Hypnosis helps in vitro fertilization (IVF) success

Each year in the U.S., approximately 6.7 million women have an impaired ability to become pregnant or carry a baby to full term,[1] and over 176,000 in vitro fertilization cycles are performed.[2] With the average cost of an in vitro fertilization cycle ranging from $10,000 to $15,000, women are using hypnosis to make the procedure more effective and nearly double the odds of conceiving.[3]

Women using hypnosis during IVF became pregnant at a rate of 58% per cycle vs. 30% in the control group.

Israeli study presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Berlin in July of 2004, hypnosis can effectively double the success of IVF treatments. The study was conducted by Professor Eliahu Levitas and his team at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva to determine if hypnosis could improve the success of the embryo transfers stage of IVF.

The study of 185 woman found that 28% of the women who were hypnotized for the IVF treatment became pregnant, compared to 14% of the women in the control group. Professor Levitas studied the effects of hypnosis for the IVF treatment and embryo transfer only, because prior studies that demonstrated the stress of the procedure created small contractions of the uterus that prevented the successful implantation of the fertilized egg. The professor indicated that tranquilizers had been used in prior studies, but nothing worked as well as hypnosis.

“Performing embryo transfer under hypnosis may significantly contribute to an increased clinical pregnancy rate,” Professor Levitas told the conference in Berlin. He also hopes that this study will spark continued investigation into the use of hypnosis as an adjunct to fertility treatments.

“The bottom line is I think it’s a good thing, it will work. Patients should be given the option if facilities are available”.
From OurJerusalem.com August 24, 2004.

Regardless of the outcome of fertility treatments, hypnotherapy can equip both women and men with new skills and abilities to successfully manage the stress


What the research shows
Several studies have demonstrated that hypnosis promotes fertility:

▪ In 2006 a significant study on the impact of hypnosis during the in vitro procedure compared pregnancy and implantation rates between two groups: 98 procedures using hypnosis versus 96 procedures without hypnosis. The group using hypnosis obtained 52 pregnancies (53%) with an implantation rate of 28%. The group without hypnosis had 29 pregnancies (30%) with an implantation rate of 14%. Researchers concluded that the use of hypnosis during embryo transfer may significantly improve pregnancy and implantation rates.[4]

▪ In 1999 a study of 1156 women having in vitro fertilization, women who received psychological support, including hypnotherapy, had a higher rate of pregnancy (56%) than those who did not (42%).[5]

▪ The most recent study in 2013 followed 554 couples with “unexplained” reproductive failure (meaning stress-related or otherwise psychosomatic) over a period of 28 years. Using hypnosis to alleviate the stress of infertility as well as marital stress yielded a pregnancy success rate of 72%. Researchers concluded that unexplained reproductive failure is reversible when stress is alleviated with hypnosis.[6]

How does it work?
The human body is built for survival and can adapt to almost any condition. When a person is under physical, mental, or emotional stress, the body responds by mounting an automatic response, called the ‘stress response’ or ‘fight or flight response’ in the central nervous system and endocrine system. The stress response is great for dealing with short-term dangers, but long-term stress can cause serious conditions, including infertility, menstrual problems, and sexual dysfunction. Under stressful conditions, the body undergoes the following changes, which prevent fertilization/conception and carrying a baby to full term:

▪ The stress response prioritizes blood supply to peripheral muscles and the heart, which means decreased blood supply to the digestive and reproductive systems.

▪ When the body is under stress it uses up the pregnancy hormone progesterone to make the stress hormone cortisol. The resulting progesterone deficiency is a problem because progesterone is needed to conceive and to maintain pregnancy.

▪ Cortisol also inhibits the body’s main sex hormone, gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), suppressing sperm count, ovulation and sexual activity.[7]

▪ Physical stress can increase levels of the hormone prolactin, which may disrupt or stop ovulation.

These are some of the mechanisms nature uses to prevent pregnancy under unsuitable (i.e. extreme stress) conditions. The primary mechanism by which hypnosis promotes fertility is probably the reduction of stress hormones by relaxation. Also related to reducing stress, it has also been theorized that hypnosis helps the fallopian tubes relax and dilate so that the ovum can travel successfully down the tube to implant in the uterus.[8] To address the stress that causes infertility, the hypnotic procedure should be relaxing (and train the patient to relax on their own), and posthypnotic suggestions should be given to eliminate stress and tension in general.

Some women have seen remarkable evidence that stress and belief prevent pregnancy when they become pregnant after the misdiagnosis of “blocked tubes.” As soon as they stop worrying about their infertility, they conceive. It can be helpful to give the patient the suggestion that she can stop worrying about becoming pregnant.[9]

Hypnosis can also address other psychosomatic causes of infertility. Sometimes behind the outward desire to get pregnant is a fear of pregnancy, fear of childbirth, or fear of being unprepared for motherhood. The conflicting emotions are a form of stress that affects the physiology and prevents fertility. When appropriate, hypnotherapy for fertility can encourage feelings of motherliness and help the patient resolve fears.[10]

Finally, hypnosis can help soon-to-be mothers stop smoking, eat better, and sleep better, all of which promote better health overall. With so many benefits of hypnosis for pregnancy, it’s no wonder that more women are using hypnosis as a natural approach to increase the odds of conceiving and delivering healthy babies.

[1] Lepkowski, J. M., & National Center for Health Statistics (U.S.), National Survey of Family Growth (U.S.). (2010). The 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth: Sample design and analysis of a continuous survey. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Health Statistics.

[2] National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (U.S.). (2012). Assisted reproductive technology surveillance — United States, 2012. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[3] “You’re getting sleepy … and pregnant”. (2006). Psychology Today.

[4] Levitas, E., Parmet, A., Lunenfeld, E., Bentov, Y., Friger, M., & Potashnik, G. (2006). Impact of hypnosis during embryo transfer on the outcome of in vitro fertilization-embryo transfer: a case-control study. Fertility and Sterility, 85(65), 1404-8.

[5] Poehl, M., Bichler, K., Wicke, V., Domer, V., & Feichtinger, W. (1999). Psychotherapeutic counseling and pregnancy rates in in vitro fertilization. Journal of assisted reproduction and genetics, 16(6), 302-5.

[6] Vyas, R., Adwanikar, G., Hathi, L., & Vyas, B. (2013). Psychotherapeutic intervention with hypnosis in 554 couples with reproductive failure. Journal of the Indian Medical Association, 111(3), 167-9, 173.

[7] Stress increases putative gonadotropin inhibitory hormone and decreases luteinizing hormone in male rats. E. D. Kirby, A. C. Geraghty, T. Ubuka, G. E. Bentley, D. Kaufer. Journal: Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences 2009

[8] Everly, G. S., & Lating, J. M. (2003). A clinical guide to the treatment of the human stress response. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.

[9] Kroger, W. S. (1977). Clinical and experimental hypnosis in medicine, dentistry, and psychology. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

[10] Kroger, 1977.