The journey to conception can be stressful. There is so much waiting, hoping and disappointment when things do not go according to plan. What adds to the problem is that we cannot get pregnant when we are really stressed, but not getting pregnant is the reason we are really stressed!
Your mind can affect your ability to get pregnant on multiple levels. Intense or repeated emotional responses to personal, social, and work-related stressors can cause a physical reaction in the body, throwing it into a state of emergency. The hypothalamus activates the so called fight-or-flight response to protect us from harm.
As you might know, reproduction is one of the most delicate systems in our body. Over time, the prolonged cumulative effect of this stress can affect your reproductive system in a negative way. Since the reproductive system is not vital for immediate survival, its function is suppressed and the body’s energy is directed elsewhere in preparation to fight or flee.
The hypothalamus gland is not only responsible for providing balance in our bodies but also helps control the levels of key fertility hormones LH and FSH through the pituitary gland. If the hypothalamus senses stress, the messages sent to the ovary to release eggs may be interrupted and cause stress-induced infertility.
To break this pattern the underlying emotional tension must be addressed. You might carry negative beliefs such as: “My whole happiness depends on having a baby,” or “It’s my fault that I can’t get pregnant.” A recent study on mind body interventions and pregnancy rates in IVF patients (Domar et al., 2011) found that women who completed a mind body stress reduction program had higher pregnancy rates (cklick here for more info).
Similarly, Victoria Shaw, an expert on conception says “Having counselled hundreds of women through fertility struggles, and so many report levels of stress and anxiety that reduce them to tears of hopelessness and frustration. The stress this puts on their bodies, and the cocktail of hormones that stress and anxiety are creating in their systems, is further reducing their chances of conceiving. Even though they know they need to relax, that is no easy thing to do, no matter how hard it is wished for. However, there are tools they can learn that teach the mindbody system to progressively relax, and many women then find the journey to conception shorter and more fulfilling.”
How can you tell you are STRESSED?
If you have a busy schedule chances are you might not be able to tell that you are stressed. Do you feel tense? Have difficulty falling asleep? Unable to make decisions? Find yourself procrastinating? Do you hold your breath? Rushing to meet deadlines? Getting really upset when things didn’t go to plan? You might find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, having thoughts like “I can’t do this”, “I can’t cope”, feeling irritable and overwhelmed. These can all be signs of stress.
How can you reduce the effect of Stress on your Fertility
Just telling yourself to relax or worse being told to “just relax” will in most cases not only NOT work but might put even more pressure on yourself. Learning to relax is a skill and like any other skill it takes time to learn it.
As everyone reacts to stress differently, there is not one technique that fits all. There are many different stress reduction tools and there is no right or wrong way of doing this. Some people need to be physically active to quieten their mind. The point is, everyone is different and you might have to do a bit of experimenting before you know what’s most beneficial to you:
You might want to try:
– Breathing techniques
– Mindfulness practices
– Moderate exercise
– Progressive muscle relaxation
– Relaxing music
– Massage therapy
– Keeping a journal
How can you tell you are RELAXED?
– There’s quietness in the mindfulness
– You experience feelings of contentment
– There’s no tightness or holding in your body
– The muscles in your face are relaxed and softened
– Your breathing is deep and even
– There’s a sense of opening and letting go
– Slower heart rate
Other options (which are by no means exhaustive) worth exploring when it comes to aid conceiving are:
– Chinese medicine to enhance fertility http://www.sattvanaturaltherapies.com.au/articles/fertility-and-preconception/
– Chiropractic treatment, as spinal health contributes to fertility http://www.wellnesschiropractic.com.au/
– Fertility Yoga (specific postures to nourish and stimulate the reproductive organs) http://www.angeayoga.com.au/
– Acupuncture to support your IVF treatments http://melbourneivfacupuncture.com.au/
– Psychotherapy or counselling to identify negative beliefs and other underlying emotional or psychological issues http://tinyurl.com/MelbournePsychotherapy
Check out our upcoming Preconception Workshop: We’ll address anxiety and worries around falling pregnant and you will learn simple but effective techniques to support reproductive health and aid in conception: http://www.australiacounselling.com.au/trying-to-conceive-workshopFollow @AlexandraCMBB
Alice D. Domar, Kristin L. Rooney, Benjamin Wiegand, E. John Orav, Michael M. Alper, Brian M. Berger, Janeta Nikolovski. Impact of a group mind/body intervention on pregnancy rates in IVF patients. Fertility and Sterility, 2011; DOI: