Stress: not only can it reduce your chance of successful pregnancy but simple steps can provide relief

Posted by Robert Greene, M.D. at
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Recently, I tweeted on study that got some attention in the media by demonstrating that “medical clowning[G1] ” can improve the pregnancy rates achieved through IVF treatment. I feel compelled to follow up with a post to be certain that patients going through fertility treatment seriously consider the benefits of laughter.

          “Stress” is the hormonal response of your body to unsettling circumstances. These hormone shifts can improve your ability to respond and correct these uncertain situations or they can fester, resulting in chronic changes that have a negative impact upon your health. Your response to any given stress-inducing situation is highly individualized but can result in changes in cortisol, epinephrine, prolactin, growth hormone, insulin, glucagon, thyroid hormones as well as those involved in the recruitment and development of eggs and sperm. So although the “stress response” is present in all of us; our ability to quantify and study it remains very difficult.

          Not only can stress impact your chance of a successful pregnancy; it can also effect your choices during treatment. One study [G2] found that patient’s experiencing greater personal stress, underestimated their risk of having a multiple pregnancy resulting in a request for higher number of embryos to be transferred. Even worse, the treatment regimens themselves [G3] can trigger stress. This was demonstrated in study involving patients in the USA, UK and France indicating that it was a unique response to one society or environment.

          Most patients understand the impact that stress can have upon their success. I experienced this firsthand when my wife and I were going through treatment. That’s why I take great joy in sharing practical tips that anyone can take to relieve their own stress response.

v   Go see a funny movie—studies [G4] show that just anticipating laughter can lower reduce stress hormones. Better still, a really good belly laugh and normalize stress hormones for nearly two days!

v   Simple breathing exercises can reduce stress hormones. These can be performed anywhere. An I-phone app [G5] that I recommend to my patients is called Health for Breath—Pranayama.

v   Consider meditation—various forms of meditation have been shown to trigger the relaxation response; thereby inactivating the stress response. Guided meditation CD’s can take you through the process including some that are particularly geared towards couples dealing with infertility.

4 thoughts on “Stress: not only can it reduce your chance of successful pregnancy but simple steps can provide relief

    1. Dear Kitty,
      Although some may find it reassuring that this study suggests that fertility can overcome stress; it is a stretch to suggest that stress does not reduce success rates as well as contribute to problems during pregnancy. In fact, the very hormone definition of stress is that all one’s metabolic resources are shifted toward survival RATHER then reproduction. So I will continue to encourage my patients to seek out ways to reduce the impact that stress has upon their life. There are simply too many health benefits to do otherwise.
      Best thoughts,

  1. I couldn’t agree more with finding way’s to reduce stress during any kind of fertility treatment. Also having first hand experience of IVF and being a massage therapist I know how stress can affect success rate’s.

    I read a great article about how mind/body therapies has increased success rates. This was a program for stress reduction done by Domar Centre for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF.

    Great post

    1. Dear Ms. Kemp,
      Thank you for your kind comment. I also appreciate your recommendation. I am quite familiar with Dr. Domar’s work. In fact, she was kind enough to write a blurb supporting my book PERFECT HORMONE BALANCE FOR FERTILITY. Clearly, we are gaining tremendous insights into the mind-body connection. I continue to be fascinated on how these interactions can be manifested through hormones and what steps we can take to correct them. Bottom line is that we all continue to strive for even greater success in guiding people toward achieving their goal of pregnancy and greater health/wellness. Please check back for future developments.
      Best thoughts,

      Robert Greene, MD, FACOG
      CNY Fertility Center

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