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IVF Pregnancy Rate Highest Among Women Who Are…Stressed?

I'm guessing this woman will have a boy.

It seems counterintuitive. After all, stress usually does nothing more than add a layer of complication to anything one tries to accomplish. Consider the following. Your 6 year-old little girl is nervous about performing well in the big piano recital. What advice might you give her?

Probably something along the lines of this: “Honey, you’re going to do great. Try not to get all worked up about it. Just go out there and have fun.”

But if that same little girl is similar to a woman trying to get pregnant via in vitro fertilization, perhaps you should tell her this: “Sweetheart. I’ve been thinking about the whole recital deal. And honestly? I think it’d be best for you to obsess upon it from this very moment until it’s finally over. Frankly, you’re bound to fail.”

At least according to a study conducted by Dr Robert Hunter from Staten Island University Hospital in New York.

For he found that women with higher levels of fertility-related stress stood a much better chance of getting pregnant. In fact, such ladies’ odds were up to twice as good as those with lower stress levels.

The project examined 217 women. Each were asked to rate their level of stress as it related to IVF on a scale of one to ten. The calm ones who pegged themselves as a one to three? They were 30% likely to become pregnant. But the white-knuckled women who said they fell somewhere between seven and ten had a pregnancy rate of 50 to 60%.

Dr. Hunter was caught off guard by the findings. “We were a little surprised by the outcome of the study,” he said. “We were expecting the opposite result.”

My wife and I did not have to resort to IVF, but we did turn to hormone treatment. We chose that route because, statistically speaking, Caroline’s fertility doctor said it presented the lowest incidence of multiples. (Quick shout out to my triplets — how y’all doing, today?) Luckily, Caroline got pregnant after the very first round, so we never experienced any real stress associated with the process.

But when we first started, I did wonder what our mind frames would have been if we had gone through five, six, or seven rounds without any success. Surely, I thought, it’d be tense. And if it were, I worried that it would complicate matters.

Now, I realize that hormone treatment is far different than IVF, but the study still surprised me. After all, it seems logical to assume, just as I did in our scenario, that stress would hamper productivity, not foster it.

It’s not exactly the most scientific study in the world. Maybe those who assigned themselves stress levels of one to three did so because they were so stressed out, they were simply following advice similar to what our 6 year-old pianist would have received.

Or, maybe stress really does help women undergoing IVF to become pregnant. What do you think? Can anyone with firsthand experience help clear this up?

Photo: MorgueFile

John Cave Osborne’s personal blog.
John Cave Osborne’s book website.

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