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Participants attending our programs make better decisions, positively manage stress, develop new coping skills, learn relaxation techniques and gain better control over their health."

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The science of stress reduction using mind body medicine has been proven to further health and wellness in fertility and pregnancy among other areas in our lives.

Below you will find a partial library of research for Fertility and Pregnancy:

Fertility Research

Clinical application of the relaxation response in women's health
Deckro JP, Domar AD, Deckro RM.

Women are subject to multiple stressors often getting little recognition or support for their diverse roles. Although stress is a natural part of life, research indicates that prolonged or extreme stress can have a negative effect on a woman's health. Nurses, because of their holistic approach, are ideally suited to use interventions that empower women to deal effectively with stress. This article outlines the mind/body connection and describes the relaxation response as a counterbalance to the deleterious effects of stress. Instructions for several methods of using the relaxation response in a clinical setting are given.

Anxiety impacts egg production and quality
Klonoff-cohen and Natarajan, 2004

Women undergoing IVF who were "worried" about the medical aspects of their treatments had 20% fewer eggs retrieved and 19% fewer eggs fertilized.

High levels of anxiety impact IUI success rates and miscarriage rates
Demyttenaere, Nijs, Steeno, & Koninckx, 1988

In a study with women undergoing donor sperm insemination, those with higher levels of anxiety prior to undergoing inseminations took significantly longer to conceive and were also significantly more likely to miscarry that those with lower levels of anxiety.

Coping with male infertility - gender differences
2001 Arch Gynecol Obstet 265;3:131-6
Kowalcek, I., Wihstutz, N., Buhrow, G., and Diedrich, K.

Women of infertile couples rated higher on "depressional coping" than their partners. Women with infertility rated lower on "religiousness and search for meaning" than women with other chronic medical problems.

Impact of Group psychological interventions on pregnancy rates in infertile women
Domar A, Clapp D, Slawsby E, Dusek J, Kessel B, Freizinger M. Fertility and Sterility. 2000: 73; 4:805-11.

In a study of women with infertility, the pregnancy rate of a support group that met once a week for 10 weeks and included relaxation and imagery was 55%, vs. a regular support group with 52%, and a control group with only 20%. Interestingly, 42% of the pregnancies achieved in the relaxation/imagery group were spontaneous, versus only 12% in the support group, the rest of whom required reproductive.

The psychological impact of infertility: a comparison with patients with other medical conditions
Domar AD, Zuttermeister PC, Friedman R.

To compare the psychological symptoms of infertile women with patients with other chronic medical conditions, subjects completed the Symptom Checklist-90 (Revised) (SCL-90R), a standardized, validated and widely used psychological questionnaire, prior to enrolling in a group behavioral treatment program. All subjects were female and the totals in each program were as follows: 149 with infertility, 136 with chronic pain, 22 undergoing cardiac rehabilitation, 93 with cancer, 77 with hypertension, and 11 with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive status. The infertile women had global symptom scores equivalent to the cancer, cardiac rehabilitation and hypertension patients, but lower scores than the chronic pain and HIV-positive patients (p < 0.0001 and p < 0.02 respectively). The anxiety and depression scores of the infertile women were significantly lower than chronic pain patients but not statistically different from the other groups. The results suggest that the psychological symptoms associated with infertility are similar to those associated with other serious medical conditions. Therefore, standard psychosocial interventions for serious medical illness should also be applied in infertility treatment.

Behaviorally induced reproductive compromise in women and men
1997 Semin Reprod Endocrinol 15;1:47-53
Berga, S. L.

Psychosocial problems can affect the central GnRH-LH/FSH drive, and cause ovarian compromise on a continuum of amenorrhea, oligomenorrhea, polymenorrhea, or luteal-phase deficiency. Although drug treatment can restore reproductive function, it is also masking the problem. "Attitudes, moods, and behaviors can have endocrine consequences and cause definable reproductive disorders...Misattributions, negative images of self and others, unrealistic expectations, and emotional disharmony can cause neuroendocrine havoc."

Infertility: the impact of stress, the benefit of counseling
1997 J Assist Reprod Genet 14;4:181-3
Seibel, M. M.

Infertility patients have been called the "most neglected silent minority" because they have a loss that often goes unnoticed. In addition, they face many other often unnoticed stresses, such as the difficulties of going to work while undergoing infertility testing and treatments, the fear caused by newspaper reports of possible increased risk of cancer with ovulation agents, or the ethical problems of facilities implanting the wrong embryos. Even if successful, they may continue to consider themselves "infertile", often not buying baby clothes or making preparations during their pregnancy. And if therapies do not work, they often drop out of treatment without closure or support. For all of these reasons, the author recommends a psychologist as part of an infertility team, for individual counseling as well as behavioral advice on relaxation training, stress management, and nutritional and exercise counseling.

Mind Body interventions alleviate the physical and emotional symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety
Herbert Benson, M.D., 2006

Participants report significant decreases in insomnia, headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, depressive symptoms, anxiety, anger, and fatigue. Harvard Medical School's research reports the direct relationship between stress and neuroendocrine responses and describes the primitive reflexes of sympathetic and adrenal activation in response to perceived stress and distress on health.

Reduction in stress and depression can improve conception rates
Rodriguez et al.,1983

Women with unexplained infertility who went through an 8-week program of relaxation training, cognitive restructuring, and self-instructional management were significantly more likely to conceive than a control group who receive no training. Within the 2-month study period, 4 out of 7 experimental subjects conceived, whereas none of the 7 control subjects conceived.

Relaxation training improves IVF conception rates
Farrar, Holbert, & Drabman, 1990

In a study of 63 women about to undergo an IVF treatment cycle, those who chose to attend 2-weeks worth of sessions on relaxation training were significantly more likely to conceive on their first IVF attempt.

Acupuncture Research

Acupuncture may improve IVF success rates
Acupuncture Today
July, 2002, Vol. 03, Issue 07

Two teams of researchers in Germany and the People's Republic of China have found that adding acupuncture to the treatment regimen of women using assisted reproductive techniques to have a child can dramatically improve the woman's chances of getting pregnant. Their findings, published in the April issue of Fertility and Sterility1 and widely reported in the popular press, could bring new hope to thousands of couples who would like to have children but have been unable to do so.

Acupuncture: A Cure for Infertility?
Tuesday, April 26, 2005, by Catherine Donaldson-Evans
Influence of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in assisted reproductive technology. Zhang M , Huang G , Lu F , Paulus WE , Sterzik K J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci, 22(3): 228-30 2002

The clinical effects of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in sperm parameter and on therapeutic results in assisted reproductive technology were investigated. 22 patients failed in intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) with idiopathic male infertility were treated with acupuncture twice weekly for 8 weeks, followed by ICSI treatment again. The sperm concentration, motility, morphology, fertilization rates and embryo quality were observed. Quick sperm motility after acupuncture (18.3% +/- 9.6%) was significantly improved as compared with that before treatment (11.0% +/- 7.5%, P < 0.01). The normal sperm ratio was increased after acupuncture (21.1% +/- 10.4% vs 16.2% +/- 8.2%, P < 0.05). The fertilization rates after acupuncture (66.2%) were obviously higher than that before treatment (40.2%, P < 0.01). There was no significant difference in sperm concentration and general sperm motility between before and after acupuncture. The embryo quality after acupuncture was improved, but the difference between them was not significant (P > 0.05). Acupuncture can improve sperm quality and fertilization rates in assisted reproductive technology.

Effect of acupuncture on sperm parameters of males suffering from subfertility related to low sperm quality.
Arch Androl, 39(2):155-61 1997 Sep-Oct (ISSN: 0148-5016)
Siterman S; Eltes F; Wolfson V; Zabludovsky N; Bartoov B
Institute of Chinese Medicine, Tel Aviv, Israel.

The aim of this prospective controlled study was to assess the effect of acupuncture on the sperm quality of males suffering from subfertility related to sperm impairment. Semen samples of 16 acupuncture-treated subfertile patients were analyzed before and 1 month after treatment (twice a week for 5 weeks). In parallel, semen samples of 16 control untreated subfertile males were examined. Two specimens were taken from the control group at an interval of 2-8 months. The expanded semen analysis included routine and ultramorphological observations. The fertility index increased significantly (p < or = .05) following improvement in total functional sperm fraction, percentage of viability, total motile spermatozoa per ejaculate, and integrity of the axonema (p < or = .05), which occurred upon treatment. The intactness of axonema and sperm motility were highly correlated (corr. = .50, p < or = .05). Thus, patients exhibiting a low fertility potential due to reduced sperm activity may benefit from acupuncture treatment.

Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities.
Gurfinkel E , Cedenho AP , Yamamura Y , Srougi M
Asian J Androl, 5(4): 345-8 2003

AIM: To evaluate the effect of Chinese Traditional Medicine, acupuncture and moxa treatment, on the semen quality in patients with semen abnormalities.

METHODS: In a prospective, controlled and blind study, nineteen patients, aged 24 years approximately 42 years and married for 3 years approximately 11 years without children with semen abnormalities in concentration, morphology and/or progressive motility without apparent cause, were randomized into two groups and submitted to acupuncture and moxa treatment at the therapeutic (Study Group) and the indifferent points (Control Group), respectively, for 10 weeks. Semen analyses were performed before and after the treatment course.

RESULTS: The patients of the Study Group presented a significant increase in the percentage of normal-form sperm compared to the Control Group (calculated U=16.0, critical U=17.0).

CONCLUSION: The Chinese Traditional Medicine acupuncture and moxa techniques significantly increase the percentage of normal-form sperm in infertile patients with oligoastenoteratozoospermia without apparent cause.

Acupuncture and good prognosis IVF patients
P. C. Magarelli, D. K. Cridennda, M. Cohen. Reproductive Medicine & Fertility Center, Colorado Springs, CO; East Winds Acupuncture, Inc., Colorado Springs, CO.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the role of electro stimulation acupuncture and traditional combined with auricular acupuncture on IVF outcomes in good prognosis patients.

RESULTS: Total IVF cases 114, 53 with Acupuncture (Ac) and 61 without Acupuncture (Non-Ac). Demographics, Infertility Diagnoses, and Treatment Protocols were statistically the same between both groups and by design, the following parameters were similar: Sperm Morphology; Peak Day 3 FSH; Average Pulsatility Index; Peak E2 at hCG; and Post hCG P4. These parameters earned the designation of Good Prognosis group. Preg- S80 Abstracts Vol. 82, Suppl. 2, September 2004 nancy rates (PR) and Miscarriage rates (SAB) were statistically improved at the p < 0.05 levels in those patients that received Acupuncture (51% v 36% PR and 8% v 20% SAB in the AC v Non-Ac groups). There were no ectopic pregnancies in the Ac group and 9% in the Non-Ac group, p < 0.008. Finally, Birth rates (BR) per cycle start and per pregnancy were significantly higher in the Ac group, with 23% more births/pregnancy significant at the p < 0.05 level.

CONCLUSION: The use of adjunctive therapies in IVF protocols is gaining popularity. In previously published data, Acupuncture was reserved for Poorer Prognosis patients and enhanced outcomes were observed. In this study, we demonstrated that Good Prognosis patients would also benefit from inclusion of published Acupuncture protocols. This is also the first publication of Birth outcome data in Acupuncture treated IVF patients. Acupuncture significantly increased birth outcomes; it significantly decreased ectopic pregnancies and miscarriage rates. These data uniquely support a definitive role of both Electrostimulation and Traditional combined with Auricular Acupuncture in IVF in Good Prognosis IVF patients.

Nutrition & Yoga Research

Vitamins that my improve sperm motility

Health News for Male Fertility

Revamp your diet to enhance fertility

Amazing research on how nutrition can increase sperm quality, egg production and overall general wellness pre and post pregnancy. Dr Barrett educates & consults on fertility and pregnancy nutrition for the Mind Body Institute. Contact her via in person appointment or phone consult to get the latest research on nutrition for fertility (male & female). http://www.inaturalmedicine.com/

She received her pre-medical education from the Robert D Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.

Dr Barrett has been in practice in the Orange County area since 2003 offering integrative medical care. Integrative medicine is a discipline that combines the best of both mainstream and natural therapies in one practice. She utilizes a variety of therapeutics including dietary and lifestyle counseling, herbal medicine, nutritional supplementation, and incorporating pharmaceutical prescriptions when needed.

Dr Barrett is the Vice Chair for an independent review board (IRB). She reviews pharmaceutical, natural and medical device clinical trials to ensure informed consent and safety of subjects participating in these trials.

Dr Barrett is also on the medical advisory board for a lab/natural product company. She facilitates natural product research and development, advises on therapeutic recommendations based on functional testing results and provides lectures for practitioner education.

Dr Barrett has lectured extensively to both the general public, naturopathic and medical doctors on topics including women's medicine, natural fertility management, breast health, children's health, heart disease and general naturopathic medicine.

She has been quoted in several health publications including Natural Health, Health Breakthroughs, Body and Soul and Real Simple Magazines.

Alcohol consumptions and miscarriage rates
American Journal of Epidemiology Vol 160 No 7 2004 661-67

Alcohol consumption in the week prior to conception was associated with an increased rate of miscarriage. For women ten or more drinks a week was associated with 2 to 3 times greater risk of miscarriage while for men it was 2 to 5 times greater risk.

Impact of coffee consumption on conception rates
Yale University School of Medicine. Epidemiologic Reviews Vol 14, Pg 83, 1992

A study of 1,909 women in America found the risk of not conceiving for 12 months was 55% higher for women drinking 1 cup of coffee per day. It was 100% higher for women drinking 1 and one half to 3 cups and 176 % higher for women drinking more than three cups per day.

Smoking and infertility

These finds came from the British Medical Association 2004 and Fertility and Sterility 2004 Men who smoke have a lower sperm count and a higher proportion of malformed sperm.

Women who smoke take longer to conceive. Women who smoke are twice as likely to be infertile as non smokers. Men and women who smoke have a poorer response to fertility treatment. Women who have stopped smoking take no longer to become pregnant than those who have never smoked. Stopping smoking improves sperm count and quality.

Yoga: an adjunct to infertility treatment
Khalsa HK.
West Medford, MA 02155, USA. hari@reachhari.com

Yoga and meditation can help women experiencing the challenges of infertility. The practice of meditation and relaxation can help increase the clarity of the mind, maintain healthy body chemistry, and give patients the patience to undergo the rigors of infertility treatments. When one understands and can attain physical relaxation, one tends to feel better about the body itself, and begins to treat the body with more respect. This understanding can lead to healthier lifestyle habits as well as increased sensitivity regarding symptoms and body processes. This is beneficial to both doctor and patient as the patient can report with more clarity and sense cycles and physical issues more readily.

Yoga Journal & Alternative Medicine - A Yoga Lifestyle
Yoga Journal - November 2002

YOGA 4 PARTNERS with Brenda Strong and Tom Henri
OUR SOLITARY daily yoga practice can sometimes get lonely. At such times it's nice to partner up and work with a spouse, friend or colleague - provided you both can keep the gossiping to a minimum. Here is a sweet , 25-minute session for two partners that, by my count, includes 15 simple paired excercises or yoga asana. Each excersise or asana represents, and is named as, some admirable quality or qualitieslearned from the cooperative effort, which can then, according to the teacher's premise, be applied to everyday life. For example, a linked-arms, leaning-back excercise, teaches "trusting and letting-go", and a knee-to-knee, assisted seated twist teaches "respecting limitations". Strong, a Southern California teacher, and her partner, Henri, have produced a relatively mild, straight-forward practice that emphasizes both self-and other- awareness. They are excellent models, performing the work with compatible grace and harmony.

Alternative Medicine - December 2002

Yoga's Feminine Side
Brenda Strong

Could this ancient practice help you conceive?
REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE YOUNGER and the objective was to not get pregnant? Well, times have changed. Starting a family is not as easy as it once was, at least for those of us in our thirties and forties. Experts say a woman's ability to conceive declines measurably at age 35 and plummets nearly twice as fast by the time she hits 40. Many of us have waited to pursue our careers, find the perfect mate, achieve financial stability-and one day it's too late.

In an effort to turn back the clock, many couples have been heading to doctors' offices. With the explosion of highly technical therapies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT), and other modifications of test-tube treatments, couples last year alone spent over a billion dollars in the pursuit of a baby. Yet results can be disappointing. The average success rate for IVF is about 19 percent; with GIFT, it's 28 percent. Luckily, there may be a simple way to improve the odds. A growing body of evidence is beginning to support the idea that stress plays a critical role in preventing conception. (And these days, who isn't wound a bit too tight?) A study published in Fertility and Sterility found that among women trying in vitro fertilization, those with high levels of stress produced fewer eggs-and therefore had fewer embryos that could be transferred into their wombs-than their more relaxed counterparts.

Alice Domar, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Harvard Medical School, has demonstrated even more direct evidence of the payoff of stress relief. Fifteen years ago, she divided 110 women who had tried to get pregnant for one to two years into three groups. The first was an infertility support group; the second concentrated on relaxation therapies including yoga and meditation; the third was given fertility medication alone. After a year, only 20 percent of the women on medication alone became pregnant compared to about half the women in both types of support groups.

No one quite understands the physiology involved, but Domar's research suggests that stress can delay menstrual cycles and create abnormal levels of the pituitary hormone prolactin, which is responsible for ovulation. And the process feeds on itself. The more stressed you are, the harder it may be to conceive, which in turn makes you more stressed. Domar found that infertile women are significantly more depressed than their fertile counterparts, with depression and anxiety levelsequivalent to women with heart disease, cancer, or HIV-positive status.

Of course, there are many ways to break the cycle, from meditation to therapy to curling up in a comfy chair with a good book. But if you're looking for something that combines emotional release with a satisfying physical workout, yoga is a natural choice.

Several years ago I struggled with my own infertility issues, and as a yoga instructor, this ancient practice was a logical place for me to turn. With its deep breathing techniques and asanas, or poses, yoga conditions the body from the inside out, calming the nervous system, slowing the heart rate, stretching and toning the muscles. Yogic breathing also helps strengthen the diaphragm to increase lung capacity and improve circulation, thereby distributing oxygen and nutrients throughout the system.

And this is just the Western view of yoga's benefits. From an Eastern perspective, yoga relaxes by a different, more "holistic" route. Traditional Chinese medicine, for instance, holds that blockages or imbalances between the masculine (yang) and feminine (yin) energies in the body can be the root causes of ill health-or in this case, stress-induced discomforts and dysfunctions.

Yoga is based on this same concept of enhancing the flow of energy through energy channels,which are part of what yogis call the "chakra" system. The word chakra literally translates as wheel or disk. It refers to the sphere ofbioenergetic activity that emanates from the major nerve ganglia branching forward from the spinal column. A chakra is a center of activity that receives,assimilates, and expresses energy.

Seven of these wheels are stacked in a column that spans from the base of the spine to the top of the head and roughly corresponds to major glandular and nervous system groupings. That's why neuroendocrine health-the chemical signals from the brain that maintain the body's delicate hormonal balance-can be influenced by the practice of yoga.

The second chakra is of utmost importance for sexual health. Located around the lower abdomen and groin, this energy center rules the reproductive organs, and relates to movement, sensation, pleasure, sexuality and, theoretically, fertility. Anodea Judith, author of Eastern Body, Western Mind, has a healing practice utilizing the chakra system for therapeutic purposes. She believes that if there is an energy blockage, excess, or deficiency in the second chakra, the imbalance can affect physical function, and she suggests poses to "rebalance" the area.

Four years ago, I incorporated this idea into my own research on stress and fertility and began teaching what I call a more "feminine" type of yoga at the West Coast branch of the Mind/Body Institute in Los Angeles. It combines deep relaxation poses and poses designed to enhance reproductive health. The conception success rate in the graduate group has been more than 55 percent. For the women who were also undergoing medical treatments, I found that my yoga program made it easier for them to tolerate the stress and discomfort that's often involved in the process.

I've included a mini-version of that program, the sidebar "Six steps to well-being," which you can do in your own home as often as you like (it takes about 20 minutes).There's no guarantee it will help you conceive, but it will certainly let you take a critical first step: relaxing your body and mind so you can improve your chances. One thing's for sure: If you do get pregnant, yoga will help you relax through the nine months of pregnancy- and a lifetime of being a mom.

Pregnancy & Stress Research

Coming soon