New Study Reveals Link Between Stress Reduction and Increased Fertility

Participation in Stress Management Program Results in Increased Pregnancy Rate

Oct 19, 2009, 10:45 ET from American Society for Reproductive Medicine

SKILLMAN, N.J., Oct. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- 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, according to a study presented today at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's 65th Annual Meeting.

The study, funded by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., and conducted in conjunction with The Domar Center at Boston IVF 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. The program was designed to educate women on the utilization of cognitive, relaxation and lifestyle techniques to manage stress.

Stress management had an even greater impact on pregnancy rates for women who showed higher baselines symptoms of depression. 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.

"Reproductive health experts have long wondered about the impact that stress may have on fertility, thus impeding a woman's ability to conceive," says Alice Domar, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF and assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School. "This study shows that stress management may improve pregnancy rates, minimizing the stress of fertility management itself, improving the success rates of IVF procedures, and ultimately, helping to alleviate the emotional burden for women who are facing challenges trying to conceive."

Stress management in this study was achieved through a 10-session mind/body program that included relaxation training, cognitive-behavioral strategies and participation in group support.

"For decades, our Company has been dedicated to finding the best ways to support women's health priorities and needs by leveraging science and research to create efficacious solutions that women find beneficial and can easily incorporate into their lives," said Janet Nikolovski, Ph.D, Manager, R&D, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. "With stress increasing over the last decade and being associated with health concerns, we are committed to advancing clinical research on stress. The goal is to provide solutions that reduce stress and its emotional and physical impact on women so that they can lead happier and healthier lives."

About the Study

Conducted over two IVF cycles of 97 IVF patients at or under the age of 40 with day three FSH/E2 levels of 12 and 80 or below (respectively), this randomized controlled trial was created to evaluate the impact of participation in a group mind/body program on pregnancy rates of IVF patients. Subjects were randomized to participate in a 10 session mind/body (MB) program or to a control group (C).

The clinical pregnancy rate for the first IVF cycle was 43 percent for both groups. Prior to their first IVF cycle, 54 percent of the MB participants had not attended any mind/body sessions, 37 percent had attended one to five sessions and nine percent had attended six to 10 sessions. The pregnancy rates for the second IVF cycle were 52 percent for the MB participants and 20 percent for the C patients. Prior to beginning their second IVF cycle, 19 percent of the MB participants attended one to five sessions, 76 percent attended six to 10 sessions and five percent did not attend any sessions.

Subjects that scored at least moderate baseline symptoms of depression were also analyzed. Pregnancy rates for IVF cycle one were 62 percent for the MB participants and 39 percent for C participants. For IVF cycle two, MB participants' pregnancy rate was 67 percent versus zero percent among C participants.

This study was a collaboration between Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF, and assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and Janet Nikolovski, Ph.D, Manager, R&D, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. with funding from Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc.

About the Participants

Subjects had not participated in a previous mind/body group. All participants completed baseline psychological questionnaires. 143 women originally enrolled in the study but 46 subjects withdrew. The most common reasons for withdrawals were that subjects either did not meet study requirements or were non-compliant with study requirements making them ineligible. 97 underwent at least one IVF cycle. There were no significant differences in baseline variables among women in the MB and C groups

SOURCE American Society for Reproductive Medicine