FERTILITY —
THE MIND/BODY CONNECTION:
AN OVERVIEW

It has long been established that high levels of stress contribute to increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, muscle tension, gastrointestinal problems and a host of other physical ailments. Individuals under extreme or chronic stress also have diminished immune systems and are more susceptible to various forms of illness.

Recently researchers in the field of stress management have recognized the disruptive effects stress hormones have on the reproductive system, affecting menstrual cycles, ovulation, tubal function and uterine receptivity. Dr. Alice Domar, Executive Director, Domar Center for Mind/Body health at Boston IVF, is a pioneer in the field of stress and fertility. She has reported that infertile women have depression scores comparable to those of women with cancer, heart disease, and HIV (Domar, Healing Mind, Healthy Woman, p.233). Anyone who has experienced infertility can vouch for the cyclic emotional roller coaster ride of hope and disappointment, sadness and frustration in trying to conceive a child. Infertility causes a tremendous amount of stress, and the body's response to this stress can further contribute to infertility. It becomes a vicious and agonizing circle.

The purpose of this website is to address the issue of stress and its effect on fertility. We want to show patients the importance of dealing with these effects in a positive manner. There is a way to break the vicious circle of stress and infertility. This website gives information and resources, as well as techniques, for eliciting the "relaxation response," a term coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, cardiologist and founder of Harvard's Mind/Body Medical Institute. The "Relaxation Response" is a condition of deep relaxation in which "there is a measurable decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormone levels and muscle tension." (Domar, Conquering Infertility, p. 25)

Mind/Body Medicine is best utilized in conjunction with medical treatment. Its purpose is to give patients a sense of control over their emotions and to reduce the physical effects of acute or chronic stress. It replaces a state of anxiety with a feeling of serenity, which is obviously a much healthier condition.

Mind/Body Medicine cannot cure all fertility problems. It will not unblock obstructed fallopian tubes, create sperm or resurrect declining ovaries. It may help fertility problems of an unexplained or hormonal nature. It will help virtually all patients with their ability to take control of their emotions and learn to be at peace with themselves.