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Humor May Help Women Undergoing In-Vitro-Fertilization Become Pregnant

(PHILADELPHIA) -- March 16, 2002 - Trying to get pregnant through In-Vitro-Fertilization (IVF) is no laughing matter; however, a new study suggests that women who use humor as a coping mechanism, may have a better chance of becoming pregnant. Kerry Sherman, Ph.D., a behavioral scientist at Fox Chase Cancer Center presented her findings on March 16, 2002 at the 60th annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Barcelona, Spain.

Dr. Sherman and her colleagues explored the role of coping responses and attentional style on pregnancy outcome following IVF treatment among 81 Australian couples. The couples completed a lengthy questionnaire prior to the IVF treatment cycle and pregnancy outcome was determined through the clinical medical records of each couple six months following commencement of treatment. Forty-seven percent of couples surveyed had become pregnant and 60 percent of those women reported using humor as a means to cope with the emotional procedure.

Among women, humor as a coping strategy and among men, greater intrusive thoughts (that is, recurring and persistent thoughts about infertility and its treatment) were associated with higher pregnancy rates. The questions regarding coping mechanisms ranged from humor to alcohol use and prayer and meditation among many others. "There is some literature that suggests women who experience high levels of depression and anxiety are less likely to have IVF pregnancy success," says Sherman.

Dr. Sherman's research demonstrates the importance of men's responses, as much as women's, when investigating the ways infertile couples responded to IVF treatment. The way in which both partners respond to the stressors and challenges associated with infertility treatment affects the likelihood of achieving a pregnancy outcome.

"Little prior research had considered the role of the man's psychological response to infertility," says Sherman. "This study demonstrates that individual counseling should be considered when couples undergo IVF treatment."

Dr. Sherman began her research when she worked at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and is now an assistant member at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, PA. This research was supported by a Macquarie University Research Grant.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, one of the nation's first comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute in 1974, conducts basic and clinical research; programs of prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach. For more information about Fox Chase activities, visit the Center's web site at

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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