To help women who are grappling with infertility in a more holistic way, the Hadassah Medical Organization opened a Mind-Body Fertility Center, which offers cognitive therapy and stress reduction classes, as well as yoga.
The Center is headed up by Dr. Karen Friedman, a cognitive behavioral therapist and mother of eight, who made aliyah to Israel 25 years ago. As Dr. Friedman notes, "Israel needs babies, and every woman feels that she has to have children. When infertility procedures are going slowly, a woman needs to reconnect with the positive aspects of herself."
Research has shown, Dr. Friedman says, that reducing stress increases the chances of conception in unexplained infertility cases. To alleviate stress, women in the program learn not only how to relax their muscles, but also how to challenge negative thoughts, according to Dr. Friedman. They are encouraged to stop looking at themselves as failures if they require egg donations or other procedures or if the procedures fail to prove successful right away. The women gain strength from the social and emotional support and the friendships they develop.
Dr. Osnat Levtzion-Korach, Director of Hadassah's hospital on Mount Scopus, relates: "We believe that women will choose to come to Hadassah for treatment not only because it is on the cutting edge of medicine, especially in the field of in vitro fertilization, but also because the Center offers a woman a holistic approach to this very sensitive issue. We at the Hadassah Mind-Body Center will offer women the emotional support they are entitled to during this challenging time."
Originally funded with a $30,000 donation from Stanley Black of Los Angeles, the Center now has a $100,000 budget. The goal is to expand the program to include a nutritionist and a journaling expert. No other fertility center in Israel is providing this kind of program and Dr. Friedman hopes it will serve as a model for other hospitals. "We want to put this program on the map," Dr. Friedman says, "to give every woman a one-on-one program to relax, build her self-esteem, and have the best chance of having children."