When you're already undergoing costly, time-intensive in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments, advice to "just relax" may be easier said than done. But taking a low-stress approach to having a baby may actually help some women get pregnant, according to research from Harvard University's Domar Center for Mind/Body Health.
In the study, 97 women at a Boston fertility clinic took part in the Domar Center's mind/body relaxation program. Women were taught deep breathing, guided imagery, and other stress reduction techniques. After the first round of IVF, similar pregnancy rates were seen in women undergoing IVF at the clinic, whether or not they had participated in the program. But for women who failed the first time and were undergoing a second round of IVF, 52 percent who took part in the mind/body program became pregnant, compared to only 20 percent of those who did not.
While it's still a bit of a mystery why stress affects fertility, researchers believe hormonal changes in the body when under stress leads to decreased uterine blood flow and suppression of key sex hormones in some women.
Need to de-stress right now? Try this technique for instant muscle relaxation: progressively tighten and then relax your muscles, either from head to toe or vice versa. Hold each muscle for a count of 10 before moving on.