This article was written in conjunction with a Cognitive Hypnotherapist.
For years large sections of the medical profession have focused on the body as being the most relevant part of getting pregnant, and on some levels that makes sense. However, what controls the body? What makes our heart pump? Or lungs breathe? Our muscles to move our limbs? In fact, where is the centralised epicentre that controls the whole body? Our brain of course! So it’s interesting that how the brain feels has been so largely ignored in favour of body-related advice.
I specialise in supporting women getting pregnant by harnessing the power of the mind to support them. The fact is that your conscious and unconscious mind have an immensely powerful effect on your body. Psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, depression or unacknowledged negative beliefs about your body or being pregnant can create conditions which make trying to conceive even harder. Although you can tell yourself to 'relax', 'stay positive' or 'don’t over-think it', this can be hard to do when you feel that the chance to have the baby that you long for is at stake.
While considering factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, weight and diet are important for any healthy mind and body, the pressure that women trying to get pregnant experience around creating strict lifestyles to become the ‘perfect body’ for pregnancy creates its own stress! I once had a woman come to me who was having IVF in 7 days and was extremely stressed and upset that she hadn’t lost enough weight according to her medical team and was thinking of trying to crash diet herself 5lbs lighter by the time of the procedure.
Knowing that the stress was far more likely to get in the way of her getting pregnant than the extra weight, I helped her focus on decreasing stress and loving her body as is. She got pregnant a week later. Her experience is not unusual – why focus on stress and eating lettuce for a week when you could focus on feeling good about yourself? Well, not only because it works and is beneficial for you in the long run, but empirical research confirms the impact of stress on getting pregnant, which led one of its' researchers, S. Taylor, to state:
"I hope the results of this study serve as a wake-up call for both physicians and the general public that psychological health and well-being is just as important as other more commonly accepted risk factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or obesity when trying to conceive."
The study published in September 2016 titled, Stress negatively affects chances of conception, science shows: Highly-stressed women 40-percent less likely to conceive during ovulation window, concluded that the more stress the woman felt, the less likely she was to conceive. This is really important because so much about getting pregnant like taking pregnancy tests, hoping for positive results, worrying about fertility, seeking fertility treatment and so on, layers on potential stress, which is the last thing a woman needs!
Specialist Fertility Therapy
When I provide support to clients in person or via Skype, we focus on several areas:
1. Some women report feeling as though they have a ‘block’ to getting pregnant but they are not sure what it is, while others are sure there is nothing in their mind getting in the way. In my experience, there is usually some underlying issue, and using hypnotherapy can remove unconscious blocks to getting pregnant so that your mind and body are working together to get pregnant.
2. Reducing stress and managing the mind and physiology.
3. Teaching self hypnosis for utilisation when listening to mp3's which support becoming fertile and being pregnant. Self hypnosis is also useful during any fertility related procedures.
4. A safe place to talk about the emotional experience of trying to get pregnant which is really vital because fertility doctors often say that women end treatment too soon due to the stress and emotional toll of treatment.
What can I do for myself?
To manage stress there are many things that people can do, some are more traditional methods of stress management such as exercise, healthy eating, massages, acupuncture, working less or reducing work related stress, sleep, and getting enough sunshine.
Here are some other ideas
1. Talk to a therapist with experience supporting women along the path to pregnancy to have a safe place to explore and release stress and move past any unconscious blocks.
2. Love your body visualisations: Sometimes we can start to feel frustrated or let down by our body which isn’t getting pregnant yet – this feels bad in the mind and the body and adds stress. Instead focus on just how amazing your body is. Think of all the ways it supports you now and in the past and how it is doing all it can to support your dream of motherhood. Don’t give up on it, be the cheerleader to your body and encourage it to be ready for pregnancy. I often have women close their eyes and place their hands on their belly area and send waves of love, acceptance and encouragement.
3. Relaxation meditation: I have an mp3 that I provide women to support the mind and body becoming highly fertile. It also supports women in relaxing. Find a meditation that you enjoy, hopefully one which might have a positive visualisation and spend time each day purposely setting intentions in the mind and giving the body a chance to relax deeply. Even 10 minutes can make a difference to reducing stress and increasing relaxation.
4. Pregnancy visualisations: If we focus on what is not happening – "I’m not getting pregnant" – or worries that, "I’ll never get pregnant", then the mind only gets to see that as reality. Sometimes we believe that thinking this way can protect us from current or future disappointment. The reality is, it doesn’t, it just sends the wrong messages to your mind. Instead, keep imagining being pregnant, imagine how it will feel in your body and the physical changes you expect. Keep everything you visualise positive and clear so that your mind clearly gets to see the message, "I will be getting pregnant, and this is how it will change my body and all this is a good thing." You can do this knowing that you are doing everything to support the mind and body to get pregnant and that is enough. The mind listens for directions, so make them clear.
5. Take a vacation/go on holiday: Whether you are trying to get pregnant with or without fertility assistance, getting away from all the daily stresses and just focusing on relaxing and having fun can often be the best medicine. Go and play, laugh, have sex for fun and connection with your partner and not for ‘getting pregnant’ and let yourself have a break from ‘trying’ to get pregnant. Don’t make going away another way of getting pregnant, just give your body and mind a wonderful time.
6. If you are partnered then talk to your partner about ways you can both manage stress. Whether the partner is same sex or not, fertility and any related stress is a shared experience and is best handled as a team. If you are entering parenthood solo then be sure to have trusted friends or family members to help you manage the process.
Read next: How to Talk About Postpartum Depression