Infertility is one of the most challenging experiences in people’s lives. Whilst most of us are led to believe that getting pregnant is easy, many people are faced with a challenging diagnosis like endometriosis, PCOS, blocked tubes, fibroids, azoospermia, low progressive motility sperm, erectile dysfunction, the mysterious unexplained reason for infertility amongst others.
Regardless of the diagnosis, patients often share the emotional impact that these have in their wellbeing. Depression, anxiety, frustration, self-loathing, confusion, relationship issues, treatment discontinuation, are all a reality.
Can Yoga And Mindfulness Help You Cope When Trying To Conceive?
Patients are challenged to come up with coping strategies for their situation. In this blog, Beatriz Trigo, Head of Wellbeing and Healthy Minds at Enhanced Fertility talks about yoga and mindfulness as a coping strategy.
“It’s normal to feel some intense, negative, even weird, feelings because of infertility and treatment, but there is hope, there are things you can do to ease your mind whilst going through all the bumps in your journey, like yoga and mindfulness.” Beatriz Trigo
Yoga When Trying To Conceive
Yoga is essentially a practice of posture, exercise, rhythm and sound/chant, meditation, and relaxation, often used in a meditative manner, although there are many types and styles of yoga.
Regarding fertility, body scan yoga practices are the ones more often advised, because they promote connectivity between mind (thoughts, beliefs, emotions) and body (sensations, comfort, well-being), stimulating the sensory senses, the perceptions, and sensations of body (like temperature, the muscular tension and relaxation, and tactile reactions).
Yoga therapy has benefits for all genders. It has benefits for people TTC, before and during ART, and during childbearing.
Some authors claim it even increases chances of natural conception and has positive effects on the health of the offspring.
Practising of yoga helps:
- relieve musculoskeletal discomfort,
- increase blood flow and stimulate the pelvic area,
- prepare lower extremity muscles for childbearing,
- work as a relaxation method,
- reduce cell ageing,
- increases the levels of several antioxidants,
- decrease oxidative stress,
- improve sperm quality,
- decrease DNA damage in sperm cells,
- improve “listening” and respecting the body,
- improve self-awareness,
- provide calmness to undergo treatments,
- reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and psychological distress,
- and increase quality of life.
“Yoga has multiples benefits before, during and after TTC and doing treatment, for people of all genders and ages. These benefits aren’t just psychological, but physical. Body scan yoga is advised.” Beatriz Trigo
Mindfulness When Trying To Conceive
Mindfulness is a psychological intervention that focuses on acceptance and non-judgmental awareness. It is a set of skills that can be learned and practised, contributing to improve your life and well-being, by directing attention to experiences that are occurring, be aware and accept them without judging.
For a good mindfulness performance it is important to choose to be aware, like stopping throughout the day to meditate, think and breathe. It is important to be confident in yourself and trust in the flow of things, patience, acceptance of whatever is going on in your life, and not forcing any mood or state of mind when trying to practice mindfulness. Keeping a willingness to experience and see everything as if it were your first time – free from expectations derived from past events – is a particularly difficult, but crucial part of this practice.
An intervention that incorporates mindfulness helps patients:
- experience inner states in new ways and review the way they connect to themselves, to others and to certain triggers, situations, etc;
- decrease negative mood, global distress, fatigue, shame, depressive symptoms, self-blaming, self-loathing, feelings of defeat, psychological distress,
- reduce avoidance of certain situations, thoughts, and feelings;
- increase positive mood, eudaemonic well-being, self-compassion, self-awareness, awareness of others, adaptive emotion regulation, self-efficacy, performance, and infertility-related coping strategies;
- and have physical effects as well, like reduce pain and inflammation
It is easier if you incorporate some mindfulness techniques in everyday actions:
- paying attention to your breathing throughout the day,
- taking five minutes before getting out of bed,
- going to bed and before a meal to breath deeply,
- paying attention to what you are talking about, listening to and how you are feeling (what pleases you and displeases you, what you understand and don’t understand, how comfortable and uncomfortable your body is),
- keeping a non-judgemental stance when meditating,
- allowing yourself to clear your head,
- creating a relaxing setting in a room of your choice to do these exercises,
- and setting a reminder on your phone to practice.
Whether you are looking for mindfulness to help you relax, help you manage relationships, sleep better, or cope with the two week wait, there is a recording available for you. Click here to listen.
“Mindfulness contributes to a happier life, whether you are TTC, were, or never tried, to people of all genders and ages. As with any practice, it may take time to see results and get used to it, but studies show it is one of the most powerful tools in a patient’s journey to fertility.” Beatriz Trigo
Combining Yoga And Mindfulness
Mindfulness-yoga offers an answer, mixing the two for a synergetic positive effect. Mindfulness-yoga sequence intends to ground and soothe; you move the body while stilling the mind.
It is a form of physical movement into a variety of poses, like forward folds, gentle twists, chest or ‘heart’ openers, and pelvic floor exercises, that focuses on body alignment and breathing techniques.
“You do not have to choose only one thing to help you along the way. There are many techniques and methods that can help you be less stressed, be happier and be more resilient. You can make your own recipe for success!” Beatriz Trigo
- Yoga and mindfulness work in terms of psychological and physical well-being and fertility health in all kinds of patients with all kinds of backstories, diagnosis, and goals.
- These interventions require a few months to have lasting positive impacts and lead to changes in the way you react, feel, think and respond to circumstances, and in your ability to make decisions. They must also be practised daily or at least frequently (like once a week for 2h).
- Supervision and guidance from accredited professionals are advised for both practices
- Although practising mindfulness and/or yoga alone is not an intervention or therapy, especially when unsupervised, starting the process of practising them is the most important step. Over time you will learn more about these techniques and learn what works best for you.
Finally, give yoga and mindfulness a real try; aside from medical benefits, most patients do report improvements that they notice and can feel themselves.
For further information about mindfulness and yoga, and proof of their effectiveness, you can read the articles in the reference section.