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Don't Fret Over In Vitro Stress

Stress doesn't appear to affect the odds of becoming pregnant via in vitro fertilization.

That's the bottom line of a new study, according to The Early Show health contributor Dr. Mallika Marshall.

She says that should come as a relief to women who worry that worrying itself can make it less likely the procedure will work.

The study, out of Sweden, finds stress doesn't appear to influence the outcome of in vitro fertilization. That's an important finding because IVF can be incredibly stress-inducing, Marshall says, and women have feared that the anxiety itself might cause the IVF to fail.

There have been other studies looking at a possible connection, but they've been conflicting. This study was probably better than most, Marshall says, because the researchers asked women to assess their well being before undergoing a cycle of IVF, instead of asking them after the fact.

The word comes as a growing number of women experience problems with infertility, Marshall says. A big reason is that more and more women are delaying childbirth into their late 30s and early 40s, she says. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 20 percent of women from 35-39 were childless in 2002, compared to 10 percent in 1976. And we know that as women age, their fertility declines and, as a result, infertility is occurring more frequently.

Another study, a small one done in Germany in 2002, suggests acupuncture may improve IVF success rates, Marshall says.

The researchers looked at 160 women undergoing IVF. Half had acupuncture, half didn't. They found that, among women getting acupuncture, the number who got pregnant was significantly higher, 34 compared to 21.

It's not entirely clear how acupuncture helps, Marshall says, but it may improve the blood supply to the ovaries. This may improve their function and the blood supply to the uterus, which may make it easier to nourish an embryo were it to implant while reducing the risk of miscarriage.

If you want to pursue acupuncture for fertility-related reasons, Marshall suggests you find a traditional fertility specialist first to see what your underlying issues may be. Then you can get a referral to a certified acupuncturist from your fertility doctor. You want to find someone who's trained and licensed in acupuncture and has a lot of experience treating women with fertility issues.

Acupuncture can cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on where you go and how long you need treatment. Usually, Marshall says, it's covered by insurance.

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