You may already know that stress isn’t great for your health… but it can affect your fertility, too. The good news is that meditation is shown to help reduce stress and enhance fertility.
Meditation for Fertility
Researchers have found that meditation for fertility does work. Relaxation techniques and “mind/body programs” like yoga and meditation can help women with pregnancy – even those undergoing the stressful process of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Of course, mindfulness isn’t a fool-proof solution, as there are many reasons why a couple may struggle with infertility.
But one study found that of 120 women who’d been trying to become pregnant, 55 percent of those who completed a mind/body program got pregnant within a year.7
Meditation teaches both your mind and body to relax in the moment. It makes sense that when you take care of your emotional well-being and shut off those crazy “prepare for attack!” hormones, that your reproductive system may actually be able to do its job.
Mindfulness Meditation – In Five Easy Steps
One of the simplest ways to meditate is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation involves paying attention to whatever arises in the present moment. So, rather than trying to shut your brain off and think about nothing, you embrace everything.
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide for getting set up with some mindfulness meditation for fertility. Meditation is also a great asset for relaxation during pregnancy.
- Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet.
- Decide on a time. Start small. Five minutes is a nice, easy starting point.
- Position yourself comfortably. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, or cross-legged on a cushion, whatever feels good to you.
- Be aware of your breath. Close your eyes and focus on the feeling of your breath as it goes in and out. Just keep your attention on your breath.
- Notice when your mind wanders. Without judgment, just note when your mind has wandered off on some thought. Gently bring your attention back to your breath.
That’s all there is to it. You just meditated! Over time, you can learn to increase your meditation time. You may also like to do it both morning and night.
Some people prefer a guided meditation which involves a recording that leads you through the meditation. These guided meditations can be great and are easily found on many phone apps. Just find a voice that feels calming to you.
Let’s Talk About Stress
By definition, stress is how your body reacts to a change or a challenge – and it happens a little like this:
1. Your amygdala, the part of your brain which plays a key role in how you experience emotions, sends out a distress signal.
2. Your hypothalamus, which coordinates your autonomic nervous system, then activates your sympathetic nervous system. This system controls your “fight-or-flight” response.
3. Your nervous system then tells your adrenal glands to release something called epinephrine, or adrenaline. And adrenaline is a hormone that prepares your body to act fast if you’re in real danger.
4. All of this results in the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which helps keep your body on continued high alert (even when the initial “threat” has passed).1
As you can see, your body’s stress response is a complex process – but all of this happens very quickly and efficiently. And yes, it’s useful if you are in real danger. It becomes troublesome, however, when you’re not.
The Problem With Stress
The problem is, chronic stress – the kind that lingers in your daily life and isn’t caused by a charging hippo or other real dangers – forces adrenaline to surge and cortisol to stay activated.
Over time, this flood of stress hormones wears down your body. This is especially true when it comes to women’s health, because women are proven to be more affected by stress than men.
Adrenaline and cortisol overload can lead to:
- Bad headaches, including migraines
- Low mood and anxiety
- Serious heart problems
- Digestive issues
- Decreased sex drive
- Menstrual cycle issues
- Reproductive health problems2
What Effect Does Stress Have on the Reproductive System?
In order for a woman to conceive, ovulation must occur. Ovulation is part of your menstrual cycle; it’s controlled by the pituitary gland, which first sends out hormones to start the maturation of some eggs, and then more hormones that send one of those eggs on its way down the fallopian tube.
However, the pituitary gland is regulated by the hypothalamus – the same part of your brain that “tells” stress hormones to kick in during a perceived threat.
So, if your hypothalamus is distracted by all the stress hormones… it might not get the message to your pituitary gland to release an egg. Your ovaries won’t get the right signal, and ovulation might not happen.3
What The Research Says
Now, there’s been quite a lot of research done on fertility and stress – and the link between fertility issues and chronic stress is an interesting one:
→ A study of 400 women trying to conceive was conducted by the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences. Researchers found that women who reported more stress during their ovulatory window were around 40 percent less likely to conceive during that month.4
→ A study of 274 women trying to conceive monitored saliva samples over six months. Scientists found that high levels of the enzyme alpha-amylase (a stress indicator) in saliva correlated with a 12 percent reduced chance of conception in that particular cycle.5
→ Researchers followed 151 women across Californian-based fertility clinics over five years. They looked at the women’s overall fertility, as well as factors like mood fluctuations, stress, and methods of coping. Their findings suggested that stress influenced the number of eggs retrieved and fertilized, as well as pregnancy rates and birth weight.6
Calming the Fight-or-Flight Response
So, now that you know stress can negatively affect fertility, how can you work to lessen stress in your daily life if you’re trying to conceive? Well, learning to meditate is one of the best options out there.
Today, the Western world is aware of what the Eastern world has known for thousands of years – meditation improves health and well-being. It helps quiet the mind, putting you into a state of physical relaxation. And when you’re relaxed, it’s impossible to be stressed at the same time.
But finding a state of relaxation and calm in a busy, chaotic world can be challenging. It’s not like you can just tell your body, “Relax!” and it happens instantaneously. Meditation provides this way in.
Meditation for Fertility: Stress Levels, Begone!
Meditation is a huge asset toward the emotional well-being of anyone, of any age – but particularly when it comes to women’s health. Stress is never a good thing, but it’s particularly important to limit stress when you’re trying to get pregnant.
Remember: It is physically impossible to breathe deeply and feel anxious at the same time.
Your sympathetic nervous system, which controls your fight-or-flight response, can’t work at the same time as your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your body relax.8
So, if you find yourself stressed out when you’re trying to get pregnant, make it a point to slow down, take deep breaths, and focus as much as you can on relaxation. Meditation can help!
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