Prayer May Boost in Vitro Success, Study Suggests
By Melissa Schorr
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women undergoing infertility treatments were twice as likely to get pregnant when they were prayed for by anonymous strangers, according to the results of a controversial study.
``Essentially, there was a doubling of the pregnancy rate in the group that were prayed for,"" lead author Dr. Rogerio Lobo, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University in New York, told Reuters Health. ``This observation is unexplained and needs to be validated in further studies.""
Lobo added, ``I saw the results after everything was done. I didn't believe it, really. Because it stands out there as controversial, we wondered whether we should publish it, but our feeling was, it was significant.""
Researchers followed 199 women undergoing in vitro fertilization at the Cha Hospital in Seoul, Korea. The women were randomly divided into two groups. Unbeknownst to the women or to their doctors, women in one of the groups were prayed for by prayer groups in the United States, Canada and Australia.
The Christian-based prayer groups were divided into three groups: the first received a picture of the woman and prayed for her treatments to be successful. The second group prayed that the prayers of the first group be heard, while the third group prayed for the first two groups' prayers to be heard.
The groups began praying 5 days before the initial fertility treatments and continued for 3 weeks.
The research was funded entirely by the hospital and without any backing by any religious organization. The findings were published in the September issue of the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.
The women who had been prayed for had a 50% pregnancy rate, compared with the 26% success rate for the women who had not been prayed for. For women between the ages of 30 to 39, the results were even more disparate, with 51% of those who were prayed for becoming pregnant, compared with 23% of the women in the other group.
However, the result could be due to a statistical anomaly or to differences between the women in the two groups not discovered by the researchers. Lobo said the pregnancy rate seen in the non-prayer group was typical of women treated in that program.
``We really didn't want to over-interpret it. We wanted to put it out there,"" he said. ``We couldn't explain the science, as we are the first to admit, it may not be (due to) prayer, but it's worthy of another look.""
Lobo emphasized, ``I'm not ready, after one study to say we need to prescribe prayer.""
SOURCE: Journal of Reproductive Medicine 2001;46:781-787.