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Clearer mind helps conception

- KATRINA STOKES HEALTH REPORTER TUESDAY JUNE 23 2015

STRESSED women struggling to conceive could benefit from a new fertility program targeting their mental health and wellbeing, and which studies show more than doubles the chance of having a baby.

The program, developed by fertility specialist Dr Ali Domar, an Associate Professor at Harvard University in the US, will be run next month by Adelaide-based psychologi­st Dr Rachel Reilly.

Women can choose between two options – an intensive weekend workshop or 10week course – which will equip them with the skills for how to manage their mental health and “demystify” infertilit­y.

Two separate studies, conducted in 2001 and 2011, revealed the program more than doubled a women’s chance of having a baby, from 20 per cent to 55 per cent.

Dr Reilly, who works at SAHMRI medical research centre, said it was well known that stress and anxiety were a factor in female infertilit­y. “Another big driver of infertilit­y (is) women are choosing to have children later and there is a level of need that hasn’t been met until now,” she said.

“Infertilit­y is a really stressful thing to go through that effects every aspect of your life, so I think this program could be really powerful.”

Dr Reilly said the program would help women to identify “negative thoughts that are driving anxiety and depression”. “The women will get some really good, accurate in- formation about infertilit­y to start with and they will learn a range of different tools for relaxation techniques and mindfulnes­s,” she said.

Partners will be invited to three of the 10 sessions to learn how to better communicat­e with mothers-to-be during the pregnancy process.

Positive Mind Body Australia director Cheryl Mortimer decided to bring the program to Australia to help women who were undergoing IVF and having problems conceiving.

“It’s a mental minefield,” she said. Patients were often “at their wits’ end under the stress associated with IVF “and not only do they need the best medical care, but they’re entitled to the best science has to offer in mental health”.

“It’s about challengin­g negative thought patterns, it gives them up-to-date informatio­n with nutrition, exercise and informatio­n about alternativ­e therapies ... all to do with fertility,” she said.

Ms Mortimer said research showed stress could shut down a woman’s reproducti­ve func- tion. “Stress is the reason why women drop out of IVF programs,” she said. “You have to be mentally well to go into the stress and strains that IVF exposes you to.

“Many women have been successful in their career and society tells us that having a baby should be easy, and it’s not. Not only will this increase their chances of having a baby, but it will help their mental health.”

For more informatio­n: www.positivemi­ndbody.com.au katrina.stokes@news.com.au

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