Stress and infertility go hand in hand. It’s hard to get around that. However, just because you’re experiencing stress, doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to lessen its impact on your mind and body. Below you’ll find 6 mind/body practices that I feel are the best for empowering yourself to walk your family building path with more calm, higher quality of life, and greater fertility.
Before we dive into the list, it’s important to define what we mean when we say “mind/body practices” or MBP.
What is mind/body?
Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes (mind) can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning (the body). And, what we do with our body (diet, exercise, posture, media, medication) can positively or negatively impact our mental state (mind).
Mind/body and your fertility
You can positively affect your fertility holistically through the avenues of the body or the mind. When treating the mind, the body follows, and when balancing the body, the mind follows.
If we focus on one side too heavily (usually the body when dealing with fertility) then the other side suffers (our mental health). And when our mind is suffering, our body suffers as well – it’s a self-perpetuating cycle. Mind/body practices help to break this negative cycle and turn it the other direction – towards a positive effects loop.
MBP are often recommended as supportive self-care practices in the areas of mental/emotional health, stress reduction, and to improve quality of life. Research also validates that those who incorporate MBP into their fertility treatment have a higher in vitro fertilization (IVF) success rate.
Some mind/body therapies positively affect reproductive health directly as well. The relaxation response (the opposite of our stress response) is triggered in most of these practices. When in this calming place, the body feels safe, the hormones balance, and the reproductive system functions optimally within its boundaries (i.e. – if your fallopian tube is blocked, it will not unblock the tube).
Mind/body therapies, most originating from eastern culture and science, take a holistic approach to supporting fertility efforts. They require time and consistent practice. Incorporating eastern practices to support western science is the most supportive approach.
Top 6 mind/body fertility practices
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that strategically places thin needles at points on the body to move blocked energy, reduce inflammation, and access the relaxation response. It is the most utilized mind/body practice for fertility, as there is scientific evidence to support that receiving acupuncture during IVF treatment results in a higher rate of successful pregnancies. It is recommended to find an acupuncturist that specializes in fertility.
Yoga: Originally from India and based on healing the mind, body, and spirit, yoga is becoming a popular avenue of support for those trying to conceive. Research also shows that those who practice yoga have significantly lower stress levels and higher success rates with intrauterine insemination (IUI) and IVF. Often misunderstood as a purely physical practice, a good fertility yoga class will guide you to discover your own capacity to manage your mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health. The relaxation response is reached through restorative yoga and gentle pelvic and hip targeted slow-flow yoga benefits the reproductive and nervous systems.
Mediation: This contemplative practice of sitting for a period of time in silence originated from the East. Although there are many different types of meditation, mindfulness meditation is often used for fertility. It focuses on calming the fluctuations of the mind, reducing the effects of stress, and bringing insight to experiences. Studies show that meditation activates specific brain regions, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and suppresses pathways that cause inflammation from stress.
Mental Health Counseling and Therapy: Research shows that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and CBT-based group therapy are beneficial to those dealing with fertility obstacles. This type of therapy involves changing the thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors people have about their fertility. Other useful forms of counseling include expressive therapies like art, music, or dance.
Reiki: Reiki is a non-invasive Japanese healing practice, which I feel brings the most amazing sense of relaxation. The hands are gently placed on (or above) the body to foster relaxation and infuse the body with warmth (which activities cellular movement) and healing energy. Certain hand patterns can be used to do a fertility self-treatment, which is a wonderful addition to a meditation practice. Once attuned by a reiki master, you are able to treat yourself.
Massage: A relaxation massage can be a wonderful way to reduce physical and mental stress, as well as to flush stress hormones out of the body. Arvigo abdominal massage, which originated from techniques of the Mayan, focuses on reproductive and mental health, making it a great addition for those trying to conceive without medical intervention.
Find your Mind/Body practice
The mind/body practice you choose, stick with, and ultimately benefit from, will depend on a few factors: are you more drawn to focusing your treatment on the mind or body (or both)? How much time and money are you able to commit? Would you like to be treated by another or put in more personal effort?
Intention, attitude, and consistency play an important role when utilizing MBP, because of…you guessed it…the mind/body connection. Approaching these methods positively as a means to improving mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health is the key to unlocking your most fertile self.