Acupuncture Increases Fertility

Natural medicine article by Julie Sevrens Lyons of San Jose Mercury News

To get pregnant, Jill Taylor got a massage. She took a class on forgiveness. She underwent acupuncture She joined a support group. And she practiced meditation. (Of course, she also tried a more conventional method.) It was an untraditional route to having a baby, Taylor knows. But in this era high-tech and high-priced fertility treatments, couples are increasingly turning to “mind-body medicine” techniques such as these to boost their odds of becoming pregnant. Now, Stanford University is bringing together all these therapies into one program to promote fertility, modeling it after a successful Harvard course in which 55 percent of previously infertile women got pregnant, compared with 20 percent of those who didn’t participate in the techniques. “You can learn skills that may increase your chances of getting pregnant, that will get you healthier and will get you happier.”


Helping couples conceive

Stress reduction as fertility booster may seem a bit touchy-feely, doctors concede. And it shouldn’t be confused with the nagging admonishments of relatives that “If you’d just relax or take a vacation, you’d get pregnant. But studies have demonstrated that infertility can be as stressful to patients as a cancer diagnosis and that stress itself reduces fertility rates. So programs that enable frustrated couples to reduce their stress may help some to finally become parents either by making it easier for them to stick with their fertility treatments or through some as-yet-unknown biological mechanism. “In some situations where maybe there’s unexplained infertility and the woman is extraordinarily stressed, it’s possible that by attending to her overall emotional well-being she may be able to tip the scales and become pregnant,” said Penny Donnelly, director of the support program at Stanford’s infertility center. The university houses one of a growing number of clinics that offer everything from art therapy to journal writing to help distraught couples cope with their infertility.

Kaiser- San Francisco, Harvard, and UCLA have similar relaxation programs. The programs, which generally run 10 weeks and cost participants several hundred dollars, are meant to complement medical fertility treatments, not replace them, experts cause One study by researchers at the University of California San Diego published in April found that women concerned about the medical aspects of it Vitro fertilization, such as side effects, anesthesia, and pain, ended up with 19 percent fewer fertilized eggs than women who did not share those worries. Women who were concerned about missing work as a result of treatment had 30 percent fewer fertilized eggs. And women stressed about the cost of in vitro fertilization had a very high risk of not getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. The study was in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

But while high levels of stress may reduce pregnancy rates, it still remains to be proven whether reducing stress can significantly increase a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant. “It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” said Jill Taylor, 43, a South Bay spa consultant who gave birth to a daughter, Hannah last month. Taylor and her husband spent three years and more than $60,000 in their efforts to have a baby. Taylor took forgiveness and meditation sessions at Stanford before they were offered as part of the new comprehensive mind-body program. She credits the classes with giving her the strength to continue with it Vitro fertilization until she got pregnant. Every Tuesday night now, a dozen couples participate in the Stanford sessions, learning expressive art therapy one week and stress management technique the next. They are learning to stop blaming themselves for delaying child-bearing which has been implicated in many cases of infertility- And they chronicle their feelings in Fati Adeli, a Los Altos financial analyst, said the meditation and stress-reduction techniques she learned at Stanford enabled her to get her mind off her infertility treatments and her nagging worries they would not work. Whether that was what helped her third attempt at in vitro fertilization finally succeed, she does not know. But Adeli, who recently learned she is expecting a baby next spring thinks the classes didn’t hurt. “I’ve completely bought into the whole meditation thing. At some point,” she said, “you think I’m doing everything medically. Let me try something else.”

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