WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Old-fashioned, common-sense advice to just relax may actually work to help some women get pregnant, doctors reported on Monday.
For years women seeking to get pregnant have been advised by friends and family to stop stressing about it -- an idea that not all obstetricians and gynecologists have embraced.
But research presented at a meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Atlanta suggests there may be something to it.
Alice Domar, who runs a fertility center in Boston and also works at Harvard Medical School, found that women who took part in a stress management program while having a second round of assisted fertility treatment had a 160 percent greater pregnancy rate than women getting IVF alone.
"Reproductive health experts have long wondered about the impact that stress may have on fertility, thus impeding a woman's ability to conceive," Domar said in a statement.
"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."
She and colleagues randomly assigned 97 patients at the clinic to take part in a 10-session mind/body program while undergoing in-vitro fertilization treatments.
The program had no effect on how many women conceived during the first try, Domar told the meeting, with 43 percent of the women getting pregnant.
But for women who failed the first time and were having a second try, 52 percent who took part in the mind/body program became pregnant, compared to only 20 percent of those who did not.
"It's clear based on this carefully designed study, that a holistic approach to infertility care leads to better outcomes for patients," said Dr. R. Dale McClure, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
But a second study found that while complementary and alternative medical therapy was popular among couples getting infertility treatments, it did not make women any more likely to get pregnant.
A team at the University of California, San Francisco questioned 431 couples undergoing infertility therapy and found that 28 percent had tried some kind of alternative medicine, mostly acupuncture or herbs, but they were not any more likely to achieve pregnancy.
Reporting by Maggie Fox, editing by Jackie Frank