How the mind helps decrease the stress of infertility
Women trying to get pregnant have always sought to make their mental and emotional goal a physical reality. Modern integrative medicine accepts that this mind-body relationship can benefit fertility by reducing the general stress of being infertile and the specific stresses of treatments.
A mind-body approach to health regards the body and mind as intricately related. They are interdependent, and good health is best achieved when the mind and body are treated as one system. Mind-body practices include yoga, meditation, traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, a system of traditional medicine in India.
Managing stress, a natural infertility treatment
Infertility can cause stress in the form of sadness, guilt, anger and anxiety, which negatively affects one’s personal life, relationships and self-esteem. Research shows that the stress of infertility is just as intense as the stress associated with serious illness.
To help fertility patients deal with stress, RSC offers a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course with Shaylin Ebert. We recommend that patients begin this course early in their treatment because it enables them to better deal with the stress as they progress in their treatments.
Various studies indicate that infertility patients who go through mind-body programs have higher success rates with treatments and much higher feelings of satisfaction. As results from the following studies show, stress-reducing mind-body programs aid fertility in several ways:
- National Institutes of Health researchers found that women who had higher levels of alpha-amylase – a substance secreted in saliva that is considered an indicator of a person’s response to stress – were 12 percent less likely to get pregnant than women with lower levels of alpha-amylase
- Women undergoing IVF who were anxious/worried about their treatment had 20 percent fewer eggs retrieved and 19 percent fewer eggs fertilized than women who were relaxed
- Women with higher levels of anxiety prior to undergoing sperm donor inseminations took longer to conceive and were more likely to miscarry than women with less anxiety
- Among a group of women about to undergo an IVF treatment cycle, those who attended relaxation sessions for two weeks were significantly more likely to conceive on their first attempt than those who did not attend sessions
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Meditation, yoga and fertility
Meditation and yoga both provide a way to relax and help one manage the stress and challenges of infertility.
This mind-body practice enables a person to achieve calmness and psychological balance that leads to deep relaxation. This mental state can promote:
- Calmer breathing and reduced oxygen consumption
- Opening of blood vessels, leading to lower heart rate and blood pressure
- A reduction of muscle tension
- Increases in immunity, energy and mental focus
Like meditation, yoga helps a patient to relax deeply. This physical practice that focuses the mind leads to more respect for one’s body, resulting in healthier lifestyle choices and an increased awareness of the body’s processes and symptoms. Breath work is a key component of Yoga.
Certain yoga poses increase blood circulation, balance hormones and open up the bodily systems, helping a woman come into her optimum fertility. Such poses may include:
- The “cat-cow” stretch that combines two poses to align the pelvis and hips, warm up the spine up and open up the pelvic floor
- Standing poses help open up the thighs and get energy flowing downward to the legs, a woman’s center of strength
- The “pigeon pose” opens the back of the hips and pelvic floor
- The reclining goddess pose, in which one is aligned like a goddess on bolsters or flat on the floor, increases circulation and puts a woman in a tranquil, relaxed state