Infertility causes intense stress on individuals and couples trying to conceive. The numerous causes of infertility, which can be difficult or even impossible to pinpoint, can add to a couple’s frustrations. Feelings of guilt or blame can creep into a relationship no matter how much couples try to stay positive. Challenges with infertility can affect every area of a person and a couple’s life. Research shows that adding mind/body techniques to the treatment options can increase the odds of conception and prevent lasting harm to the couple’s relationship.
Techniques can treat infertility
Mind/body treatment of patients with infertility shows proven increased pregnancy rates and reduced psychological distress. Dr Alice Domar, the head of Mind/Body Services at Boston’s IVF, conducted a well-known study showing women who use mind/body techniques, in addition to IVF, have a 35% better rate of conception.
A more recent meta-study of infertility research finds that women who receive some kind of psychosocial treatment for the reduction of their anxiety, which most often includes group relaxation skills training, are twice as likely to conceive.
Techniques to try
In Domar’s study, she lists the components of her infertility mind/body program: “It is a 10-week group stress management program whose focus is on cognitive behavior therapy, relaxation training, negative health behavior modification, and social support components.”
Cognitive behavior therapy. A physician or insurance provider may be able to refer you to specific group therapy programs in your area to achieve the same ends as Domar’s cognitive behavior therapy program. Support groups for infertility can be beneficial.
Relaxation training. Classes in meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing exercises, or guided imagery may assist with relaxation training and improve your relaxation response. If group activities are unavailable, try DVDs, streaming or apps to learn these techniques.
But remember, the science supports the benefit of learning them in a group setting. Often, a group setting provides motivation to participate more regularly. Also, the social benefit of participating in the activity near people with whom you share a common interest may offer the additional benefit of social support.
Negative health behavior modification. Exercise and a healthy diet are an important part of maintaining overall health. As reported in Science Daily, the National Infertility Association says 30% of infertility relates to weight issues. Overweight men often suffer from low sperm count or inactive sperm. Being overweight or underweight even five pounds can inhibit a woman’s fertility because of shifting hormones. Both men and women can benefit from a regular exercise program and a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean-type, including many vegetables, fish, and beans, more fiber, nuts, avocados, and olive oil.
Social support components. Find people to talk to about your infertility issues, other than your partner. You may be worried about burdening your partner with certain concerns, or you may feel like the problem is dominating your relationship. Find other outlets to vent your stress: a good friend, a trusted relative, clergy or therapist. Even though infertility is a private issue, building a trusted support network is an important step in relieving tension. Also, keep having fun and doing things other than focusing on your infertility. By reducing your stress, you lessen the likelihood of anxiety and depression creating infertility issues.
Mitigate the strain
Mind/body techniques can help couples minimize the strain of infertility on their relationship. Infertility creates emotional, psychological, financial, sexual and even spiritual strain for some people. Those things can sometimes be difficult to share with your partner and can build friction in a relationship. In fact, one study found that couples who suffer from infertility for long periods are three times more likely to break up than those who finally conceive.
Sharon N Covington, MSW, LCSW-C, says it’s important to take care of the relationship while trying on getting pregnant by doing things such as, keeping your sense of humor, staying positive, and focusing on “making love,” separate from “baby making.” Be sure to give each other physical space, take time for self-care, and get counseling if necessary.
Remember to honor each other as individuals, separate and apart from what you bring to the experience of trying to become parents. Think about what you value in each other, and celebrate those things by taking breaks from trying to conceive. Relieving the “pressure cooker” of infertility by simply enjoying each other’s company is one more way to relieve stress.
When dealing with infertility, people often feel a loss of control. Anxiety, depression and relationship tension are frequent problems for people struggling with infertility. Through mind/body techniques, couples have an opportunity to learn to control their stress, decrease psychological distress, and improve their chances at conception and a healthy, long-lasting relationship.