Are you struggling with infertility and finding it all too much and stressed out? Did you know that practicing yoga and mindfulness meditation can help you relax, and cope with fertility stress?
The stress and anxiety of infertility and fertility treatments, can be overwhelming and fertility stress will accumulate over time. Especially if your fertility journey has been for many years, it’s exhausting on many levels mentally, emotionally and physically.
Although friends and family mean well, they don’t really understand the emotional pain you are going through, and the level of fertility stress that both you and your partner are challenged with. It’s difficult to carry on, and put a put on a brave front, whilst inside you are in emotional turmoil and desperate for a baby. Do you find yourself feeling resentment and pain, as friends and family announce that they are expecting a baby? Fertility stress can cause anxiety and depression. So, what can you to do to look after yourself and to improve your outlook and chances of conception?
There has been a lot of media focus recently on the importance Self-Care management techniques, which are used to not only to improve general health and wellbeing, but to manage a variety of medical conditions. Infertility is recognised as a medical condition, so can self-care management techniques, improve your chances to conceive?
Self-care tips to manage fertility stress:
- Talk to someone your trust
- Try to manage your worries
- Nourish yourself with good nutrition and diet
- Make some positive lifestyle changes
- Spend 10 mins being mindfulness through meditation
- Regular low impact exercise, such as yoga
- Breathing exercises to relax the mind and body
Mindfulness meditation and yoga is a great way to learn to how to relax and reduce stress, and the benefits will not only improve your health and wellbeing, but your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. Medical research carried out at the Mind/Body Centre for Women’s Health at Harvard Medical School, concluded that stress can delay menstrual cycles and create abnormal levels of pituitary hormone prolactin, which is responsible for ovulation. Dr Domar who carried out the study, found that infertile women are significantly more depressed than their fertile counterparts.
Benefits of mindfulness meditation and yoga for Fertility Stress
The aim of mindfulness meditation and yoga, especially fertility yoga is to reduce stress on the mind and body; to give you time and space to become aware of the causes of stress in your life, so you can make the appropriate changes or adjustments. This is achieved by learning how to observe your thoughts and feelings, to reduce unwanted stress.
The physiological changes associated with stress include: shallow breathing, high blood pressure, impaired functioning of the digestion and metabolism system. When the body is experiencing stress the adrenal glands, secrete the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which decreases the levels of DHEA. DHEA is a hormone that is made naturally in the body; research states that DHEA improves egg quality and IVF success rates.
The benefits of having a regular relaxation practice such as mindfulness meditation and or yoga, have the opposite effect to the physiological changes of stress, and benefit the mind and body.
Positive Physiological Changes from Relaxation Techniques
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure
- Breathing is slower and deeper
- Reduction in level of stress hormones in the blood stream
- Muscle tension released
- Slower brain wave patterns, thus a calmer mind
In both meditation and fertility yoga classes the relaxation aspect is important, as it gives you time and space for stillness and reflection on your fertility journey. Helping to give you clarity of thought to make the right decisions and to focus better on fertility treatment whilst you continue with your everyday life.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about connecting mind and body sensations with the present moment, becoming aware of what’s going on internally and externally with yourself. Do you ever take time out to just be? To stop, be still and notice what’s going on around you? We spend so much energy over thinking, that we lose touch with how our bodies are reacting to our thoughts and emotions.
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, writes for the NHS and states that “An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment” and it’s “about allowing ourselves to see the present moment clearly. When we do that, it can positively change the way we see ourselves and our lives.”
Learning mindfulness techniques will bring back a sense of control over your life and reconnect your focus to learn ‘to be’ in the present moment. Practising mindfulness and meditation can help to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. It can help you reduce your fertility stress and reduce the pressure of your fertility treatment making the process more manageable. By focusing on mindfulness meditation, you create the awareness of how you feel in the present moment observing physically and emotionally what’s going on in your mind and body. By being still and trying to clear the mind of thoughts and feelings, you can observe them, accept them and let them go.
How to meditate
Meditation requires you to relax physical, mentally and emotionally. So, before you start, find a quiet room or space and check that room temperature is warm enough. The body must be comfortable as possible, use cushions and blankets, because if the body is not comfortable it will to distracting for mind and body to properly relax.
To find a comfortable sitting or lying position, can be difficult at first, this is how yoga plays a huge part in preparing the mind and body for deep relaxation and meditation practices. Regular yoga practice helps to make the body strong and flexible, to enable you to sit or lie still for 20 minutes or so to focus on meditation. Yoga is used to release the tension and discomfort in the physical body to enable you to focus on stilling the mind.
Yoga breathing is used to help create a still body and mind, as whenever your mind starts to wander, it gently brings your attention back to your breathing. The techniques are simple to learn and can fit into your daily life.
It takes time to learn to train our minds to become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and the body sensations. By practising mindfulness, you can observe and gain more insight into your emotions, boosting your clarity of thought and help you manage situations and to improve your relationship with yourself and others.
Types of meditation practices
- Mindfulness self-inquiry
- Yoga breathing focus
- Mindful walking meditation
- Affirmation meditation
- Guided visualisation practices
- Chanting or mantra
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, there are numerous types of mindfulness meditations for self-practice either individual or as part of a group in classes. There are on line course, books and DVDs on the numerous types of practices. To practice mindfulness meditation, you do not need to be religious or have spiritual beliefs to practise mindfulness. Mindfulness cannot only be practiced during the time set aside to meditate, you can bring conscious awareness into your daily life, as tips below:
Tips to become mindfulness
- Watch your thoughts, stand back from your thoughts and witness them
- Start to see your thoughts and their patterns, is there a common theme?
- Observe how these thoughts make you feel and realise that they are just thoughts and that they cannot control you
- Engage in daily life and notice the sensations of the world around you
- Be in the present moment and be patient
In the USA the Mind Body Institute developed a Mind and Body Programme, to learn about relaxation techniques. Participants on the programme stated that they could make better decisions and manage stress. They developed coping strategies by learning relaxation techniques to gain a better control over their health. The study demonstrated that over half the women became pregnant when they used relaxation therapies which included yoga and meditation. For men, studies show, that men who have a regular yoga practice can enhance their reproductive health, and improve the success rate of conception, by increasing sperm count and motility.
Physical and mental therapy are the important accomplishments of a yogic practitioner as they work holistically to bring balance and harmony between the mind and body. Fertility Yoga is yoga therapy, practiced to help with infertility issues. Along with manging stress and anxiety through yoga, breathing and relaxation techniques, and specific yoga postures are also used in Fertility Yoga sessions to enhance fertility.
Fertility Yoga will
- Increase blood flow and energy to the pelvic area
- Stimulate the reproductive system
- Reduce stress
- Calm the mind of negative thoughts
- Balance hormones
- Enhance mind and body connections
Today it is accepted that there is mind-body connection, such as our emotions, mental, social and behavioural factors affect our health and wellbeing. Our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and feelings can positively and negatively affect our mind and body. Practicing mindfulness meditation and yoga will help the connection between the mind and body, to reduce your stress and optimise your fertility. With regular practice, you may find you are able to deal with stress better than before, because you can think about it a calm, detached way. Mindfulness can help you to respond to situations and thoughts differently and to give you clarity of thought to make the right choices on your fertility journey.