A new research has shown that stress may be one of the main reasons for infertility in women, which is preventing thousands of otherwise healthy women in Britain from starting a family .
Many women who struggle to conceive could increase their chances greatly by learning to cope more. Scientists have stated yesterday that many women who are struggling to conceive could greatly increase their chances, if they could learn to cope more effectively with the stress that day-to-day life offers. The research in the US have shown that psychological treatments that are designed to relieve stress can achieve impressive results and could help in restoring the fertility in women who do not ovulate or menstruate.
Their findings suggests that simple techniques like counselling the women, and teaching them methods for stress reduction could be very effective ways of treating this condition. This condition is commonly called as amenorrhoea and it is reported to affect up to one in ten women at the reproductive age, and is usually caused by stress. The researchers told the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Prague, that their study could also be applied to a larger number of women, who still ovulate and have periods, but whose fertility is impaired by the effects of stress.
Professor Sarah Berga, of Emory University in Atlanta, who led the study said, "We think there are women who have sub-clinical forms of stress and who are infertile as a result, though they are hard to recognise, Some have normal menstrual cycles, but still have insufficient progesterone to support a pregnancy."
Several other papers that were presented at the conference yesterday also found that reducing stress during IVF treatment might significantly increase the chances of success. One such a study by a team from Israel also found that humour could also ease the stress levels, they found in their study that by using clowns to entertain the patients after the embryos were transferred to the womb, had increased pregnancy rates from 19.3% to 35.5%.
Professor Berga conducted her study in 16 women between the ages of 20 to 35 with stress-related amenorrhoea, all of who hadn't had their period for at least six months. This group were than split into two groups of 8 each; one group was observed but not treated, while the other group were given a 20-week course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), like "talking treatment" in which strategies for coping with stress are taught.
"A Professor Berga explained that they noted that a amazing 80% of the women who received CBT started to ovulate again, as compared to 25% among the women in the other group. She explained, "This study underlines the important contribution that lifestyle factors make in determining overall health and reproductive health in particular."
The researchers explained that two women who had the CBT responded so well that they became pregnant soon afterwards, whereas previously they had not been able to ovulate. It was explained that the treatment appears to reduce levels of cortisol, which is a key stress hormone that was found to be higher than normal in all the patients at the start of the study. They also mentioned that there was no corresponding decline in the untreated group.
The results of the study though a successes, do come from a very small trial, and therefore need to be confirmed by larger studies. But still they do offer the best evidence so far that behavioural therapy to fight stress could restore fertility instead of using hormonal drugs or IVF.
Professor Berga said that although the study involved women whose monthly cycle had stopped, the findings might apply to other women who have fertility problems that are harder to discover because they are still menstruating. She explained that it were quite possible that many women would benefit by reducing their stress levels for their infertility problems. Planning to conduct a bigger study she stated that if the larger scale study would also confirm the initial study then they would have a very strong case for offering stress reduction as an effective treatment for major group of women suffering from infertility.