09 Nov Infertility and Stress: Why Yoga is Being Prescribed by Doctors
A decrease in fertility occurs naturally with age for women, and can also be caused by other factors i.e. congenital abnormalities, compromised immune system, pelvic scarring from infections, endometriosis and stress. A recent study in America has shown that 25% of couples unable to get pregnant, have more than one factor contributing to the infertility. Male infertility has been linked predominantly to an unhealthy lifestyle (drinking, smoking or lack of activity), exposure to pesticides, and the pressure from a bicycle seat in regular cyclists.
INFERTILITY + REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY
And as a result of the rise of infertility, conventional medicine has made great strides in drugs to induce ovulation, in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and surgery to correct anatomical problems in men and women. However, studies have now shown that the use of assisted reproductive technology can have very negative effects, on top of the enormous dent it can put in your wallet. A study by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that there is a higher chance of birth defects in babies conceived using high tech interventions, including IVF and ICSI sperm injections. Chromosomal and musculoskeletal defects effect 4.2% of babies conceived naturally, compared to 9% of those assisted by reproductive technology. Studies have also shown the significant effect stress has on getting pregnant. This is why a natural approach to infertility including yoga, should be tried first.
Dr Alice Domar’s research, at the Dr Herbert Benson’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, showed a success rate in 44% of women, with 3 years of infertility, who attended the MBMI 10 week program centered on yoga and meditation. Dr Domar not only showed an increase in women getting pregnant through the program, but that there was a higher chance of success without the use of reproductive technologies. Her studies also showed a higher chance of pregnancy in women that are not suffering from depression (60% compared to 24%, with only low levels of depression).
INFERTILITY + STRESS
When stressed, you body physiologically sends energy to the heart, lungs and muscles NOT the reproductive organs. Mental stress manifests in the body and there is a decrease in blood flow to the pelvic region and a lowering of the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the reproductive organs. Stress also elevates the hormone Cortisol (which can interfere with fertility), can stop menstruation and is more likely to cause a miscarriage. Yoga is stress reducing, and a regular practice of the right poses can even prove beneficial for fertility.
Whatever the cause of infertility, yoga has shown to be an extremely effective stress reduction measure. And for those using assisted conception technology, yoga can help the chances of success, by reducing the anxiety and stress during the process.
INFERTILITY + YOGA
Yoga brings awareness to your pelvic region and through breath and muscle work, increases blood flow to the reproductive organs. Taking awareness of, and cultivating, the hold and release of your pelvic muscles, teaches you to relax the area fully, allowing for more oxygenated blood to that part of the body.
A yoga practice for infertility problems should be done in a relaxing environment with poses to build calm, confidence and control (mental and physical). The yoga practice should be gentle with half of the session spent on relaxation techniques, breath work, methods to reduce stress or mindful meditation. The latter, and meditation in general, have been shown to increase overall health, calm and resilience.
A good yoga practice also teaches you to acknowledge the realities in life and accept what you can’t control. You can do everything possible to try to get pregnant but you must let go of the control of the outcome. Yoga teaches you personal independent strength, from the inside out, which is not dependent on anything or anyone else. It teaches us to find happiness in ourselves and let go of what we cannot ultimately control.
YOGA + LIFESTYLE CHANGES for MEN + WOMEN
- Sleep is important for overall health and hormone balance and relaxation/meditation methods can increase the quality of your body’s rest.
- Try to eat organic produce or at least reduce your exposure to pesticide heavy foods.
- Talk to your doctor about lowering any regular medication in case they are interfering with your reproductive organs or hormones.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, douching, tight clothing and high heels (which tighten the pelvis).
- Avoid homeopathic herbs (Echinacea, St John’s Wort and Ginkgo Biloba are thought to hinder fertility in men and women) and instead try Chinese herbs and acupuncture, which have proven effective.
- Avoid any exercise, including vigorous yoga, that can make you underweight, as maintaining a healthy weight is fundamental to getting pregnant.
- Avoid inversion poses like the headstand of handstand that put more weight and pressure on the pelvis and internally rotate thighs, tightening the pelvic cavity.
Do exercises that bring awareness to your breath and to your pelvic region (cat/cow, pelvic tilts, squats and mula bandha).
- Sit comfortably and use cushions if necessary to relieve tension from your lower body and allow for better blood flow.
- Lastly, a recent study has shown that doing 45 mins of yoga a week, for 6 weeks, reduces anxiety by 20%, and if it’s in The Mirror newspaper then you know it’s true 😉