Methods: This study was a prospective three-arm randomized trial. Participants were women about to begin fertility treatment at a public hospital in Hong Kong. A total of 356 women were recruited and randomized to receive either spiritual reflection only (S), spiritual reflection and relaxation exercise (SR), or body-mind exercise (BM) in the form of self-help booklets. Participants completed a questionnaire battery at baseline (T0), on the day of embryo transfer (T1) and on the day before taking the pregnancy test. Measures included state and trait anxiety, gratitude, physical distress, holistic well-being, infertility-related stress and fertility-related quality-of-life. Group and time effects were explored using repeated-measures ANOVAs and by specifying a time x group interaction term. Post-hoc within-group comparisons were conducted for each outcome variable assessed at T1 and T2.
Results: After randomization, 149 participants dropped out from the study, yielding a final sample of 207 women. Repeated-measures ANOVAs revealed significant time x group interaction for general physical health [F(2, 194) = 3.27, p<.05] and life satisfaction [F(2, 194) = 4.10, p<.05], suggesting worsening of general physical health from T1 to T2 in the SR group only, and reduced life satisfaction in the SR group and S group. Post-hoc comparisons revealed that in the period between T1 and T2, women in the S group and SR group reported significant deterioration in physical, psychological and spiritual well-being, whereas women who received body-mind exercise (BM group) reported no significant change in physical, psychological and spiritual well-being other than significant increases in state anxiety [t(64) = 4.00, p<.001].
Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggested that simple body-mind exercises have the potential to protect women against significant deterioration in physical, psychological and spiritual well-being during the 14-day waiting period in IVF treatment. Another finding is that state anxiety remains high throughout the waiting period regardless of type of intervention given, highlighting the importance of providing timely support and equipping women with an awareness of own emotional needs and capacity for anxiety relief at critical treatment stages.