You vs. Them: Healthy?

By Alice Domar, PhD
Executive Director
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF

In my current mind/body group, we are in the middle of doing a stress management technique called cognitive restructuring

We do it over two sessions so that every one in the group gets time to take a turn. To practice it, each group member writes down at least one recurrent negative thought, and in a small group setting, three other group members ask specific questions about that negative thought until the person whose thought it was sees that she is being too hard on herself, and together they come up with a more logical and hopefully less harsh thought.

So for example, if she started with “I waited too long to try to get pregnant so this infertility is all my fault”, she might end up with “I waited until I was in a relationship which made me happy, and now we are doing everything we can to try to conceive a healthy baby”. We aren’t looking for unrealistic Pollyanna-like thinking, just the simple truth.

A couple of years ago, while doing cognitive restructuring with another group, one of the group members asked me if it was healthier to compare oneself up or down. In other words, as an infertility patient, is it better to compare yourself to a 22 year old or a 47 year old?  This is somewhat of a tough questions to answer, since it depends on your disposition.

Constantly comparing yourself to someone who is better off than you can in fact drag you down, so I would not recommend it.

I have heard complaints from patients from around the world about how hard it is, after hearing that only 3 eggs were retrieved, to hear the patient in the curtain next to yours be told that she has 33.  But conversely, although many people do feel better when they hear stories which are more challenging than their own, can feel so badly about that person that they aren’t able to use that information to put their own situation into perspective.

Every infertility patient is different. Your body is different, your response to medication to different, your partner’s sperm is different, so comparing yourself to anyone might well not make any sense at all.  And to be honest, someone else getting pregnant, or not getting pregnant, doesn’t impact your changes at all. If you do need to touch base to see where you stand however, you will likely feel better if you compare yourself to someone who is worse off than you. It goes counter to human nature though so expect to feel challenged.


Alice D. Domar, PhD is a pioneer in the application of mind/body medicine to men’s and women’s health issues. She not only established the first Mind/Body Center for Women’s Health, but also conducts ongoing ground-breaking research in the field. Her research focuses on the relationship between stress and different women’s health conditions, and creating innovative programs to help women decrease physical and psychological symptoms.

Dr. Domar received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Health Psychology from Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Ferkauf School of Professional Psychology of Yeshiva University. Her post-doctoral training was at Beth Israel Hospital, Deaconess Hospital, and Children’s Hospital, all in Boston.

She has conducted research on infertility, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms, ovarian cancer, and premenstrual syndrome. Dr. Domar has earned an international reputation as one of the country’s top women’s health experts.

She is currently the Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. She is an assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School, and a senior staff psychologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Dr. Domar has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments as a best-selling author, media authority and sought-after public speaker. She is the author of numerous books, on the advisory board for Parents Magazine, Health Magazine, Conceive Magazine, and Resolve, and on the Board of Experts for LLuminari. Two of her books have been finalists for the Books for a Better Life Award. She was also the Series Editor for a series of mind/body books by Harvard Medical Publications/Simon and Schuster. She is the narrator of the DVD’s “Stress and Relaxation Explained” and “Infertility Explained”, both of which won silver Telly Awards.  Dr. Domar has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline NBC, CNN, PBS, and the CBS and NBC Evening News, to name a few. She presents lectures and conducts workshops throughout the US and around the world and went on tour with Oprah in the spring of 2004 and 2005 with the LLuminari team. Dr. Domar was named to the prestigious list of 15 “Women to Watch in 2004″ by Lifetime TV. Her newest book is “Be Happy Without Being Perfect” (Three Rivers Press, March, 2009) and she is currently working on a new book, co-authored with Dr. Susan Love, called “Live a Little” (Crown, December, 2009). She is also a featured expert on the new online social health network