The mind and body are linked in many ways, and one of the most pertinent is between anxiety and physical response. Unfortunately, for men and women trying to have a baby,
higher-than-average stress levels could negatively impact their efforts. This can cause a vicious cycle, as the inability to conceive promotes further stress, exacerbating the existing anxiety and the initial problem.
A study published by the National Institutes of Health and the University of Oxford supports this theory, reporting that it comes down to the level of a protein enzyme in the body called alpha-amylase. The substance is found in mammalian saliva and helps scientists determine stress levels in humans and other mammals.1
During a study performed by the Oxford team, women with higher levels of this protein enzyme were less likely to become pregnant. This solidified the firm link between pregnancy, or fertility, and stress. Director Eunice K. Shriver of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development expressed the concept that lessening stress levels might, in fact, alleviate infertility issues.1
Alleviating Stress in Healthy Ways
There are many ways to relax and unwind, but for couples undergoing IVF or trying to conceive after determining they are having fertility issues, it sometimes takes a little extra work to destress. Below you will find some proven methods of self-relaxation that are recommended by the NCCIH. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health advises that it can take practice to become proficient in self-relaxation methods.2
Deep Breathing: Possibly one of the most common relaxation methods used for many forms of stress management, including during childbirth, deep breathing can be done anywhere and by anyone. It involves positioning the body into a relaxed state, such as laying down, closing the eyes and inhaling deeply through the nose, only to release slowly through the mouth. Some experts recommend breathing in through the mouth and out through the nose, others still suggest holding one nostril closed while inhaling through one side of the nose, to release and exhale through the other nostril. The methods may differ, but the outcome is the same with those practicing feeling more relaxed.
Guided Imagery Relaxation: This form of relaxation is often experienced with a coach or partner who helps the individual relaxing to imagine different sensations in order to replace negative feelings. Picturing things that make you feel calm or happy can decrease feelings of anxiety and discomfort. A video or sound recording may be used to assist with guided imagery relaxation, both of which are available for purchase through specialty retailers.
Autogenic Training: First used in 1932 by Johannes H. Schultz, a German psychiatrist, autogenic training is the practice of relaxation through desensitization. It involves a deep focus on the body to the point where the individual may feel as though they are in a state of hypnosis. Focus on the weight of the limbs, warmth of the body, and other internal information helps retract the individual from the outside world and focus on the self. This is thought to decrease stress levels.
If you’re concerned that your stress levels are higher than normal and it could be impeding your efforts to conceive, speak to your doctor. He or she may be able to recommend some relaxation techniques or refer you to somebody who can. Doctors work closely within the field of infertility and have many methods of helping their patients outside of simple infertility treatments. Be sure to get enough sleep, eat properly, and drink plenty of water when experiencing higher than normal levels of anxiety. Remaining healthy in body can also affect the health of your mind.