Rolling Back the Fertility Clock

By Alina Cho and Melissa Morgenweck

December 25, 2008

A treasure map to a baby?

That’s just one of many things Meredith Kolk tried when she had problems getting pregnant. At age 40, the mother of one longed for another child but knew the odds were against her. Kolk says a poster board with cutout images of happy babies kept her focused on her goal. “Making this board helped me feel like I could have a vision to look at every morning and every night about what I wanted for my family. It helped keep me centered because the process is frustrating and it can be very nerve-wracking.”

Kolk turned to in vitro fertilization and also used alternative approaches in hopes of increasing her chances of getting pregnant. She did 30 minutes of meditation each morning before going to work. “I would visualize me pregnant with a healthy baby and a doctor saying ‘yes, you’re pregnant.’ ” Kolk also received weekly acupuncture and made changes to her diet. She added wheat germ and nuts and swapped low-fat dairy foods with whole-milk foods. Kolk says that doing these things helped her to stay calm.

Dr. Alice Domar, executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health in Waltham, Massachusetts, says her research shows a medical link between stress and infertility.

“The part of the brain that controls all aspects of reproduction is called the hypothalamus. It’s also the part of the brain that controls how we respond to stress. And so it made sense to me intuitively that there could be a connection between stress and infertility,” she said. Domar specializes in women struggling with infertility. She says that if a woman can learn stress management through relaxation techniques, her chances of getting pregnant will double.

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