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Behavioural therapy can restore ovulation in infertile women

Fertility can be restored in some women by the use of behavioural therapy, thus avoiding recourse to expensive medicines and complex procedures, a scientist told the 22nd annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Prague, Czech Republic on Tuesday 20 June 2006. Professor Sarah L. Berga, from the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, said that her work was the first to show that reducing stress through psychological intervention could restore ovulation in women whose ovarian function had previously been impaired.

"Contrary to what had previously been believed", she said, "we found that multiple small stressors that seemingly would have minimal impact on reproductive competence can play a major role in causing anovulation. Up till now it was thought that failure to ovulate was usually caused by the energy deficits induced by excessive exercise and/or undernutrition, but we asked why women undertake such behaviours. Often dieting and exercise are a way of coping with psychosocial stress, and our previous work had shown that such stress is often increased in women who do not ovulate."

Professor Berga and her team set out to study the causes of functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA) in women of normal weight who had not had a menstrual period for more than six months. FHA is caused by a prolonged reduction in gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which signals the release into the bloodstream of hormones that simulate ovulation.

Analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid in women with FHA, as opposed to women who were ovulating normally, showed increased levels of cortisol, a hormone related to stress. Chronic elevation of cortisol levels heightens the risk for other health burdens, such as depression or osteoporosis, but chronic cortisol increases can often be reversed with behavioural therapy

In a pilot study, Professor Berga's team randomised 1
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Contact: Mary Rice
mary@mrcommunication.org
322-770-0407
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology
20-Jun-2006


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