If you have been trying to get pregnant for a while, then you probably have been feeling some amount of stress. While stress does not cause infertility, infertility can cause stress. There are things you can do to relieve your stress.
A whole field of study called mind-body medicine offers you a way to cope better with the stress of infertility and fertility treatments. While much more research needs to be done, some studies have reported improved pregnancy rates for couples involved in mind-body programs. Even in the studies where pregnancy rates were not looked at, the participant’s emotional well-being was improved. There are many different mind-body therapies, some more popular than others. Here are 11 mind-body therapies to consider, along with a brief explanation of how they may help you.
One of the most popular methods of dealing with stress is yoga. There are specially-made yoga for fertility DVDs and books, as well as yoga studios offering fertility-friendly yoga classes. A recent study looked at yoga’s impact on the emotional health of women awaiting IVF treatment. After participating in a six-week yoga program, participants experienced a decrease in anxiety and depression symptoms, and an improvement in their fertility-related quality of life. You don’t need to sign up for a fertility focused yoga class, any class that offers restorative or gentle yoga for relaxation should relieve most stress.
Another popular method for relieving stress especially in infertility patients is acupuncture. Acupuncture is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncturists believe that “energy” flows along specific meridians on the body and that by stimulating particular points along these meridians, the energy can be balanced and lead to better health and well-being. While research is mixed about the benefit of acupuncture on infertility, most studies agree that acupuncture reduces stress and helps you relax.
Meditation is another Eastern medicine often recommended to relieve stress. Meditation involves gently encouraging the mind to move away from the typically rushed, worrying state, and instead come into a calmer, more relaxed, focused state of being. Some people mistakenly believe that meditation is about “clearing the mind” of all thoughts, but that is only one kind of meditative practice. Meditation can also be about letting your thoughts flow without trying to stop or focus on one specific idea. Or, meditation can be about focusing on your breathing or repeating quietly a specific mantra (a meaningful word or phrase). While meditation is not a common part of infertility treatments, it may help you become more focused and calm.
You could try a form of meditation called guided imagery. Guided imagery involves closing the eyes, and listening to either a therapist or recording guide you through a relaxation exercise that is rich in imagined images. It’s sort of like guided daydreaming. The imagery may be very simple, like imagining breathing in a specific color or imagining you’re in a calming, relaxing place, like a beach or forest. Or, the imagery can be more complicated, and involve imagining the body or mind releasing specific hormones or visualizing conception and a growing embryo.
You could try hypnosis. Hypnosis is a mind-body therapy that involves going into a light sleep-like state, called a trance, induced by a therapist or recording of relaxation instructions. Once in this state, the mind is highly suggestible. The therapist helps the patient change negative thought patterns by suggesting alternative ideas. Hypnosis does not always involve the use of a therapist. You could use guided imagery as a kind of self-hypnosis.
For some people who are more spiritual, prayer can be a powerful type of meditation. Prayer can have a profound effect on the mind, providing hope and support for strong believers. Some people who experience infertility have always been religious, and their beliefs give them added strength. Others weren’t interested in prayer but turn towards a higher power in the midst of their struggle. Some studies have found that people who engage in religious belief and activities, including prayer and communal gatherings, have lower rates of depression. Regular prayer can help with anxiety and relieve stress.
Therapy or counseling can be helpful in reducing stress and getting support. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a style of counseling that helps you replace negative thought patterns with more positive, realistic ones. CBT also includes learning deep relaxation and breathing techniques to reduce anxiety. Group therapy is another style of counseling that can help fertility patients. Typically, group therapy involves a group of individuals or couples with a similar struggle, sitting together and talking about their lives and concerns with the guidance of a certified counselor. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide “timely, compassionate support and information to people who are experiencing infertility,” maintains regional chapters around the United States, and in many areas offers fertility support groups.
Sometimes writing out your thoughts in a journal or blog can help. If you enjoy writing down your thoughts, and would like to not only like to write but also connect with others, you may want to consider starting a fertility-focused blog. You can read more about blogging at our blog story.
Or if you really like being creative, you could try art therapy. Art therapies — art, music, dance or movement, and drama — artistic expression is combined with psychology to help heal emotional wounds. You do not need to have any special skills or talents to use art therapies. It’s not really about creating art in the aesthetic sense (though you may create beautiful art in the process). Instead, it’s about using art to express and process emotions. The art therapies have been found to help women with infertility cope better with stress, anxiety, and hopelessness.
After all of the advice and treatments, you may have encountered some situations that were so absurd you just had to laugh. That’s great! Laughing is one of the best ways to relieve stress. You’re probably familiar with at least one kind of humor therapy: the clowns who visit sick children in hospitals. But clowns don’t have exclusive rights to humor therapy. Anything that gets you laughing is good for your mind and your body. Research on laughter or humor therapy has found it can help boost mood, lower stress hormone levels, possibly improve immunity, and lower blood pressure. To start laughing away your stress, you could watch funny movies,, listen to stand up comedy or hang out with humorous friends. You may even want to consider a laughter yoga class. In laughter yoga, a group comes together and purposefully laughs. It is now gone full circle back to yoga but whatever you try to relieve your stress, you should be feeling pretty good in no time.