study’s purpose was to determine whether participating in a mind-body group intervention that provided instruction in stress management would make a difference in pregnancy rates in women who were about to begin their first IVF cycle. Scientists followed the women through two IVF cycles.
Researchers conducted the randomized, controlled study at a private, academically affiliated infertility center in the Boston area. They randomly assigned 143 women to either a 10-session ongoing mind-body program or a control group. Mind-body group participants attended classes on cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation training and health behavior modification; the classes included social support from other group members. Control group subjects had no formal program but were incentivized to remain in the study with the promise of spa gift certificates.
Pregnancy rates for all subjects were identical for the first IVF cycle, but prior to the start of cycle 1, only 46% of the women in the intervention group had attended their first mind-body class. By the beginning of cycle 2, 76% of the mind-body group had attended at least half of their stress management sessions. In cycle 2, 52% of the mind-body group participants became pregnant, compared with 20% of the control group members. Researchers concluded that taking the mind-body stress management course—a skill-based intervention, conducted as a group—was associated with increased pregnancy rates.