Relaxation: The Drug-Free Fertility Treatment
Stress affects everyone. Young, old, male, female – regardless of a person’s occupation and where he or she lives, stressful situations are bound to arise. Now, some researchers are arguing that chronic stress negatively affects fertility, and that relaxation techniques can help couples conceive successfully.
Circle of Strife – Coping with the Stress of Infertility Treatments
Many couples struggle for months – even years – to become pregnant, sometimes to the point of becoming completely consumed with fertility issues. Modern advances in medicine have made it possible for otherwise infertile couples to conceive, but for those who undergo fertility treatments with no success, the constant stress of medical visits and trying to get pregnant can take a toll on both the mind and body.
According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1995 approximately 9.3 million women had used infertility services, and 2.1 million married couples were considered infertile. While fertility treatments are successful for 60 to 70 percent of patients treated, the remaining 40 percent often find themselves stressed, exhausted, and thousands of dollars in the hole. However, mounting evidence shows that stress reduction through relaxation may be able to help that 40 percent of infertile patients increase their chances of having a baby.
Building Mind-Body Balance for Baby
Dr. Sarah Berga of Emory University’s department of Obstetrics and Gynecology has dedicated her studies to the link between chronic stress and ovulation. According to research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, Berga’s 2003 study of 16 women revealed the advantages of cognitive behavioral therapy on fertility. In the study, seven of eight women who went through therapy had their ovulation restored, while only two of eight regained their ovulation without the therapy. She later reported that the women who did not ovulate had excess levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their brain fluid.
Cortisol is the hormone released when we come into contact with stressful situations – it is often described as the boost we experience during “fight or flight” conditions when we feel that we are in danger. However, some doctors believe that sustained exposure to elevated cortisol levels are linked to infertility.
Dr. Berga says that participation in a stress-relief program can make in vitro fertilization (IVF) unnecessary for some women. Both those undergoing IVF and those trying to conceive on their own can both benefit from stress relief. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that in a group of women who had tried to become pregnant for two years, those who participated in mind-body support groups had a higher rate of conception than those who did not.
Furthermore, chronic stress can cause women to have irregular periods or to stop menstruating and to lose sexual desire – two obvious keys to conception.
Relaxation for Baby-Makin’
While there is not enough evidence to claim that stress directly causes infertility, reducing stress has been shown to increase the rates of pregnancy in infertile women. Certainly, stress taxes our entire body and causes it to function differently, whether that means raising a person’s blood pressure or inhibiting the performance of the ovaries.
As the popularity of stress-relief treatments for infertility spreads, retreats and support groups are popping up across the country to help couples relax and cope with fertility issues. Stress-reducing practices that might increase your chances of conceiving include:
- guided imagery therapy
- support groups/counseling
- tai chi
Talk to an experienced fertility specialist to explore the options you have to increase your odds becoming pregnant.
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