As fertility mindfulness gains popularity neuroscience studies reveal how it affects the brain. Real-time fMRI brain scans show brains change with mindfulness. Good news for anyone struggling with infertility or having fertility treatment. Benefits are far reaching – reducing anxiety, fertility hormone boost, increased libido, better sleep, mental clarity, concentration and work productivity. Well-being sets you up for a healthy pregnancy – and lowers the risk of miscarriage .
Fertility mindfulness research
- ‘Fertility Mindfulness is an effective psychological intervention for women experiencing infertility. Increasing mindfulness and acceptance skills, as well as cognitive decentering from thoughts and feelings helps women experience negative inner states in new ways, decreasing their entanglement with them and lowering psychological distress.’
Mindfulness-Based Program for Infertility (Galhardo A., Cunha M., Gouveia J., 27.06.2013 published in the journal ‘Fertility and Sterility.’ ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed
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- Preconception stress increases risk of infertility: results from a couple- based cohort study – The Life Study Human Reproduction, May 2014 29(5): 1067-75. PubMed Central PMCID: 3984126 doi:10.1093/humrep/doi 032. Epub March 2014 . Lynch C D, Sundaram R, Maisog J M, Sweeney A M, Buck Louis G
“Mindfulness broadens awareness and builds eudaimonic meaning: a process model of mindful positive emotion regulation.” Nov 25th 2015
Garland Eric L., Farb Norman A.. Goldin Phillipe R. Fredrickson, Barbara L., DOI 10.1080/1047840X.2015.1064294
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- Mind your thoughts! Associations between self-generated thoughts and stress-induced, baseline levels of cortisol and alpha-amylase. Biology Psychology Dec 2014: 103 : 283-91. dpi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2014.10.004. Epub Oct 2014 . PubMed PMID: 25457636.d Engert V, Smallwood J, Singer T.
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- Impact of shame and self-judgement on psychopathology in infertile patients. Human Reproduction Sept 2011: 26(9):2408-14.doi:10:10.1093/humrep/der209. Epub July 04 . PubMed PMID:21727160 GalhardoA, Pinto-Gouveia J, Cunha M, Matos M.
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- ‘Mindfulness is one of the most important factors for change during therapy.’ (Martin, Garst & Davis 2000). Hypnotherapy works with mindfulness, sometimes without using the label, to develop new perspectives and insight. Clients learn to reframe current situations, clarify them, without judgement. Meditation is not the only way to improve mindfulness.
- Sleep loss results in an elevation of Cortisol levels next evening. Sleep – Oct 1997 20(10) 865-70. PubMed PMID:9415946 Leprault R, Copinschi G, Buxton O, Van Cauter E.
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- Cortisol levels and very early pregnancy loss in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2006 Mar 7: 103(10):3938-42. Epub 2006 Feb 22 PMID 16495411 Nepomnaschy PA Welsh KB, McConnell DS, LOW BS, Strassmann BI, England BG.
“Pregnancies characterized by increased maternal cortisol during this period were more likely to result in spontaneous abortion (miscarriage). This evidence links increased levels of this stress marker with a higher risk of early pregnancy loss in humans.”
This NHS study is scheduled for completion 18.03.16
The effectiveness of mindfulness based programs in reducing stress experienced by nurses in adult hospital settings: a systemic review of quantitive evidence protocol.
Bothe E., Cwin T., Purpora C.,
Fertility Mindfulness and hypnosis affect the hypothalamus. That’s the reproductive control centre of your brain. Found snuggled right up to the pituitary gland, it’s the ‘conductor of the hormones orchestra.’ Our hypothalamus reacts to stress. It’s a bridge from emotional to physical. Emotional messages like ‘danger’ and ‘fear’ cause physical responses. Stress hormones surge. Sound familiar? Our flight or fight system is hard-wired from pre-history. Times changed – we didn’t. Chronic stress causes anxiety and upsets reproductive hormones.
Reduced activity in the Amydala decreases anxiety. Mindfulness activates the anterior cingulate cortex – part of the brain that governs thinking and emotion – stops intrusive thoughts and worry. More activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex sets you up for more intelligent thinking and a clearer head. Got it?! Mindfulness skills improve quality of life on a daily basis.
Fertility Mindfulness Doubles Natural Conception Rate
- Dr. Alice Domar, Professor at Harvard Medical School, researches everyday lifestyle factors such as stress, exercise, nutrition and diet affect conception. Dr. Domar examined the relationship between fertility and stress, and is published in The Journal of American Medical Women’s Association (1999).
In a study of infertile women, 55% of those who participated in a mind-body programme to reduce stress went on to conceive, whereas the success rate for those who did not use such techniques was only 20%.
“Hypnosis doubles the success of IVF treatment,” say researchers.
- A team from Soroka University, Israel, led by Dr Eliahu Levitas found 28% of women in the group who were hypnotised became pregnant, compared with 14% of those who were not. European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology – ESHRE -conference Berlin, 2004.
Israeli researchers found hypnosis improved embryo transfer stage of IVF .
- Dr. Gayle Peterson studies mind/body states and their effect on fertility, pregnancy and birthing. She developed Body-Centred Hypnosis to reduces anxiety for infertility patients.
- Dr. Ernest Rossi specializes in psychobiology, the relationship between mind and body. His research found human genes must be in a state of physical readiness for conception to occur. Mindfulness and hypnosis activate help specific genes to improve fertility.
Depression and Infertility
- Women with depression, stress and anxiety are twice as likely to have problems conceiving. In one study 60% of women who were treated for depression got pregnant within a 6 month period, compared to just 24% of untreated women. (Nicholas, M ‘3 Steps to Fertility’ pg49)
- A study in Germany showed men on death row with low sperm counts. (Domar, A., ‘Conquering Infertility: A mind body guide to enhancing fertility and coping with Infertility’ pg 30)
- Women after one unsuccessful IVF cycle – with depressive symptoms before – had a 13% subsequent pregnancy rate, compared with a 29% pregnancy rate in women who didn’t. (Domar, A., ‘Conquering Infertility: A mind body guide to enhancing fertility and coping with Infertility’ pg 24)
Fertility treatment causes anxiety which may lead to levels of depression that hurt a relationship. The disappointment of a failed IVF or NaPro cycle, grief of losing a baby, fear of trying again, anger and feeling of failure. All isolating and often perplexing, especially when you can’t always share what you’re going through or feel understood.
- ‘Easing depression makes it easier to get pregnant. Women who want to get pregnant should have and depression treated first.’ (Dr. Kate Lapane, Brown University, USA). Studies show women with pre-existing feelings of depression are twice as likely to have fertility problems as those who do not, and women who are depressed and undergoing IVF have 50% fewer pregnancies.
Are you doing everything you can to get pregnant but wondering, ‘Why not me?’ It’s time to look beyond the physical to question the role of your mind and mental blocks to conceiving.
In one third of cases the cause of infertility is not identified and not knowing why is tough.