Women who ‘let go’ may have better luck with IVF

Women who cope with the stress of infertility treatment by relinquishing control are nearly twice as likely to get pregnant as those who don’t adopt this strategy, research from Israel shows.

The findings, say the researchers, suggest that techniques like meditation, which is focused on teaching people to “let go,” could help improve women’s chances of getting pregnant.

There is increasing evidence that stress and emotional distress can influence in-vitro fertilization (IVF) success, Dr. Nathalie Rapoport-Hubschman of the Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva and her colleagues note in the journal Fertility and Sterility. But evidence on the effects of other psychological factors has been inconclusive, they add.

Rapoport-Hubschman and her team theorized that coping mechanisms, rather than traits like anxiety or hostility, might play a role in IVF success. While problem-focused coping is an effective way to deal with situations that are under a person’s control, so-called “emotion-focused coping,” which can involve humor, denial, relaxation, and letting go, might be a less stressful way to handle infertility treatment, they suggest.

The researchers looked at 88 women undergoing IVF, 21 of whom got pregnant. The only factors that independently influenced IVF success, the researchers found, were a woman’s age and whether she had high “letting go” coping levels at the beginning of the study.

IVF treatment is “highly uncontrollable,” Rapoport-Hubschman and her colleagues note in their report. “When control is not possible, focusing on and regulating one’s associated emotions may be more effective.”

Women who don’t use this approach may spend more time worrying and thinking about whether or not they will get pregnant, the researchers note; this can affect multiple systems in the body.

“The next logical step would be to test whether meditation, aimed at helping women relinquish control and improve letting go, could have positive effects on reproductive outcomes in women undergoing infertility and IVF treatments,” the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, October 2009.

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